If your home sits on a lot of wooded land, it can be challenging to navigate — even following game trails will only get you so far. If you’ve got a lot of woods nearby, it can be a fun idea to set up hiking trails on your property.
Follow this three-step process to get started with building your own hiking trail.
1. Scout Your Property
Your first step should be to head out onto your property and start scouting out where you might want to start laying these trails. A topographic map of the area can help you see the kind of terrain you’re dealing with, but you won’t have a good idea of the actual topography of the woods until you get out there.
Take a camera and a GPS — or a phone equipped with a mapping app — so you can easily map out the areas where you would like to build your trails. Once you get back to the house, draw a rough sketch of your path on paper to give you an idea of the scale of the project.
2. Go Sustainable
Your goal should be to make a sustainable trail. According to the National Park Service, that means your path:
- Is enjoyable for hikers but has minimal impact on the local ecosystem
- Doesn’t damage the soil
- Can require pruning or plant removal to protect the construction of the trail
- Doesn’t harm any local wildlife
- Needs very little in the way of trail maintenance
Even if you’re not planning to open your pathways to the public, these are useful guidelines to follow to allow you to create a trail you’ll be able to enjoy without damaging your property.d
3. Get to Work
Once you have a plan, it’s time to start getting to work. Try to work around the land’s natural features so you can enjoy the most beautiful parts of your forest while sticking to the safety of a trail.
If you come across areas you can’t cross or avoid naturally, such as a creek or ravine, a dock or elevated pathway might be a suitable alternative. Depending on how you install them, they can be very non-invasive and add more mileage to your path without damaging your forest’s natural ecosystem.
Make sure you dress correctly — that means long pants, boots, and long sleeves, even if it’s warm — to keep ticks away and discourage any ornery snakes you might cross paths with.
Use a machete or hatchet to help you to clear small brush. For larger removals, you may need a chainsaw — but that will depend on how much you need to move to create your trail. You should try to avoid removing big trees if possible. Depending on the density of your forest, you may be able to craft the entire path without removing even one tree.
Having a hiking path or two on your property can be a fantastic way to help you get the most out of your land without causing any damage to the local ecosystem. Just make sure you’re prepared for anything, and that you plan your hiking trails, so they don’t interfere with the plants and animals who call your property home.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington