How to Make a Walkway Down a Steep Slope

By Kimberly Turtenwald

There are various reasons why you may wish to create a walkway, especially where a steep slope occurs. These steep slopes pose many challenges in regard to being passable. Laying a flat walkway straight down a steep slope is not advisable. It would be entirely too difficult to walk down such a path without falling down and possibly suffering injury; however, there are specific things you can do to ensure safe passage down a steep slope.

...
Making a safe walkway down a steep slope takes extra planning.

Step 1

Plan a route that zigzags back and forth down the slope. It is not a good idea to create a straight walkway down a slope due to the steep angles and the possibilities of falls and injury. This does not mean that you will have to create a completely curved path. It is still possible to create some straight areas. There are many ways you can use to plan your route. First, determine which landmarks you will need to avoid. Once you do this, mark your proposed path using string or spray paint. Wind the string around stakes that have been placed along the proposed path. This will allow you to experiment and determine the best route through trial and error.

Step 2

Level your path. Once you have determined your path, you will need to level the path bed. You can use a shovel or you can rent machinery such as a ride-on or walk-behind scooper. Renting machinery will be faster and more efficient. Leveling the path will create a safe walkway, so it is important to make it as flat as possible. There will be a slope to your path, so the main leveling will need to be done side to side. First, you will need to remove the sod. This is more easily done with the shovel. Use the blade of the shovel to cut along the edges of your path. Break up the sod into more manageable sections and use the shovel as a lever beneath the sod to pull it up.

Step 3

Use either the shovel or a scooper to dig your slope along the cleared pathway. The best way to create the slope is to mark the spot on the slope where you will want this stretch of path to end. Running a string from the starting point at the top end of the pathway down to the ending point at the bottom end will help eye up your slope. Making passes back and forth will take time, but is the most efficient way to dig the slope, particularly at the bottom end, which is deeper. A shovel will take considerably longer than using a motorized scooper. Once the slope is dug to its needed depth, use the shovel to make the path level from side to side. A level can help to ensure that your surface is even.

Step 4

Lay the walkway surface. A variety materials create an excellent walkway surface. Concrete or asphalt will create solid footing, but these materials require yearly maintenance to maintain their integrity and keep them under good repair. Gravel is also another option for a walkway surface. A finer gravel is the best for pathways, as coarser gravel can be hard on the feet and is less stable. First, place a bed of at least 2 inches of sand for stability. Then, lay the gravel out little by little, using a rake to level it occasionally. The gravel should be laid 2 to 3 inches thick. When using gravel, you may need to install rails along the sides of the path to ensure that the gravel remains on the walkway and does not wash down the hill during rainstorms.

Step 5

Install steps in any of the steeper or straight areas. If you have chosen to make any straight areas or there are areas of the walkway that are still extremely steep despite the zigzags, steps are a great option. These steps can be poured using concrete. You can also install railroad ties or other larger pieces of wood as steps to give your walkway a more natural look, particularly if you have decided to use gravel for the path. For concrete steps, using a bagged concrete mix. First, cut out the steps into the ground with your shovel. These steps should be at least 6 inches high and 6 inches deep. Create a frame using boards for each step. Use a level to make sure that the steps are level. Mix the concrete according to the directions on the bag. Pour the liquid concrete mix into these frames and allow to dry. Once the concrete is dry, remove the boards. For railroad tie steps, you will need to purchase the ties from a landscaping or building material store. These steps can be placed further apart than concrete steps. Prepare the path for these steps by using the shovel to make about a 2-inch trench in which to lay the tie. These steps can be any distance apart, depending on the slope. The steeper the slope, the closer the ties should be. Railroad ties are not required to be secured as long as they are embedded into the ground and only one tie high.

Step 6

Install railings anywhere you have installed steps or wherever the path is too steep. If you have chosen to use concrete steps, wrought iron or stainless steel railings are available. These railings are installed by drilling holes into the steps and securing the railing to the steps using the included concrete bolts. For stairs using railroad ties, a wooden railing works best. Wooden outdoor railing kits are available in numerous different styles and wood types. Choose one that matches your landscaping the best. For wooden railings, you will need to use a post digger to accommodate the posts you will be installing. Poor concrete into these holes before placing the post into the hole. Once the concrete sets, you will need to place any spindles into place. The last step is to screw the handrail onto the tops of the posts to complete your railing.