Clearing Fallen Trees and Windfalls


Perform safe removal of dangerous trees and allow passage along the trail while retaining features contributing to trail maintenance and to user enjoyment. Timely removal of trail obstructions minimizes visitor-created detour trails which degrade the resource and complicate effective trail maintenance.

General Standards

  1. Safety is the primary consideration. Do not attempt to remove large or “hung-up” trees alone. Do not exceed the capability of equipment or personal skills.
  2. Clearing should be done at least once each year in early spring to remove winter storm damage; additional work may be necessary during the year due to storms.
  3. Clear to the same width of cleared vegetation.
  4. Appropriate safety equipment must be worn (goggles, ear protection, chaps, helmet, gloves).
  5. Personnel should also protect themselves from tick infestation (long sleeves, tick repellent).
  6. Personnel should clear trees in pairs and must be checked out by a supervisor before performing chain saw work. Primitive tool crosscut saw and grip hoist work can be even more dangerous than chainsaw work in some situations; safety equipment including gloves and a helmet must be worn.

Standards for low use Wilderness and Non-wilderness blue blazed trails

  1. Remove only those trees, windfalls, or other obstructions which do not lie flat on the ground or which cannot easily be stepped over or walked under by a person carrying a backpack.
    The cleared width should allow persons to walk or ride single file.
  2. In wilderness, if the width of deadfalls are so large that a tremendous amount of effort and manpower will be required to remove the deadfall, or if worker safety is seriously compromised with primitive tool work, consideration should be given to relocating the trail around the obstacle, but only as a last resort. Steepness of slope, length of detour, difficulty in getting around the obstacles are factors which should be considered. Chainsaw use under these circumstances requires park-wide project clearance and compelling evidence for use of mechanized equipment.

Standards for moderate use and high use Wilderness and Non-wilderness blue blazed trails and for the Appalachian Trail

  1. Remove all fallen trees, windfalls, and other obstructions from trail, except those which prevent erosion (by acting as waterbars), prevent access by vehicles at trailheads, and which can be easily stepped over without breaking stride. Trees not removed should lie flat on the ground and should be less than 12" in diameter.
  2. All obstructions should be removed as soon as possible (particularly from spring through autumn) to prevent danger to users and discourage hikers from walking off the trail).

Techniques for Clearing Fallen Trees

  1. Remove material far enough from trail side to prevent snagging of hikers.
  2. Watch the tension on fallen trees; saw so the natural tension opens the cut rather than pinches the saw.
  3. Use pry poles or levers to relieve tension and open the saw cut.
  4. Drag windfalls away from the immediate sight of the trail. Try to reduce the visual impact of cut trees by turning cut ends of logs away from view of the trail. Flush cut stumps to the ground to reduce visual impact and to encourage rapid decay of the stump.


  • Bow saws
  • Cross-cut saws
  • Axes
  • Clippers
  • Chain saws (for non-employees, use only as authorized by General Agreement with the Park or as advised by a district supervisor for Volunteers-In-Park personnel; chainsaws and other motorized equipment are prohibited in wilderness except as approved by the Superintendent).
  • Grip hoist (especially for use as primitive tool to drag trees and large rocks off trails in wilderness).