Introduction: Log Path Cut Into a Hill

About: I work as a Environmental Health and Safety specialist for Clark Reliance. Most of the guys there don't think I would know how to use a hammer. Sometimes, people are more than what they appear. :)

I live in a historic home along the Rocky River. For the past 9 years living in our home, we couldn't access the river due to the slope of the hill leading to it. We had a few trees come down this year with a heavy wind storm so I decided it was time to make a path, using the downed trees as the steps.I didn't want a path that looked commercial but something that blended in with the historic neighborhood and the character that it holds.

It took me 3 months to complete, all by hand. No excavator, No trencher, just hand tools, a chainsaw, and lots of sweat, and lots of bandaids for a cut that wouldn't stop when I tipped over a load of mulch.

I wanted my family to be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the River on our property. Here is my journey.


Downed trees or two

2 yards of limestone

5 yards of playground chip mulch






Sledge Hammer



Recycle bin - to haul mulch

Safety gear:

chainsaw gear, helmet, wedges, chaps, steel toe boots

safety glasses


Ear plugs

Step 1: Clearing the Path

To start, I had to clear the hill of all the undergrowth. I cut up the downed trees, cleared the brush, and started cutting out all of the little shrubs and trees in the pathway. There were also a ton of old branches and brush from years past that I had put on the hill from other projects. That also got moved out of the way and piled on the sides.

The tree trunks were cut into 3 foot lengths where I could. The rest was chunked up into firewood size to be split. I did get a new safety helmet out of the build. My daughter is modeling it in the picture.

I used an axe, sledge hammer, and splitting wedges to halve the 3 foot logs for steps.

Step 2: Carving Out the Path

After clearing the brush, I used a mattock and shovel to cut into the hill. Each step was cut in, and laid into the dirt. The removed soil was then packed around it and the next step cut in above. I started at the bottom and worked my way up. Along the way, I had to pull out several large boulders and tons of other rock. I probably moved 2000 pounds of rock out of the way. Part of this became edging for the path. Part was stacked to create a more secure corner where the path takes a turn.

Small and medium roots were cut where needed. Logs were notched to accommodate large roots, and whole root structures of small undergrowth were removed. All of the ivy and wild blackberries were cut back and the path widened.

The path ate one sledge hammer (the had handle inside the head just decided it had enough), a splitting axe, two chainsaw chains, and a few pair of gloves. It didn't want to give up it's ground easy and definitely put up a fight.

Step 3: Stone and a Small Bridge

In order to avoid mud on the steps and people slipping, I added limestone, carried down the hill two 5 gallon buckets at a time. I dug out some of the mud and clay between the steps and added the stone on top. It is a compacting limestone so once it rained, it was nice and hard.

I added a bunch stone more at the bottom to make a path as well.

In the path, there is a natural spring that keeps an area rather wet and muddy. While constructing the path, I used some logs to traverse the area but I added a treated lumber bridge once the majority of the stone was down. I used Cull lumber from Home Depot for this. 70% off and twisted a bit but once most of the boards were cut down, it wasn't too bad and I had a 15 foot bridge for less than $50 plus some deck screws.

At the end of the path, I moved some of the sandstone to create a walkway boundary to keep the kids out of the poison ivy. I also got a picture of the water when it was rushing after a storm so I could see how far I could put the stone on the path before it would wash away.

Step 4: Mulch to Keep the Poison Ivy Down

I hauled nearly 5 yards of mulch down the hill in a recycle container. First down a fairly steep backyard hill to the trail head, then slowly dropping it one step at a time. I only tipped to the side once but boy was that ever a work out. Who needs crossfit when you have a hill to carve (I like crossfit and have a friend who owns a gym). The mulch is the thick chunk wood chips they use in playgrounds so it should take a long time to break down.

Each time I came back up the hill, I put 6 to 8 pieces of split wood into the bin and hauled it to my house. No wasted trips that way but it is surprisingly hard to haul a container up a steep hill with weight in it.The few times I didn't have split wood to bring up, my kids jumped on the container to ride up. Luckily, they were lighter than the wood trips so it was ok for me and fun for them.

Step 5: Enjoying the River

My son is now able to fish with me in the river. So far we haven't caught a fish but we will. He also has the attention span of a tadpole if the fish aren't biting instantly, but he is only 6. My kids can also throw rocks into the river, which seems to be the favorite activity, even when fishing too. Maybe that's why they aren't biting....

The goal was to get my family to see the river and be able to play. Mission accomplished, plus the hill looks nice now.

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Second Prize in the
Backyard Contest