Every effort should be made to achieve reasonable gradients on trails to enable their widespread use by people with a range of abilities. In steeper, more rugged terrain and places where rock outcrops occur, there may be no alternative to the construction of steps or stepped ramps. However, long runs of steps going vertically up a slope are daunting to use and look out of place in the outdoors.
A slope where the gradient demands steps should be subdivided if possible into sections where different numbers of steps are needed, separated by landings and changes of direction to follow landform. In many areas, short sections of steps—perhaps three to five – can be used with ramps in between. This reduces the amount of construction and allows a more leisurely ascent or descent. The use of stepped ramps is another device, but these can be difficult for people with impaired sight to negotiate, and should be rarely used.
Step dimensions should be generally bigger in scale than normal domestic requirements. The rise can be a little higher but the tread width should be significantly greater. This is because of the tendency to use larger movements out of doors. Also, footwear is normally bigger, takes up more room, and is likely to overhang or catch on smaller steps.
Step construction should be carried out carefully, especially if using dry-laid materials. Loosely compacted material or unstable soil can mean that the impact of descending feet dislodges steps relatively easily. Foundations should be cut back to firm subsoil and drained properly (see above) before steps are laid.
The following forms of construction can be used successfully.