How to Cut New Trails Through Your Property
A walk through nature can cure just about anything. If you have some land to spare and want to add a more personal form of recreation, building a trail is an excellent upgrade.
Maybe you have a field that’s just sitting there or perhaps you want an easier way to get to your hunting tree stand. Whatever your desire is for a trail, making your own method of outdoor recreation is always a good thing. It’s time to reclaim the unused areas of your property and build that trail!
Tools You Will Need
Every property is different, but these are the products usually required to cut a new trail:
- Work gloves
- Different colors of flagging tape
- Tape measure for trail width
- Hand pruners and/or loppers
- Rake or blower
- Brush mower
- Optional: chainsaw for trails through the woods
- Optional: stump grinder to remove large stumps
- Optional: accessories to decorate the trail
Plan the Trail
The first step is to walk the perimeter of your land and ensure property boundaries are marked. You don’t want to accidentally create a trail through your neighbors’ land!
Think about what you want your trail to accomplish. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Do you want to walk in a loop or there and back?
- Will this just be for walking or also biking, cross-country skiing, hunting, off-roading, snowmobiling, or other recreation?
- Does it need to be wide enough for two people walking side-by-side?
As you’re scouting your potential trail, identify any interesting features that the trail should visit. Think scenic views, a babbling brook, an abandoned house foundation, a hushed clearing, or anything else to make it fun! It’s equally important to spot problem areas that the trail should avoid. This could include swamps/poorly drained areas or hills that are too steep.
An easy way to make a trail is to follow deer paths through the snow. Animals trekking through your property will usually clear paths on their own. Follow the path of least resistance and use what nature has created! Just make sure these paths don’t cross onto your neighbors’ land.
Map the Trail and Decide on Size
Use a map or drone picture to sketch out your potential trail. A topographical map from the US Geological Survey can be helpful to show where it might be too steep for a trail. Outline a route that stays close to natural or human-created edges. This avoids habitat disruption from creating a trail in an undisturbed area.
A walk through the wilderness won't be very stimulating if you don't make an interesting trail. Outline a winding, meandering route instead of a straight one, which will not only be more fascinating but also less prone to erosion. A gentle slope of less than 10° will help keep the trail stable.
When sketching your trail, decide how wide it should be. A width of 2-4’ is usually sufficient but it depends on your trail goals. You will also want to clear about 2’ on either side of the path for easy passage and to avoid a tunnel effect.
Mark the Outline of the Trail
Once you know where your trail will run, it’s time to mark the route. You should only need some hand pruners, gloves, and flagging tape for this. We recommend using different colored tape to outline the trail, mark notable features, and highlight obstacles to be removed (including branches/overhead obstacles).
Tie a piece of flagging tape along your trail outline where you can still see the one before it. For safety, you should always be able to see the previous marker from the spot you’re standing in. If you’re making a loop, walk back in the opposite direction to make sure you can see the markers going in both ways. If your “draft” isn’t perfect on the first try, simply adjust any flagging tape.
Some people prefer to do the planning and marking phases during winter when snow has packed down any brush and tall grass. But there’s no “best” time of year to do this, as every property is different! It’s a good idea to walk your “rough draft” in different seasons to make sure low spots aren’t staying muddy and fully leafed trees aren’t blocking the trail ahead.
Clear the Small Brush by Hand
After you’re satisfied with the draft, grab some hand pruners/loppers and gloves to trim back branches that are blocking the way. If you’re clearing your trail during the spring when the ground is saturated, you can even pull small brush and invasive rose bushes out by the roots, which will keep them from resprouting.
Be sure to remove large rocks or obstacles so you can safely use a brush mower and rake/blow other debris out of the path after you’ve trimmed the branches.
Depending on how dense your future trail area is, you can skip this branch trimming step and jump right into using a field and brush mower. If the brush is too thick to walk through or you’re cutting the trail through an open field without branches, head right to your brush mower.
Remove Thick Obstacles with a Field and Brush Mower
Once any small obstacles have been removed, it’s time to bring in the muscle. A walk-behind field and brush mower, such as the mowers we offer from DR Power Equipment, cuts through thick grass, tall brush, and tough saplings with ease.
All DR Field and Brush Mowers are self-propelled, so you don’t have to wrestle heavy machinery to clear your trail. DR’s larger models even come with Power Steering or Hydrostatic Steering to turn 180° using only your fingertips.
Depending on model, the DR can be used on 4-6’ tall grass, 6-8’ tall brush, and 2-3” diameter saplings. Any trees too big to cut down with a brush mower (or large trees that have already fallen) should be tackled with a chainsaw.
If your trail was full of saplings and you’re concerned about tripping over stumps, try a DR Stump Grinder. This will allow you to completely remove any rooted obstacles still on your trail.
Add Water Diversion and Accessibility Features
Consider adding some accessories if your property has patches of difficult terrain that you want included in the trail. A bridge or boardwalk is great for crossing wet areas (and to protect fragile vegetation), or think about some steps, flat stones, or switchbacks for hills.
Your trail route should be designed to minimize erosion, but if your property gets a lot of rain, some water diversion measures could be necessary. This could include water bars or culverts, which run across a path to redirect water flow.
Time for the Finishing Touches
There’s more to making a trail than just clearing land. What additions can bring more enjoyment to your time spent outside? Perhaps a nice bench overlooking a scenic area or a swing hanging from a nearby tree. You could even plant some flowers along the trail or build a small pond. The sky’s the limit!
Maintaining Your Trail
Once the trail is finished, you'll need to keep it in good condition. Trails that are used heavily (especially for mountain biking) require more maintenance than walking trails, but all need at least some attention each season.
Dead trees near your trail should be proactively taken down. Prune back encroaching branches or shrubs, repair washed-out sections, and maybe add a layer of packed gravel or woodchips on top of your trail. After all the hard work you put into making the trail, be sure to keep it in good condition!
Build a Customized Trail
Country Home Products is proud to offer a full array of equipment for cutting a new trail, including brush mowers, battery-powered chainsaws, stump grinders, pruners, and work gloves. We add more products every week and you can sign up here for email alerts. Happy trails!
Last updated: 7/15/2022