Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trail Building: The Tools and Techniques

Brad, here. In Americorps NCCC, each team member has a given role on the team. My role on Maple 4 is the VST, which means I am responsible for our team Vehicle, the overall Safety of the team, and the Tools we use on our project. On our current trailbuilding project, we use a variety of tools. Some are very common, and some are specialty tools for our project. The tools we are using on any given day depend on which phase of work the new trail is on: Clearing, Uprooting, and Benching.

Clearing: When we first start a trail, the route is often impassible due to vegetation in the forest. We must first clear out this vegetation to even begin to see the route of the trail.

Tools for Clearing

Loppers: We use both large and small loppers to cut vines, branches and honeysuckle up to about 2” in diameter. Loppers cut through small stems quick and are easy to operate.

Bowsaw: A bowsaw is a type of saw used specifically for outdoor sawing of vegetation. We use it for anything that is too big for the loppers to cut through.

Uprooting: After clearing out a path, we are left with many stumps, both small and large, that need to be removed in order to create a flat surface for the trail.

Tools for Uprooting

Shovels: We use basic shovels to dig out some stumps. They not only move and loosen the soil, but they also cut through smaller roots that impede stump removal.

Pulaskis: The Pulaski is a tool that was designed for forest fire-fighting. It has both an axehead and a hoe. For clearing, we use the axehead for roots that are too large to be cut with a shovel.

Honeysuckle Popper: The honeysuckle plant makes up the majority of our stump removals. Because the plant’s roots are shallow, the honeysuckle popper can be used by securing the tool around the base of the plant and simply using leverage to “pop” the plant out of the ground.

Benching: After we have a clear trail, we then begin the task of leveling the grade of it through a process called benching. Benching involves cutting out dirt from the hillside of the trail and using that soil to level out the lower side of the trail.

Tools for Benching

Rhinos: The Rhino, like the Pulaski, was developed as a wildfire-fighting tool. It is a heavy duty hoe that has a sharp edge. We use it to cut into the hillside and pull the dirt out. We also use the hoe end of the Pulaski for this same purpose.

Bow (or Garden) Rake: After ripping the dirt up, we use these rakes to break up dirt clumps and level out the trail so that it is easy to walk on.



  1. Wow there is a lot that goes into trail building. I will have a great deal more appreciation the next time I am hiking in a trail lol...

    Cory Cook
    (Hardgainer Muscle Building)

  2. Building trails involves a lot of planning and a lot of work. Some contractors specialize in these kinds of projects so businesses, which makes more sense than building this on your own or hiring a normal construction company to do the task.

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