The National Park Service’s Golden Gate Trail Crew has been at it again! If you haven’t recently visited Tennessee Valley, then you’ve missed out on an incredible new improvement. Over the course of the summer, the National Park Service Trail Crew restored a portion of the Tennessee Valley Trail that leads from Tennessee Valley to Tennessee Valley Overlook.
Prior to this summer’s project, the trail grade sat on a high angle and its steepness was considered unsafe for hikers. To improve the overall quality of this trail the Trail Crew asked for the help of two dedicated work teams.
Staff and members of the Conservation Corps North Bay and the Parks Conservancy’s own youth team, LINC, joined forces with the Trail Crew to bring this trail back to park standards! To adjust for the quick increase in elevation along this trail, this super-crew installed multiple sections of box steps which lead up to the Tennessee Valley Overlook.
Box steps are a series of three-sided steps that are stacked one on top of another, to create a box-like structure. The steps are fastened together with rebar, and placed along the hillside of the trail corridor to create a simple and subtle hike up the hill.
Not only are box steps ideal for improving a trail user’s hike, but they also help to prevent soil erosion along the hillside and trail corridor. To ensure that ideal water drainage occurs on the trail surface, box steps must be back-filled with drain rock (golf ball-sized rocks) and then topped off with material called chert.
The chert, a local sedimentary rock, must be repeatedly compacted down to create a round or “crowned” shape at the center. This rounded shape allows the excess water on the trail surface to roll off the top of the box step—and prevents the accumulation of standing water. Standing water is bad news for trails as it accelerates erosion.
Check out the Golden Gate Trail Crew webpage to learn how you can visit cool park sites like Tennessee Valley Overlook and help with the maintenance and construction of trail structures like the almighty box step!