So, you thinking of coming to a trail day...

So, you are thinking of coming out for a trail day, but you never been and don't want to look too much of a newbie…   Don't worry, here is a crash course.
(some of these items are my thoughts, others may feel differently)

Trail work - if you plan on coming out to do a trail work day, please be prepared, consider the following list.

1. gloves
2. work boots if possible
3. long pants,(really recommended) long sleeved shirt (bugs, prickers…)
4. snack and drink
5. bug spray
6. sun glasses, safety glasses
if you wear contacts, bring a case and fluid just in case
7. a pleasant attitude

You may think wearing shorts and gym shoes are best, but these may limit the type of work you will be able to do. Biking shoes with cleats can get easily ruined by shoveling a few buckets of dirt.  Many people wear shorts and shirts, but this is my list... so I'd suggest long pants, workboots.


The tools - if you don't know how to use them, ask… but here is a rather quick summary,and please watch and ask.  Be aware of the tools "circle of death"  the area around you that someone may get injured. It covers a few feet beyond the full reach of your arm with the tool in hand.  And Always ask permission before wanting to walk past another trail worker along the worksite.

McLeod- long handled tool for shaping tread, clearing out the organic matter to get down to the mineral soil. Has fingers on one side and usually a sharpened end on the other.  This should never be swung overhead.  This tool is very dangerous to user and nearby people. It is very capable, but can also be tiring if using for several hours.  Watch an experienced user to get the tips on it's use. The handle since it is round, is not for prying things up.

Firerake- usually a sharpened (4 to 5)toothed, long handled tool that is great for cutting through organic matter and removing brush, can also be used to dig into dirt and tread, but it is best on organic. This should never be swung overhead,  be aware of the circle of death. The handle since it is round is not for prying things up.

Mattock- a medium handled tool for digging into the dirt, both ends of the head are dangerous, should only be raised to the shoulders, be aware of who and what is around you.  Hard Hat protection and eye protection suggested as well as work boots. For use  in digging trenches, removing stumps and rocks. The handle is Oval, can be used for prying root balls, logs, rocks, etc.

Pulaski- a medium handled tool for cutting into the intended trail, has an axe type head on one side of the head, and a another cutting face perpendicular to the first. Hard Hat, eye protection and work boots suggested. Be aware of your surroundings. The handle is oval, can be used for prying roots, rocks,  logs. etc.

Pointed shovel- long handled, for the removal of dirt and material placement. Not for whacking thorn bushes or hammering down rocks. Know where to put your dirt, often times the fill may be used elsewhere, 5 gallon buckets or making a temporary pile is better than simply tossing it.

Leaf Rake - long handled, effective on leaf litter and twigs. to remove the loose organic material as well as helping to scatter it.

Axe- medium handled tool for chopping through wood.  Be aware of your surroundings and the people near you.  Hard Hat, eye protection and work boots. Take your time, trade off with a partner, once you get tired, your swing gets sloppy. Not to be used in dirt or around stone. Pay attention to handle and head of axe, if it is compromised, don't use.

Hachet- short handled tool, can be used for delimbing dead fallen tree branches, but not to be used on live, standing ones.

Saw- bow, hand, pruning- all human powered, best for branches at least one and a half inches thick al the way up to 8 to 10 inch trunks of blowdowns.  Try not to get blade into the dirt. Be aware how and where you set it down.  Gloves and eye protection.  Be aware of the tension and compression areas of what log you are cutting.  Be sure that everyone around you is aware as well.

Loppers- med handled anvil or bypass loppers used to clear the corridor. Cut at the collar of the limb near the trunk, not too close, not too far away.  Keep them sharp, don't use loppers on roots in dirt unless there is another pair to use on live branches.  When lopping saplings in middle of intended tread, lop off at waist height to allow for leverage when getting the whole root section out.  When lopping at sides off of trail, lop to the ground, we don't' want any "rib ticklers".  Unless working with a partner who will remove the cut branches, be sure you  place them away from the corridor, preferably with cut end facing away from trail.

Clipper- hand tool, anvil or bypass, for removing small (up to inch) branches that impede the trail corridor. Clip close to collar of the branch, not right up against trunk, but not too far out either.  Watch someone and ask. Also can be used to prune a branch and encourage it to grow in another direction, find a leaf node facing desired direction and cut back to that.

machete- corn knife- hand tool for removing brush, prickers, "non woody stemmed plants. gloves, and eye protection and long pants. do not make contact with blade and ground.  Be aware of those around you.

All power tools usually need special permission for their use and require safety certification for chainsaws.  These are just a few guidelines. Know your tool, keep it in optimal working condition. Don't use it for anything else except it's intended purpose. Don't use alone, wear all safety gear.


Actual Trail work- many find it rewarding and fun, some don't… If you don't, simply don't come.  If you do plan on attending, come ready to work.  It's a good time to have conversations about where to ride, what you ride, and such… but remember you can talk while you work.

Ask, if you are not sure, there is nothing worse than putting your effort into something for an hour only to find out that it is heading down the wrong path.  Whenever possible, working in smaller groups helps things go much smoother.  Don't take ownership of 30 yards and feel you can do it all. a couple of people following behind one another is a great way to get single track down.

If you came dressed to ride, then you most likely should be raking, and lopping, and trimming.  Many of the hand tools that have the greater potential of causing injury, should be wielded by folk sporting workbooks, gloves, eye protection and long pants.

When at all possible, complete the task at hand (as individual or group) before moving on.  Whether it is repairing a log over, removing limbs, or trenching for some drainage.  There will likely be riders coming along very soon after you leave, so be sure it is safe and rideable.

The finished tread, whether full bench cut or along a flatter section of terrain, ought to have one side of the tread out-sloped to allow for water to get off.  The tread should be down to mineral soil, having all the leaf and organic matter removed.  Rolling grade dips and knicks are great ways to get water off the trail.

When doing a log culvert, corduroy, trench, de-berming, do it well, don't rush the work. and use materials that will sustain its use and last over time.  Corduroy is not  hurriedly gathered branches and twigs tossed into mud.  A log over is not dropped logs near a fallen tree, and trenching, when done correctly creates the water level several inches below the tread surface it is next to.

There are several things to keep in mind when doing trail work, do everyone a favor and spend some time looking at some links to books, videos, and youtube, or The other way to learn is to come out during a trail day, pay attention and ask questions.

This little write up is not intended to provide all you need to know about trail work, nor is it to provide all the precautions and safety issues.  It is simply to give you some things to consider as you head out on a trail day.


Our insurance company has "strongly suggested" that we tell you that Mountain Biking can be dangerous. If you're visiting this site it's very likely that you're already aware that if you insist on having a good time by riding your mountain bike, eventually you will almost certainly fall down and collect any number of boo-boos, dings and injuries, serious or otherwise, but we have to tell you anyway.

Mountain Biking is a potentially hazardous activity carrying a significant risk of bodily injury and even death. Mountain biking should only be undertaken if you have a complete awareness of these risks. You can reduce the level of risk by wearing a helmet and by riding within your own skill level.