Due to a heat index exceeding 90 degrees, the Millennium Trail and Elm Lick Trail will remain closed until further notice.

National Trails Day – Bernheim’s Natural Areas Team and Volunteers Revamp Hiking Trails

By Evan Patrick

Urban Conservation Corp doing trail maintenance on the Iron Ore Loop late August 2020.

Over the past several months, Bernheim’s Natural Areas Team and volunteers have worked to improve over 40 miles of trails within Bernheim Forest. With the goals of reworking trail blazes, installing new trail signage, and improving trail infrastructure, this group of Bernheim staff and volunteers has made huge strides in revamping the hiking trail system.

In the past, the trails in Bernheim Forest were blazed with colored pieces of plastic that were nailed into trees that lined the trails. This system of blazing is common and effective, but the Natural Areas team revisited this practice with tree health and plastic waste in mind. To reduce the negative health impact on trees, and to reduce plastic use in the forest, the team changed the blazing method. The team, assisted by a core group of volunteers, as well as Youthbuild Louisville’s Urban Conservation Corps, removed the plastic blazes. Stencils were used to paint new trail blazes along the trails. The new method does not damage the trees, reduces plastic use in the forest, and is easier to maintain.

In addition to new trail blazes, the team installed trail marking signage along trails. Junctions, trailheads, directional information, and mileage is now consistently marked with labeled trail signs. While on the trails, keep an eye out for brown fiberglass signs with the Bernheim logo. The sign will indicate the trail you are on with a two-letter abbreviation. For example, Fire Tower loop is labeled with a Bernheim logo, and the letters ‘F T’, along with additional directional information. Trail signage work is not complete and will continue throughout the summer.

During the course of the work, the team has cataloged and removed downed trees that blocked the trails, including on the five-mile Elm Lick Trail and the 13.75-mile Millennium Trail. To help catalog the trail improvement projects, volunteers Trail Rangers regularly hike, document, and report on trail conditions. Over the coming months, weekend volunteer projects will be organized utilizing the trail reports submitted by volunteer Trail Rangers.

Throughout this project, the Natural Areas Team and volunteers approached trail maintenance with forest stewardship in mind, and will continue to do so moving forward. The spread of invasive species was minimized as much as possible, living trees and limbs and were pruned with tree health in mind, new erosion was mitigated, and sustainable trail supplied were used when possible.

The quality of Bernheim’s trails, and the success of the trail improvement project, is largely due to volunteers. The core volunteer group that worked on this project deserves the highest of accolades. Without this small group of dedicated volunteers, this project would not have been possible. To ensure continued success, Bernheim is seeking volunteers, partners, and sponsors to keep our trail standards high. Be on the lookout for expanding volunteer projects, adoption opportunities, and the creation of a Bernheim Trail Club.

Whether you are an experienced hiker like our volunteer Trail Rangers, or a newcomer to the hobby, Bernheim has a trail for you. Come celebrate National Trails day on June 6th and experience the improvements the Natural Areas and volunteer teams have made. The trail system is a fun, educational, and healthy way for you and your family to connect with nature. Forests, prairies, streams, incredible biodiversity, and even Forest Giants await you on our trails.

National Trails Day is Sunday, June 6.

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