How to Build a Path Using River Rock

Karen Curinga

A path adds a magical touch to any yard or garden. In addition to serving a decorative purpose, it may be the solution to a problem.

River rock makes a beautiful and durable landscape path.

An area where a path has already been worn across the grass, a spot where grass refuses to grow, an area that receives little moisture, or an abandoned garden project are all excellent examples where to create an attractive and functional river rock path.


All items needed for this project are available at landscape material suppliers and home improvement centers. Staff will answer any questions regarding products, tools and amounts necessary for your specific project. River rock is available in pea gravel size, small, medium and large rounds and flats and also in boulders. A variety of colors in the earth tone range are available.

  1. Determine the length and width of the intended path and whether a straight or curved path is desired.

  2. Mark the outline of the path as a guideline, using spray paint.

  3. Remove and transplant any plants or grass in the defined area, using a shovel and wheelbarrow.

  4. Dig up and remove soil in the defined path area to the depth of 3 inches.

  5. Prepare the path base, using a rake to smooth out the intended area. Try a level to ensure the path surface is evenly flat.

  6. Cut pieces of weed matting, using scissors, to fit and overlap each other along the path to help discourage weed growth.

  7. Pour 1/2-inch sand over the entire pathway on top of the weed matting. Set a 2-by-4-inch lumber piece, cut to the width of the path, on the path base with a 2-inch side against the ground. Drag the wood over the sand until level. Pack the sand by laying a piece of plywood on the top and stepping on the wood, moving it around the path until all the sand is compressed.

  8. Lay a stepping stone or medium size flat river rock approximately every 2 1/2-feet along the path, centering the stones in the path as you go. Begin laying the stepping stones 2 1/2-feet from the path's entrance edge.

  9. Place river rock filler, consisting of a mix of differing small sizes and colors, around the stepping stones, filling in the entire remaining path.