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  • Writer's pictureRandy Martin

Impact of Heavy Rain on Trails

Heavy rain and snow have been pounding California causing landslides and flooding. In this blog post, we address the impact of water on trails, how we build our trails to divert water, share maintenance ideas to help prevent erosion and give tips on hiking after the rain.

Meandering trail through the woods

Catastrophic Rain and Snow Across California

Last year was the first time I recall hearing the term atmospheric river. This is a weather events that can pour extensive amount of Pacific Ocean water on California. It can cause flooding rivers, landslides, power outages, tons of snowfall in the Sierras and other water related impacts. According to this article, at this time, we are gearing up for a ninth atmospheric river and potentially more.

How Heavy and Consistent Rain Can Damage A Trail

Water can significantly damage a trail. When water is not directed off the trail the erosion process will leave it a mess with standing water or significant areas with mud. Our crews at Trailscape use techniques that make it so erosion is almost nonexistent! Rarely will we build trail steeper than 5%. In addition, we built regular grade reversals and drains to help force water off or away from the trail.

The Importance of Drains and Their Proper Placement

We commonly think of a drain as something that would look like a grate or sink drain. However, trail drains are simply a way to move the water off the trail. We are diligent about installing drains to ensure our trails last for decades. Typically, drains are planned in low spots in about 50' intervals. In addition, on trails that go along a hillside we meander the trail from side to side in order to create an undulation. This is an aesthetic way to drain water instead of using log "water bars", wood or stone to force the water off of the trail.

Men using rakes to maintain a trail in the woods.

Benefit of Routine Trail Maintenance

Routine trail maintenance will help keep your trail in top shape. Of course, Trailscape makes this easy due to the fact our trails are built sustainably right from the start. Furthermore, we offer regular trail maintenance as a service to every client.

For those looking to maintain trails on their own, we recommend:

  • Regularly keeping an eye out for water running down the trail or pooling on the trail. If you see this, look up the hill and check to see if a drain has been clogged. Oftentimes, with saturated soil, plant debris and mud will collect in a drain. You can take a shovel or sharp hoe to remove the debris and distribute it evenly and away from the trail drain.

  • Removing any debris from the trail such as large branches

  • Control weeds that may creep into the pathway and trim back brush. When keeping about 4-5 feet of clearance on either side of the trail, it creates a natural firebreak for when there is long period of dry weather or droughts.

Hiking After The Rain

We know that many people are itching to get outside after such long periods of rain and wetness. A few important tips for hiking following large amount of rain:

1.) Check official weather websites for details regarding any incoming inclement weather. Depending on the location of your hike, you'll want to be prepared with appropriate supplies in the event you need to take cover or seek shelter for some time. In addition, if you are hiking on a public trail, you may want to call ahead to ensure they are open.

2.) Wear appropriate waterproof hiking boots. Most people want to avoid puddles and mud on their hike. However, this can actually cause more damage. Stay in the middle of the trail and remember the good 'ol days when puddles were an open invitation to walk through.

3.) Be aware of your surroundings and footing. Rain can make things slippery so you may want to consider using hiking poles. In addition, heavy rainfall can cause changes in the surrounding environment including loosening rock and mud causing landslides.

Trailscape Crew

Contact Us

It is our mission to make every trail a work of art while also integrating scientific techniques to ensure our clients have a legacy to leave behind for their family.

Should you wish to build a trail on your property, add on to an existing trail, or have our crew come out to inspect and maintain your current trail please contact us here, give us a call, or send us an email.

Randy Martin Expert & Exclusive California Trail Builder Hundreds of Miles of Trails Designed and Constructed for Private Land Owners


CONTACT: | (530) 852-5155 CONNECT: LinkedIn | Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get timely info, tips and more. LEARN: | Request a custom trail & firebreak plan here.


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