Trail Building

Missouri boasts some of the best riding in the Midwest region with St. Louis offering a dense network of trails within 30 minutes of Downtown. This didn’t just happen on its own. Many individuals who understood the hard work and planning required to build new trails got together and organized trail building events.

Trail building events

Trail Building events are a great way to meet people, give back to the community and learn more about the fundamentals of trail building. It takes countless hours of volunteer time to keep St. Louis’ trail systems in good shape through maintenance, reroutes and expansion. Gateway Off-Road Cyclists has established many strong partnerships with the region’s Parks departments and State agencies. We focus on building sustainable multi-use, singletrack trail that follows the terrain contour and creatively blends into Nature.


Averaging about ten trail building per season, you can see that GORC is a very productive organization. We are always seeking volunteers to build and maintain multi-use singletrack. We perform our ‘in-the-field’ dirt work during the Spring and Fall seasons because it’s simply too hot in the summer and we need a break over the winter.


Much of the planning involved in hosting a trail building day is invisible to mountain bikers. It typically takes over a year to establish a reroute or extend an existing trail and much longer (years!) to develop a completely new trail. There are many factors that come in to play when planning, presenting and executing a design.

The overall trail length typically impacts a project’s timeline; a 200 foot reroute can be planned and executed much faster than a three mile loop designed from scratch. When your tires hit the dirt, remember that several GORC trail designers and the land manager probably stood on that very spot for the first time 18-36 months ago determining the best route.


Nearly all of our trails are built by volunteers. Currently, only the Bluff View bike park and the Eureka Bike Park used professional for-profit trail building companies, however, the ongoing maintenance is performed by our local pool of volunteers. That is a powerful statement! The majority of trails in the St.Louis region are constructed or maintained by 100% volunteer labor. GORC plays a large role in getting volunteers on the ground at trail building events. Some of our events also are supplemented by additional volunteer groups working in conjunction with the respective Parks Department or Land Agency. Collectively, our volunteers contribute thousands of hours to the region’s trail network year after year. Volunteer labor makes new trail a reality: from the initial vision, to a squiggly line on a topo map, to the dirt tread. You can daydream all day and suggest projects but you have to get involved to see progress!


Our volunteers do not need trail building experience to participate at trail events. Every trail steward was a first-time volunteer at some point. No one came from a trail building profession; we do not have a paid staff of trail builders – we do not have paid staff period!

At our trail building events the Trail Crew Leader performs a safety talk about the tools on hand and then a brief real-world demonstration is shown to all new volunteers. It’s so much easier to “do” than “see” so many of our crew leaders have volunteers begin clearing the corridor and digging the tread. He or she then inspects and guides volunteers as needed – there’s equal parts science and art to building trail.


There is a misconception by the general public that singletrack trails are built completely by Parks Department staff or paid trail building companies. Our club recognizes the symbiotic partnerships between each GORC trail steward and the Park system’s land manager. Ultimately, the land managers have the final say in the design and approval process but the actual construction work is performed by volunteers. GORC highly values the relationships that have been forged over the years with each agency employee.