Stone Steps and Backyard Trail

Pennsylvania paving and step treads, Tennessee fieldstone risers and walls. Photo by Jonathan Frederick.

We just completed this project in a quiet North Asheville neighborhood. It will be a total backyard transformation once the good people at BB Barns get done. This was another collaboration with our friend Emily Gregory.

The timber/river rock/concrete steps that led to the street before we removed them. Too tall, sloping, and lumpy.

We started by taking out a set of timber/river rock/concrete steps. They were too tall, awkward to walk, and kinda ugly, but man oh man were they solidly built. I do respect over-engineering though it made for a long day pulling them all out. While not taken from the exact same spot, the photo below shows the steps we built to replace those in the picture above.

The new steps include landings to make the walking rhythm work to provide moments of rest along the steep slope.

The original step ran directly down the slope from street to a gate that opens into even more steps and the back entrance to the home. (Some time later this summer we’ll be replacing the lower steps that lead to the house.) The new design called for a different traffic flow. Instead of straight down, the steps turn onto a landing that runs parallel to the slope. A mulch trail run across the yard and back again to connect back to the gate. The trail offers several benefits: it opens the whole yard to gardens and specimen plants, its gentle slope is easy to walk, and it give the homeowners access to so much more of their yard.

A natural surface trail leads to the steps and landing in a North Asheville yard.

We used Pennsylvania stone for the pathway for the walking surfaces: step treads and flagstone landings. We used Tennessee fieldstone for the walls and step risers. Small Tennessee boulders anchor the corners of the walls. There is a big chunk of Tennessee stone in the switch back, or climbing turn, where the trail turns back on itself, connecting the upper landing to the steps by the gate.

Note the greenman/sedum planter at the wall base.


You’ll notice a large gravel landing above the big wall. That’s for a swing. It is set at such a as height that the homeowners can sit and look at the amazing view over their roofline. There are two little rock knobs sitting up in the gravel. Those mark the place where the posts for the swing will go. There are concrete tube forms under them, ready for the post footings.