I've built and/or reopened miles of trails. Most are old skid trails from logging, and provide a good starting point. My weapon of choice is a mini-excavator. It doesn't give you quaint walking trails, but it does give you great rails for hiking, skiing, UTVs, horseback, etc. I've actually learned to cut back the foliage as far as possible simply because it will then take longer for the trail to get choked back in by growth.
For an initial clearing, I run through with a bucket and thumb and remove all the fallen logs and bigger shurbs and trees that are right in the path.
Then I come through with a mulcher head on the mini to clean up and cut back as far as it will reach.
Subsequent maintenance is will a tractor and rotary mower, but after a few years the adjacent trees all grow sideways and start to choke the trail back down, and which point I do another pass with the mulcher.