Trail Tools

Trail builders rely on a myriad of different tools to help them build trail. The tool that they use is determined based on the type of trail they are building and the type of soil they are building on. In the majority of the cases a trail builder can build most trail using the three staple trail building tools, a pick mattock, a mcleod and a shovel. However, many organizations like to supply additional tools based on the soil condition to help speed up the building process.

Trail building tools can be broken into these 6 different categories:

1. Grubbing Tools
These tools are used to remove earth and top soil rapidly and precisely. The most commonly used tools in this category are the mattock, mcleod and adze hoe.

2. Chopping Tools
These tools are used to help clear the corridor and to help remove thick roots from the trail. The most commonly used tools in this category are the axe and the polaski.

3. Digging-Scraping Tools

These tools are used to help scoop up large amounts of dirt and debris so that it can be moved either on or off of the trail. The most commonly used tool in this category is the shovel.

4. Pounding – Hammering Tools
These tools are mainly used when working with rock to help breakdown the rock or move the rock out of a specific area. The most commonly used tools in this category are the single/double jack, sledge hammer and rock bar.

5. Cutting-Brushing Tools
These tools are used  to help clear tree branches and brush from the corridor before beginning work on the trail. The most commonly used tools in this category are loppers, machetes and saws.

6. Lifting – Hauling Tools
These tools are used  to move earth and rock either off the trail or onto the trail. The most commonly used tools in this category are buckets, brewery blankets, canvas bags and austins.

Most Common Tools and How to Use Them

Pick Mattock

Considered to be the work horse of the trailbuilders toolbox, the pick mattock is a rugged multi-purpose tool designed to cut through the earth with ease. One side is a flat blade which can be used to cut significant chunks of earth to find the tread or create the backslope of the trail. The other side is a pick which is used to pry small rocks or roots from the trail.


One of the most versatile tools in the Trailbuilders toolbox, the mclead is usually the first and the last tool used when building or repairing trail.The flat blade side is prefect for smoothing out tread, taking off 1-2 inches of dirt at a time, while the rake side is perfect for removing the leaves, grass or small roots from the top level of the trail.


Known for it’s ability to move large quantities of dirt at a time, the shovel is mainly used as an earth conveyance device. You will want to use the shovel as scooping tool only to scoop the up the fresh cut dirt and debris.

Rogue Hoe

A scraping specialist, the rogue hoe has a sharp blade designed to cut the dirt and debris with ease. The blade can be brittle so use caution when working in areas with rock.

Rock Bar & Tamping Bar

Heavy steal reinforces rod designed for moving even the most stubborn rocks. The rock bar is used as a pry bar to pry heavy rocks out of the ground for use in walls or for removing them from the trail. These bars are very heavy and can cause significant injury if mishandled so be sure to use caution when operating.

Come Along

Ideal for removing those pesky roots and re-positioning the largest of rocks, the come along has a cable and uses a ratchet to pull the object closer to the ratchet’s location.