Sensory Rich Trails - coverSensory-rich trails - a design framework

Victoria, Australia

Sensory Trust contributed the Sensory Mapping technique and the Access Chain concept to a guide for the design of sensory-rich trails in Australia.

From the introduction: "Sensory-rich trails – a design framework is intended to work alongside existing trail designs and extend concepts to create a space that better connects people to their environment. The framework assesses what the environment has to offer the following four senses; touch, sound, sight and smell. This is achieved;

  • consciously with the use of signs, or;
  • unconsciously by listening to the trees blowing in the wind or smelling the scents in the air.

People’s individual needs and expectations are the focus of sensory-rich trail design, including people of all abilities, people of different ages and people from different cultural backgrounds.

This framework aims to encourage and guide the development of inclusive trails that meet the needs of people in the community."


Funded by the Department for Victorian Communities' Access for All Abilities Initiative Fund, Nillumbik Shire Council developed the ‘Sensory Trails’ Design Framework in 2006. The project uses action research techniques to identify trail features that stimulate the five main senses. These findings have been correlated with results from a literature search of disability, recreation, interpretation, heritage and arts texts.

Lars Stenberg gave a talk to a sensory trails project steering group based near Melbourne, in . The talk covered our approach to evaluating visitor experience and particularly the Sensory Mapping tool and its practical application at Stourhead, National Trust property in Wiltshire.

Volunteers field-tested trail audit tools and design parameters in both rural and urban areas to ensure the needs of the targeted market segments can be met. The Framework guides both the process of developing a ‘sensory’ trail and its design. Thoughtfully applied, this framework should ensure trails are winners for locals and tourists alike, with the issues of genuine inclusive design and quality of experience for specific market segments addressed.

Pam Enting of the project says, "Recreation trails in urbanised and protected areas enable people to be physically active and stimulated by the surroundings. People with disabilities and families require their needs to be met in order to have a rich and accessible experience. The installation of a boardwalk doesn’t guarantee a sensory experience of natural, cultural and indigenous heritage. This project will hopefully help us find out how we design a trail to be a full and varied experience for people with multiple disabilities or families with young children".