MM Newman Lake Trail Design-Build

Foothills into the Rocky Mountains, a stone’s throw to Idaho, a trail in the works.  Our site, on a local bluff had large 5 and 10 acre lots of residential homes nearby alongside  undeveloped land.  Our clients expressed a strong desire to explore and enjoy the full scope of their 15 acres of mixed pine-fir forest; following a sizeable investment in their landscape.  The home site is generally north-west facing, views of Mount Spokane, forage for white tail deer, elk, and turkeys, panoramas for raptors.

1st step was to reduce forest fire hazards by thinning their woods through a Washington State DNR Forestry Cost-Share program; cut materials were then masticated and spread onsite to mulch and provide nutrients for plants.  Now, with woodlands not so opaque  we designed and built a simple loop trail of 1,500′.  This served the multiple purpose of quick access, ground fire break, and management of a limited budget.

Site conditions
Aspect: slope near top of hill is westerly to northwesterly with grades to 30%; elevation not researched but could be 2,000-2,500’
Soils: vary from rich organic 2” deep plus to gravely with light powdery sediments: sandy loam in general; drainage likely good
Vegetation: recently thinned immature conifer forest of ponderosa and Douglas fir with sheltered drainages near site of subalpine fir and western larch; light shrub layer of Pacific ninebark and serviceberry
Other Observations: several immature Douglas fir appear to have die-back some high on crown and others throughout: cause could be drought stress or disease

Plant Recommendations were made including:
lupine, Kinnikinnick, fireweed, columbine, lavender, blue flax
Oregon grape, snowberry, lilac, woods rose
western larch
red and blue elderberry good forage for deer, and birds once established; future plantings were postponed

Next the trail was pin flagged:

After an agreement on the route was made, work began clearing trail – the “rough-in” phase.  A series of climbing turns were built to bring the trail downhill and handle drainage.  Much of the trail was built with a  1/2 bench.  The trail was sited to use as many points of interest and existing deer pathways as practical.  Grades were typically kept to 15% , 4 locations had short segments under 20%. Rock work was used to reinforce edges.  Following this construction, a top course of 5/8″ minus gravel was applied on future high use segments near the home.  1,500′ is a small polygon within 15 acres and another budget was established after successful completion of the upper loop to construct a larger loop with a narrower tread of 12″-18″ and minimal cut and fill.  This lower loop stacked onto the upper loop added another 4,000′ to the system.


Hand tools for clearing and grubbing vegetation with a “light on the land” approach.  Shaping of trail tread involved careful work with a McLeod rake and tamping to create a firm and outsloped shape.  The lower loop was quickly cleared and minimal bench work was made to keep it simple and cost effective.


Soil conditions were adequate to build trail throughout the site, however much effort was spent clearing the formerly masticated wood off of the slope.  With autumn rains, the tread compacted well and no areas were found to need drainage structures.


Example: woodlands recently thinned and materials masticated



Example: south half of property with control points


Example: south property and portion of north property with upper loop trail


Example: finished trail 1/2 bench with mixture of mineral soils and rocky sections

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