How to design theme trails – 5 tips

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Nature experience & infotainment

Theme trails and nature trails are very popular with visitors young and old. The following tips tell you how to design theme trails and what to keep in mind:

1 – Determine the objective

As always, the first step is a proper concept. You need to answer questions such as:

  • Which target groups are to be reached?
  • Do you want to entertain children or to communicate nature and culture to adults?
  • What themes do you want and can you choose for the new theme trails?
  • Do you need to create a completely new trail or can you “jazz up” an already existing trail?

Ideal for theme trails and nature trails are circular hikes that can be completed in 45 minutes to two hours.

Popular topics are, of course, flora and fauna. But also historical and geological information, or stories about famous personalities, curious incidents or regional customs are very suitable for theme trails.

Theme trails for kids - sign from a nature park in Austria, that invites kids to participate in the Spiky Head Gnome challenge

Families with children love playful theme trails to participate in – Naturpark NÖ Eisenwurzen

2 – Observe general conditions

Before jumping enthusiastically into wild ideas and exciting concepts, it is important to clarify the framework conditions:

First and foremost, there is landscape protection. In many areas of Europe, strict rules prevail. “Structural” interventions in nature, such as the construction of a viewing platform or a climbing forest, often have little chance of being approved.
Likewise, there are precise specifications regarding the size, material, color scheme and mounting points of signs and display boards.
Of course, theme trails and nature trails are attractive tourist attractions. But the landscape protection still has the task to prevent a “sign forest” in the real forest.

Therefore interactive solutions via an outdoor app are a good way to make do with small signs or geo-coding.
However, this only works with offline solutions, i.e. without any network connection.
Because in the middle of nature, especially in mountainous areas, there is usually no reception at all, not to mention free, fast Internet!

Male hand is holding a phone with sign no service above his head against the background of trees

No service: This is almost always the case in nature. That’s why outdoor apps for theme trails have to work offline!

3 – Good plan – perfect implementation

Content

The most important thing for attractive theme trails is of course the content.
It must be short, interesting, entertaining and easy to understand. And at the same time convey knowledge.
Developing crisp texts from raw information is the most difficult part of creating a theme trail!
Because you have to keep in mind that the experience of nature is in the foreground.
So people are distracted. And they don’t want to read long, small-print texts.

Length

Most theme trails therefore comprise 10 – 15 stations that follow a “red thread”.
Each station offers a tidbit of information. With reference to the particular location and indication of the next station.
Hints such as “Look at the northernmost peak, there is …” are always very popular. Or a call to action like “Photograph this oak tree” for the related hiking challenge.

Design

When it comes to the design of the stations themselves, weather resistance and low maintenance play the biggest role.
So elaborate infrastructure, electricity, or beacons for interactive elements are not suitable for the outdoors.
Stations should be highly visible, yet not disruptive.
A good graphic design has a clear structure, good readability, images and maps.

To ensure access to the information for people with visual impairments or reading difficulties, offline NFC technology, as used by SpeechCode, is suitable.
Here, the texts of the signs transfer directly from an NFC tag to the smartphone, i.e. without internet. The text appears on the display and is read out at the same time.
With this audio info, you can even do without large and expensive signs altogether and simply offer all the info for reading and listening on your own smartphone. How it works

Theme trail rough wooden sign "Montane historic geologic trail, community Hellenthal" with a 10 by 30 centimeter small Audio Info sign below.

This is how simple, cost-effective and small NFC signs with Audio Info by SpeechCode can be!

4 – Support from professionals

So designing truly successful theme trails is not that easy.

And who has specialists for theme trails in their own community or even in large tourism associations?
So it makes sense to turn to an agency that specializes in designing outdoor experiences. Who can offer everything, from the idea to the implementation, as a one-stop-shop. Where you can find exactly the know-how you need for theme trails!
Sure, all this costs money, but it saves time and above all leads to a really great result.

5 – Theme trail marketing

Once your theme trails are in progress, it’s time to start promoting them.

The new theme trails must not only appear on the own websites and in flyers.
Make sure, they get included in printed hiking guides and especially in hiking apps such as Bergfex or outdooractive.
And of course, employees of tourism businesses need to know about the new theme trails, preferably from their own experience!

 

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