filed under: surfacing

FAQ: Tips and Techniques for using Crusher fines surfacing for trails

Finely crushed rock (crusher fines) is a useful alternative to paving trails that accommodates most trail activities.

by American Trails Staff

photo credit: Stuart Macdonald

Top quality crusher fines trail along the Highline Canal in Cherry Hills Village, CO; photo by Stuart Macdonald

Crusher fines is a finely-crushed stone mix that is often the byproduct of gravel operations. Crushed stone trails provide a user-friendly, all-season surface for all types and ages of visitors, including strollers, wheelchairs, and road bikes. If built properly crushed stone trails can meet the specification for a "firm and stable" surface as defined in current federal guidelines for accessible trails.

Best Practices:

  • For use in trail surfacing, the material should be composed of irregular angular particles that interlock and bind into a firm matrix.
  • The rock particles should range in size from dust to 3/8 inch.
  • Gravel and crusher fines differ from one another in that gravel is screened to remove the fines which contain the natural binders/cements.
  • Crusher fines applied over landscape fabric to a depth of 4-6 inches.
  • Accessible crushed stone trails should be designed and constructed at grades less than 8% grade to promote accessible use.
  • Overall trail grade averages of less than 6% will provide the most user-friendly experience and offer the most sustainable natural trail surface if compacted crusher fines are to be used.
  • Be sure your material is crushed rock, not volcanic cinders, "red breeze," decomposed granite, pea gravel, or river rock.

Recommend Resources

The Art of Building Crushed Stone Trails

Crushed stone trails provide a user-friendly, all-season surface for all types and ages of visitors, including strollers, wheelchairs, and road bikes.

What You Need to Know About Building Trails with Crusher Fines

A crusher fine trail combines the rustic feeling of a natural surface trail with a surface type that's durable (but not concrete or asphalt). The natural gravel-like surface feels more like a trail than a hard surfaced path and fits in well with primitive settings.

Rio Grande Trail Corridor Study: Trail Surfacing Report

This report sorts through the various choices for the most "economical and sustainable" types of trail surfacing options along the proposed Rio Grande Trail corridor from Belen to Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Photos highlighting the pitfalls and best practices of crusher fines

Typical crusher fines surface showing very firm matrix with only a few loose larger rock particles.

Water running down the slope gathers on the crusher fines trail because of insufficient cross slope of the trail.

A better crusher fines trail in the same Bluff Lake Nature Area, Denver

Here the edging keeps water from draining so obstacles in the form of drainage bars were placed to try to keep the crushed rock from eroding.

Horses, bikes, and walkers all use the crusher fines Highline Canal Trail near Denver, CO.

Top quality crusher fines trail along the Highline Canal in Cherry Hills Village, CO.

The fabric used under the crusher fines is exposed because of insufficient depth of material; Big Dry Creek Nature Trail, Westminster, CO

Crusher fines trail built up to form a bench; Lomaki Wupatki National Monument, AZ

Crusher fines will eventually dry smooth once snowmelt stops; Adams County, Colorado, park.

Crusher fines trail lined with native rock; Lomaki Wupatki National Monument, AZ.

A fine grained, dark crusher rock is the surface for trail at Westerly Creek Dam, Denver.

Crushed rock that is larger and looser than ideal; Bluff Lake Nature Area, Denver.

The plank edging is supposed to keep the crusher fines in place; Big Dry Creek Nature Trail, Westminster, CO.

Trail climbs at a low angle up the face of Westerly Creek Dam, Denver.

Crusher fines trail on top of the Westerly Creek Dam, Denver.

The landscape fabric is exposed in this Philadelphia park due to runoff: the trail runs straight down the slope.

Published March 2019

More Articles in this Category

Pennsylvania Trail Design & Development Principles

A compilation of best practices and guidelines for the planning, design, construction, and management of your trail employing sustainable design.

2020 NRT Photo Contest Winners Announced

The results are in! Here are our picks from the 230 photos submitted for the 2020 photo contest.

Concrete Trails Keep You on the Right Path

If a hard surface recreational trail is in your future, you owe it to yourself to look at the benefits of cost, construction and long term reduced maintenance that can only come with a trail paved with concrete. (This article is sponsored content.)

How Permeable Pavers Make a Difference

Permeable Pavers provide stable, low-impact pathway through Rookery Bay Research Reserve.