Marking a trail before building will save you and your riders from frustration and the time wasted on trial and error. I've never been able to just lay out flags the first time and it's ready to start cutting. It takes time and several trips walking from one end of the new section and back to make corrections due to obstacles, turns that are too tight and problems with the terrain.
The tools are simple - buy a fluorescent colored flags; i prefer 21" orange stake flags (see image and link to purchase on right).
You need to be able to see a far as possible, so the time of the year may make a huge difference on how much time that take to mark the trail. Foliage and growth can make it difficult to visualize and get a lay of the land, so I try to mark new trails between late February and early March.
Tips & Tricks
My approach is to find an area of the existing trail that has a natural flow into the new section.
- Use deer paths as much as possible (the ground is already somewhat packed and the top soil removed.
- Sweep the trail parallel with a hill ridge.
- Keep turns to at least a 16' diameter (slow sections could be a little tighter and fast turns wider).
- Stay out of water sheds, including creeks. If you must cross a creek, create a path perpendicular to the creek at it's highest point above the water and build a bridge. You want to avoid creating an area that's conducive to erosion and high maintenance.