Friday, March 10, 2017

Trailwork Tools of the Trade

Trail work requires many different types of tools- having the right tool for the job (and knowing how to use it correctly) makes trail work faster and a lot more fun. Some of the tools of the trade are common gardening/yard tools while others are very specialized and less well known. Here's a quick overview of common tools used on typical Wilderness Volunteers service projects.


A McLeod (pronounced mccloud) is a handy tool with teeth on one side and a hoe like blade on the other side at the end of a long wooden handle. It is commonly used to rake duff, break up sod clumps, and move/level dirt when working on trails. Its unique shape makes it especially effective for repairing trail slopes and compacting tread.


A Pulaski is half axe and half adze at the end of a long wooden handle. It can be used both to dig and to chop wood making it a trail construction and maintenance favorite.

Rock Bar

A rock bar is a long and straight bar made of metal that is used to pry large rocks, loosen compacted earth, and break up rocks. The length of the bar gives added leverage to the user making moving enormous rocks out of a trail much easier.

Crosscut Saw

A crosscut saw is a large saw designed for felling large trees and bucking (cutting a felled tree into logs). It can be used as a one or two person saw and makes removing large trees from trails a breeze.

Silky Saw

A silky saw is a small hand saw used for pruning, limbing, brushing, and removing small downed trees from trails. They may be folding or non-folding and can have curved or straight blades. Their light weight and versatility make them a must have for trail crews.


Loppers are a manual two-handled cutting tool designed to prune small branches. Long handles provide excellent leverage and make clearing trails of brush and tree limbs much faster.

Single Jack & Double Jack Sledge Hammer

Sledge hammers are used to break up larger rocks into smaller pieces to make them more manageable or to create fill for trail features such as drains, boardwalks, bridges, and causeways.

Pick Mattock

The pick or pick mattock is used for breaking up tread, prying smaller rocks, loosening compacted soil, and grubbing.


The common round-point shovel is fantastic for moving dirt & gravel, correcting tread and digging.

Canvas Bags
Heavy duty canvas bags are great for moving rocks, gravel, duff, and tundra mats. A substitute for these are 5 gallon buckets.


A drawknife is used to peel the bark off dry logs/ felled trees. It is typically used by sitting on top of a log, holding the drawknife by both handles, and pulling it towards you.

What is your favorite trailwork tool? Let us know in the comments below.


Randy Meier said...

What about the axe? I love it!

Anonymous said...

My favorite tool is the Rock Bar, aka "The Bar". It's also very effective for removing invasive grass like the Buffelgrass at Saguaro National Park East.
Michael from Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Kathleen said...

The "McLeod" is actually a McCloud,must as it's pronounced. It was invented as a firefighting tool on the McCloud ranger district, near Mt. Shasta, CA. And if you want to know more about the man who invented the Pulaski, read "The Big Burn" which is an amazing true story. here in the northwest working with Nature Comservancy and PCTA! I'm also being introduced to hazel hoes and a hovels bent at a 90 degree angle, but I can't get a straight (sorry) answer about what to call them.
Kathleen Worley

Kathleen said...

Update - not hovels; shovels. Must learn to proofread before submitting.