General rule

In general, the trail is intended to be a clearing 4 feet wide and 8 feet high. As with every rule, there are exceptions as noted below.


When pruning a bush, remember that they grow fast, so prune it far enough back so it won't be a problem again next year. When pruning a branch, it should be cut flush with the trunk. This permits the tree to grow over the cut and prevents people from accidentally being caught by it. Also, if a stub is left sticking out, when it rots, it will introduce disease into the tree.

Removing Fallen Trees

If a tree is flat on the ground across the trail, consider the following:
  1. It may be acting as a natural water bar.
  2. It may discourage all terrain vehicles and motorcycles, which are prohibited on park property.
  3. On the sections of trail where bicycles are prohibited, it may act as an obstacle to discourage their use. You can tell how heavily the trail is being used by bicycles by the number of cuts on logs lying across the trail.
It is difficult to determine the pressures on a fallen tree. When sawing into it, check often the way it is bending to prevent your saw from becoming stuck.

If a tree is a leaner, be very careful since it is hard to determine which way it is going to fall. It may be better left for a trail crew.

Removing Invasive Plants

One of the services trail builders and maintainers can perform is to remove invasive plants. The following page shows their pictures and provides information about them. Invasive Plant Information

Water Bars

Water bars are used to control erosion of the trail on steep hills. They divert the water from running down the trail. Usually, a water bar is a limb, 6 to 8 inches in diameter which is placed diagonally across the trail. It is slightly imbedded in the trail and is at an angle to the trail. It is anchored at both ends, usually by stakes driven into the ground. The trail is graded at the water bar so that when the water hits the water bar, it will flow off the trail. Sometimes rocks will be used in place of a limb as a water bar.

Exceptions to the General Rule

Thinking and using good judgment is necessary when constructing or maintaining a trail. Trees such as the dogwood or redbud are valued for their beauty and should receive minimal pruning.

Vines, such as the wild grape vine, provide food for wildlife. Try to find a way to move them out of the way or work around them. Cutting them is only the very very last resort.

Painting Blazes

Blazing a trail requires some thought since trail conditions vary so much. Blazes must help hikers going in either direction along the trail, so one may want to hike the trail in both directions when blazing it. The following is a list of things to think about when blazing a trail.
  1. The standard size of a blaze is 2 in. by 6 in.
  2. Blazes should be placed at about eyesight level.
  3. Places where the trail is not obvious require more frequent blazes than places where the trail is obvious. Consider the situation when the trail is covered by leaves or snow.
  4. A double blaze, one placed about 2 in. above the other, are used to mark:
    • Sharp turns in the trail
    • An intersection of trails
    • Any place where a hiker may lose the trail.
  5. The next blaze after a double blaze should be very obvious.
  6. Blazes painted on a large diameter tree trunk are easier to spot than blazes painted on small diameter trunks.
  7. A scraper may be used to remove loose bark and prepare a smoother surface for the blaze.
For the section of trail on County park land, the paint should be obtained from the M-NCPPC Volunteer Coordinator to insure a standard color is used for all blazes.

Borrowing Tools

Tools needed to maintain the trail may be borrowed from Seneca Creek State Park. They must be returned the same day they are borrowed. Contact Ranger Dave Powell. He may be reached by calling the State Park at 301-924-2127.

Chain Saw Usage

The Seneca Creek Greenway Trail passes through two jurisdictions (see below). The rules for using a chain saw are different in each one.

Before using a chain saw, contact the Seneca Creek State Park Ranger in charge of trail maintenance. He/she needs to be assured of you knowledge of safe chain saw handling and may request that you take a chain saw safety course offered by the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and others.

Currently, a memo of understanding is being worked on to permit volunteers to maintain the trail. Until that is finialized, please send requests to cut fallen trees to this web site or the Trail Master, Mark Nelson, at We, in turn will contact Art Nelligan, of the M-NCPPC, to have the work done. Please provide the location and size of the tree to be cut.

Bicycle and Horse Restrictions

State Park Land (Potomac to Rt. 355)

The Seneca Creek Greenway Trail passes through an environmentally sensitive stream valley, which is often wet and susceptible to damage and erosion. Both bicycles and horses cut into and loosen the soil, creating an erosion problem during rains and high water. For this reason, bicycles and horses are not allowed on the trail except for certain sections.

Bikes are only allowed on the yellow blazed Long Draft Trail. The trails at Schaeffer Farm were created to serve the mountain biking users of Seneca Creek State Park.

The sections of trail, from the C&O Canal to Route 28, are open to horses because horses were using them before the Greenway Trail was built. The foot bridges in these sections should not be used by horses because they were not designed to carry their weight.

Montgomery County Land (Rt. 355 to Huntmaster Rd.)

The use of bicycles and horses on this section of trail is currently under review.

Trail Maintenance Jurisdiction

The section of the trail from the Potomac to Rt. 355 is managed by the state. Contact the ranger in charge of trail maintenance at Seneca Creek State Park.

The section from Rt. 355 to the Patuxent River Park is managed by Montgomery County via the Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).
The Trail Master works with both organizations to obtain approval for any trail construction and coordinates maintenance activities with them.

Comments on the guidelines may be sent to: CLICK HERE email comments to


This page was last updated on 3.10.09