Trail Maintenance: Why, When & How
Updated: Feb 16
Whether you choose to personally maintain your trail or call Trailscape to come and help you, we have you covered with the information and details you need to make the best decision for you and your family.
We have a wide variety of clients and we have found that the task of trail maintenance varies amongst them. Depending on each person's stage in life, some of our clients view trail maintenance as a welcomed zen-like activity after a career of striving. They find solace in being outdoors and taking care of the earth.
In fact, one of our clients is a retired president of a big tech firm. He loves the instant results he gets from the physical labor of a relatively simple task. For this client, when compared to years of complex mental toiling with mixed results working on his trail maintenance is a breath of fresh air!
On the other hand some of our clients are in a different place. They can’t imagine having to add another thing to their to do list. Still some may fall somewhere between those two. Regardless of our client’s stage of life we are here to assist you!
First, we will share with you how to best maintain your trail on a regular basis. In doing so, you ensure your trail will be in top shape all year round. For those of you who enjoy this type of activity keep reading. For those of you who would rather have someone do this task for you, just skip on down to the Contact Us section.
General Trail Maintenance
There are four main tasks when it comes to general trail maintenance:
1. Weed control.
2. Cut back brush on either side of the trail.
3. Remove fallen trees and debris.
4. Erosion control
By completing these tasks it helps to remove vegetation that may have grown into the trail corridor, which could in turn create hazards for you and your family who walk on the trail. In addition to removing hazards, pruning back the brush on either side of the trail helps to preserve a natural fire break.
We believe you should inspect and maintain your trail a minimum of 4 times per year or roughly once every three months. This keeps your labor to a minimum and your trail enjoyment capacity at a maximum!
Fall: fall is the time to relax after the fire season and prepare for winter. We like to run the blower over the trail to remove seed which should minimize weeds. It’s also a good time to look for minor rivulets that could grow into erosion. Check drains to see if there are any that may not have been functioning and allowed water to pass down the trail. Also take a look at drainage crossings to see if there’s something that might be in the way of the water flow.
Winter: After the first heavy rains, walk the trail and just watch how the water flows to check for pooling water or places where there are the beginnings of erosion. More than likely you may find there will be scattered branches to clear from the path along with a downed tree or two. Electric chainsaws have come a long way and we have found that you just need a little one for most of these jobs. For the larger trees make sure you know what you’re doing or hire a professional. If a tree falls with branches under tension, they can pack a punch about a month after it rains. About one month after it rains, we also recommend preparing a diluted mixture of herbicide to spray on any weeds that may have encroached on the trail. If you catch them when they’re about an inch tall that is optimal. Catching them at this height ensures you don't have dead brown weeds.
Spring: This is when the most maintenance occurs. Walking your trail and removing debris, controlling weeds and trim back the brush are the key to a well maintained trail. Keep in mind that there should be about 4-5 feet of clearance on either side of the trail to create a natural firebreak. We have found that most regular household tools will complete these jobs, but we do recommend a very strong blower as that tends to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.
On a brand new trail, there will often be a small crack between the trail, tread, and the down slope, where the “cut” transitions to “fill.” The easiest way to handle this is to walk the trail a couple of times, and just step on the crack. The most important thing is to limit the amount of water that can go down the crack and saturate the soil. In weak soils this can lead to “liquefaction” where the dirt sloughs down the hill. In steeper areas sometimes the up slope will slough down onto the trail. If this happens, it simply needs to be shoveled off.
Summer: This is fire season and it is time to look out for dead brush close to the trail. Our trails are typically 4 to 5 feet wide, which is a decent fire break, but if the brush is kept clear, 5 feet either side it can double the effectiveness. If you’re using power tools, check with Cal fire for “red flag days“ and run that equipment in the morning.
Anytime you are out on your trail, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for erosion. Trail erosion should be rare. More often we will find that the upslope of the trail may slough onto the trail. This just needs a quick shoveling to remove the extra soil.
In the event there is erosion in most cases, it’s a matter of what is happening just above it. Often a drain has a low spot that has filled with silt and allows water to bypass the drain and head down the trail. In this case, we take a hoe and clean out the drain.
In steeper terrain, we often find that a small crack emerges at the downhill edge of the trail where the “cut” stops, and the “fill” begins. In this situation, the best thing to do with this crack is to simply walk on it as you pass. Walking actually seals it so water won’t inject into the soil below the trail.
We were delighted that with record water flows last month we got so few calls related to erosion. At Trailscape, we put an immense amount time, energy and purpose into our trail designs so that they are adequately drained thus keeping erosion at a minimum.
For those of you who need help from time to time or all year long, we are here for you and ready to help. Our full service maintenance team is experienced in maintaining trails so that they can be enjoyed for decades to come. Give us a call at (530) 852-5155, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this quick form and we will get in touch with you to get you on our schedule.
Would you be interested in having your trail maintained for free? Any time you refer a friend, family member, or colleague who contracts a build with us, we would like to gift you this service as our way of saying thank you for trusting us.
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
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