How to build a gravel garden path

Updated July 20, 2017

Garden pathways can add elegant and functional landscaping to any yard. They can range from complex paving-stone patterns to simple gravel pathways. Gravel pathways are the least-expensive and the easiest path material to install. Adding a stone or brick border can complement walking areas with a formal look. Gravel pathways will last indefinitely with monthly grooming and annual supplements of gravel depending on traffic and climate conditions. Weigh the pros and cons to a gravel pathway (like shovelling snow) before installing a gravel garden path.

Determine the desired width of the gravel path and the decorative edging that will be used. Metal, stone or brick is typically used to border gravel paths. Each will keep the gravel contained and help prevent it from washing away when it rains. Add the width of the borders to the measurement for the width of the gravel path. Cut multiple 1-inch by 2-inch strips of lumber at that length and begin laying out the path.

Mark the path using the wooden strips with two coils of rope to maintain uniformity. Excavate the area evenly between the ropes 2 to 3 inches deep using a shovel and rake.

Dig the area an extra 6 inches deep, if it is prone to flooding. Spread and tamp down 2 inches of crushed, limestone gravel. Lay a perforated pipe in the centre of the path with the holes facing downward and fill the excavated area with gravel until it is high enough to lay the border. Ensure the top edge of the border is protruding approximately 2 inches above the ground.

Place landscaping fabric over the excavated area to discourage plant growth. Install the edging along the excavated area. Do not leave gaps between the materials used for the border. Use a string line to keep the edging straight if there are no curves.

Fill the rest of the pathway with the desired finish gravel in 1-inch layers and compact the gravel with a tamping tool. Gravel generally used for pathways is 3/4 inches or smaller in diameter. Crushed, washed gravel, pea rock and limestone gravel are the generally used to create garden pathways.

Layer the pathway until the gravel is approximately 3/4 inches below the top edge of the border. Use a rubber mallet to tap loose border material tightly into place. Ensure all the gravel has been tamped down securely.


If you are ordering gravel, have it piled in a driveway for easier cleanup. Larger gravel is more difficult to wash away, while it is more comfortable to walk on smaller gravel.


Gravel pathways shouldn't be installed on steep slopes. Moving gravel can be labour-intensive.

Things You'll Need

  • Lumber, 1-inch by 2-inch
  • Rope
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Gravel
  • Perforated pipe
  • Landscaping fabric
  • String
  • Rubber mallet
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About the Author

Azrael Morherudaen has written for the Upper Peninsula's Second Wave website and CloudCrowd. He attended the University of Michigan before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as a certified intelligence specialist.