Mountain Bike Trail Building Tools Guide

Mountain Bike Trail Building Tools Guide

Mountain Bike Trail Building Tools Guide

Mountain Bike Trail Building Tools Guide

Building mountain bike trails is a very labor intensive task. Having the right tools can really help the process go a lot quicker and also be less impactful on the environment. A lot of tools that are used for trail building are also heavily used in wildland fire fighting and land management.

In this article I’ve gathered up a pretty comprehensive listing of all the tools you’d need to do most trail work. I’ve included power and manual tools as well as some software and informational resources that should help you greatly when building your next trail.

Lithium Battery Powered

Whenever possible, we now highly recommend lithium battery powered tools. With many of our forests on the brink of fire, we recommend limiting the use of gas powered tools.

While there are great brands out there and some super economical ones on Amazon, we like the idea of picking one brand that has a bunch of different tools that use the same battery type. There’s nothing worse than having to pack 2 or 3 different types of batteries out to the woods.

The brands that come to mind are Dewalt and Makita. For the money and being an American brand, we really like Dewalt power tools.

Commission Disclaimer

Any links to retailers from this article provide a compensation commission back to for referring customers to their site that buy products. This helps keep us out on the trails checking out new gear to write about here on the site.

Recommended Trail Building Tools

Axe / Hatchet

These tools may seem old school compared to using a chainsaw but they can be packed out to the trail easier and don’t need gas to work.


Suggested Bucket: UST Flexware Collapsible Bucket

Buckets are always handy to move dirt around and carry things like rocks or water. This collapsible bucket is super handy to pack and get to your destination. At this size, get two!

Bow Saw

Suggested Bow Saw: Bahco

Easy to use hand saw for cutting limbs and small pieces of wood.

Brush Cutter / Weed Trimmer

Suggested Brush Cutter: Makita Brush Cutter / Suggested Weed Trimmer: Dewalt 20v Weed Trimmer

Brush Cutter

Brush cutters are a lot like a weed trimmer except they usually have a large blade attached instead of string to do the cutting. They are very handy when trying to clear out thick brush and small saplings. They are expensive for ones that actually work well, but they can quickly clear out dense or thick brush that a weed cutter won’t be able to do. Unfortunately, we don’t know of any good ones that are battery electric powered.

Weed Trimmer

Whenever possible, we recommend lithium battery powered tools to take out to the trails. They’re smaller, lighter, pack a punch, and much safer than gas. Gas in the woods could be a fire hazard, so if we can avoid packing it, we do just that.


Suggested Chainsaw: Dewalt 20v Chainsaw

Smaller, lighter chainsaws with shorter bars (12″-16″) are easier to pack into the woods than big ones. They may take a little longer to get the job done, but packing them in and out of the woods are super convenient.

We also like going with lithium-battery packed accessories. No dangerous gas to haul or worry about running out. Bringing a huge lithium battery pack for recharges make for super safe work in the woods.

Clinometer or Inclinometer

Suggested Clinometer: Suuto Tadem

It is an instrument for measuring angles of slope (or tilt), elevation or depression of an object with respect to gravity. It is also known as a tilt meter, tilt indicator, slope alert, slope gauge, gradient meter, gradiometer, level gauge, level meter, declinometer, and pitch & roll indicator. Clinometers measure both inclines (positive slopes, as seen by an observer looking upwards) and declines (negative slopes, as seen by an observer looking downward) using three different units of measure: degrees, percent, and topo.

Come-a-long / Straps

Suggested Come-a-long: Maasdam Pow’r Pull – Made in the USA

Useful for more easily moving large and heavy objects like trees and rocks. The mechanism uses pulleys and ratchets to move heavy loads with much less effort.

Maasdam Pow’r Pull

Suggested Compass: Silva Lensatic 360

A good compass is an essential piece of gear for navigating in the woods and orienting yourself and the trail you are building.

Silva Lensatic 360 compass

Flags / Flagging Tape

Suggested Flags: Swanson 21″ Steel Shaft / Suggested Flagging Tape: Presco Stripe

Flags and flagging tape make it easy to mark where the proposed trail should go or special features. You can also mark hazards in the forest or other special areas that need to be marked off.

Fire Rake

Suggested Fire Rake: 60″ 4 tooth

The fire rake is a lot like a McLeod/Lamberton rake but the teeth are shaped differently. Some have a preference for their shape for certain raking and brush removing tasks.

Folding Saw

Suggest Folding Saw: Bahco Laplander 9″

Folding saws are handy because they’re much smaller than a bow saw and can quickly cut through small limbs and saplings. Check to make sure the blade has a locking mechanism for safety like the suggested Bahco Laplander.

GPS Device

Suggested GPS Devices: Garmin 64csx and Garmin 64s

GPS Devices are a very nice tool to have the woods when setting up a new trail. The more advanced GPS models offer digital 3 axis compass with altimeter and accelerometer readings. Be mindful of cheaper GPS units as they are not as accurate or powerful.


Suggested Machete: SOG SOGFari MC-02

A machete is a trail blazer’s go to tool for hacking through brush and brambles. By keeping the blade sharp you’ll find making your way through virgin territory is much easier.

SOG SOGFari MC-02 – I especially like this machete because it has serrated saw teeth on the back for cutting thicker items

McLeod / Lamberton Rake

Suggested McLeod: Truper Tru Pro 48″

The McLeod and the Lamberton Rake are essentially the same tool (the Lamberton is available in some different varying blade sizes though). It has a hoe like blade on one side and tined rake on the other. There are a variety of uses for this tool during trail building from cutting to grading and even tamping.

Truper Tru Pro McLeod

Pick Mattock / Cutter Mattock

Suggested Mattock: Tabor Pick Mattock

The Mattock can come in a few different forms. The head is usually two sided with either a pick on one side and a blade on the other or a head with two blades facing opposite directions. I’ve also seen them with a pick or blade with a rake on the other side.

Tabor Pick Mattock – I like the pick mattock more because I don’t need two blades or a rake

Pole Saw / Limb Lopper

Suggested Pole Saw: Fiskers  14′ Tree Pruner

A pole saw is very useful in removing limbs above you on the trail. Sometimes low hanging branches come into the trail or they need cleared out to place a jump. A pole saw with a good sharp limb cutter is a good idea so you can remove small branches quickly to get to the main branch.

Fiskers 14′ tree pruner with power lever limb cutter

Pruning Shears / Loppers

Suggested Pruning Shears: Corona By Pass / Suggested Lopper: Fisker 32″ PowerGear By Pass

For small jobs where bushes and little areas of brush need trimmed back a quick and easy tool to use is a set of pruning shears. For thicker items a set of loppers with more leverage can be used.

Corona By Pass Pruner – I like using a by pass type pruner because they cut through much better than an anvil type cutter where the blade stops on a hard surface

Pry Bar

Suggested Pry Bar: Mayhew Dominator Pry Bar, 58-Inch

Pry bars are used most often to lift up heavy pieces of wood and rocks. There are several types of pry bars available. Some have pointed ends, curved ends, or flat chisel type ends. I prefer the chisel ended pry bar to get under objects easily and use it as a lever to move them.


Suggested Pulaski: Napula 36″ Power Grip

The Pulaski is much like the cutter mattock. It has an axe on one site of the head and an adze on the other. It is great for chopping and excavating.

Napula Pulaski


Suggested Rake: Bully Tools 16-Inch Bow Rake

Rakes are an essential tool of trail building. They allow you to smooth the trail bed very easily and sweep debris away as you’re building the trail. I like using a metal bow rake for trail building because the tines are stiff and it can easily be flipped over to smooth out dirt.

Rogue Hoe / Grub Hoe

multiple shapes and sizes – Suggested Hoe: Rogue Hoe/Rake 7 Inch Blade

When you ask about trail building tools this is almost always the first tool you hear people mention. The Rogue Hoe is a grubbing type hoe made in Missouri from agriculture disc blades. The steel used in these blades is extremely tough and durable. Rogue hoes are nice because they come sharpened on 3 sides of the head for excellent bite. Rogue makes a variety of head shapes and sizes and even offers heads with a blade and a rake.

Safety gear

This kind of goes without saying but you need to make sure you’re wearing some protective safety gear when building a trail. At a minimum you should be wearing gloves, protective eyewear, and have a first aid kit near by. Make sure you pack along water and sunscreen too.

Suggested Safety Gear

  • Cutting pants (for when using a chainsaw)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Shield / Safety glasses
  • Steel toe boots
  • Sunscreen
  • Water


Suggested Shovels: Bully Tools Fiberglass Round Point Made In The USA / Bully Tools Fiberglass Square Point Made In The USA

A good shovel is an essential piece of equipment for trail building. The uses are innumerable.  It’s usually a good idea to have both a round point and a square point shovel on site. Both have their specialty uses.

Bully Tools round point shovel

Tape Measure

Suggested Tape Measure: Komelon 100ft

When trail building there are lots of measurements to be made. Some measurements are small and some are much larger. A nice 100ft measuring tape is good to have on hand.

I like larger open reel 100ft measuring tapes because they have a large crank and are much harder to lose because of their size.

Topographic Map

Having a good topographic map on hand really allows you to see the lay of the land and the grades within the trail building area. You can go with a traditional paper map that can be printed from online sources or found locally or go with a digital version that can be very detailed but usually costs more money for the software. I’ve included some open source solutions that don’t cost anything to use.

Topofusion software

Topofusion software


Suggested Wheelbarrow: WORX WG050 Aerocart 8-in-1 All-Purpose Wheel barrow/Yard Cart/Dolly

Wheelbarrows make transporting dirt and rocks very easy. Wheelbarrows usually come in a few sizes. Smaller 4 cu ft wheelbarrows are easy to maneuver and don’t weigh as much to get out to the trail.

The Worx is a new type of wheelbarrow that is multi-purpose. Super handy when you’re in the middle of nowhere working on a trail.

Multi-Tool Tools

iunio Survival Off-Roading Tool Kit Folding Shovel Camping Axe Multitool Pickaxe with Carrying Bag

The iunio is really a system that incorporates several hand tools into one unit. It is basically a survival tool but lots of bikepackers and campers find it indispensable.

Trail Boss – The Trail Boss is a easily packable tool with a segmented handle. The tool has multiple head attachments so you can work with one head and then switch to another for a different task. The system is nice because it is easily packable and can be made easily into short or long handled tools. Made in the USA.

Trail Boss multi-tool
Trail Boss multi-tool
Trail Boss multi-tool
Trail Boss multi-tool
Where to Buy The Tools Online:

Where to Learn About Building Trails:

Trail Building Recommended Reading:

Training / Seminars

I hope you have found this article useful. If you have any trail tools you like to use let me know in the comments. If you have any other resources for trail building knowledge I’d also love to share those with everyone.

3 thoughts on “Mountain Bike Trail Building Tools Guide”

  1. Have any tips for building on rocky land? I live in Bear Creek mt in NEPA and it is all rock. Not an inch of dirt to be found anywhere. Am I wasting time even thinking about this? I’m right on top of the mountain and my backyard leads into some epic Dirtbike/quad double track in the power lines. My turkey mound (septic) in backyard has a nice drop-in leadin to the woods. as soon as we started digging; rock, move ahead a bit; rock, a little further; rock. The terrain is killer and is beggin for some trails. Maybe I should just use the land to my advantage, clear what I can and start riding. Only thing i can think short of hauling several tons of dirt over the next few months as I do want some berms and jump features. Any help or advice is appreciated

  2. I am going to assume explosives are not an option. we usually start by drilling deep holes in the rock in fall. Then in winter the holes fill with water in winter and freeze, cracking the rock. Then in the spring we pry the chunks of rock that were fractured in winter by the ice out with rock bars, and digging bars. It may take several years to compleat a trail this way. If it does not get cold enough there you can replace the freezing water with using feather and wedge. An other option is an electric or pneumatic jack hammer, however it may not always be cost effective to take a generator or compressor to location. There are also a wide variety of expanding concretes designed spacificaly to break rock. If all else fails you can always rent a small excavator with a hydraulic demolition hammer attachment. this is the quickest but also the most expensive(and my favorite) way to build trails in rock.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

I'm In!

Get the latest MTB hacks in your inbox.