How to Make a Sidewalk with River Rock & Stepping Stones

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River rocks lend a natural feel to any kind of outdoor construction. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small pebbles to larger rocks. By combing these rocks with a series of stepping stones, you can make a sidewalk that can link different parts of your garden, spruce up the front of your yard or cover a problem area where grass just doesn't want to go. Because this project does require a bit of digging and heavy labor, it's best to plan out as much as you can in advance. Knowing some useful tips will help your river rock and stepping stone sidewalk construction safe and worry free.


Stepping stones add a touch of class to any sidewalk.

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Things You'll Need

  • Shovel

  • Trowel And Cement (Optional)

  • River Rock

  • Pencil And Paper

  • Liner (Optional)

  • Rope/Twine

  • Stepping Stones

  • Construction Sand

  • Edger (Optional)

  • Measuring Tape

Step 1

Plan your walkway using paper and pencil. Take note of some of the possible obstacles in the path you would like to follow. This will also give you the opportunity to play with different designs. Also think about the size of the stepping stones you would like to use and the depth of the sidewalk.

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Step 2

Mark out the design on the ground where you will construct the sidewalk. Use rope or twine to mark the edges of the path to give you an idea of how the final design will look. Make any adjustments as necessary.

Step 3

Use a measuring tape to take the measurements of the final design. This will help you plan for materials. For example, a sidewalk that measures 10 feet long by 2 feet wide will require approximately enough river rock to cover 20 square feet. The number of stepping stones you will require will vary by the installation. For example, in this instance, five stepping stones measuring 1 foot spaced 1 foot apart would make a perfect fit.


Step 4

Dig out the planned sidewalk with your shovel. The depth to which you dig will be determined by your selected stepping stones and your own personal style. You can have the stones flush with the ground, slightly below the ground, or raised up.

Step 5

Smooth out the bottom of the sidewalk so that the dirt is level. One option here is to install a plastic underbarrier. This will prevent plants and vegetation growing up through the river rock.


Step 6

Spread a layer of construction sand on the bottom of the dig. This will help cushion the rocks and provide a stable platform for them to rest on.

Step 7

Install sidewalk edging at this point if called for in your design. This can be plastic, pressurized lumber, bricks or many other choices.


Step 8

Lay the stepping stones out in your desired pattern. Adjust the sand beneath them before you place the stones to keep them level.

Step 9

Fill in the remainder of your sidewalk with the river rock.


The river rock can be very dusty and dirty when you pour it out of the bag. Give it a wash with a garden hose to give it a polished glow.

Some people prefer to use larger river rocks and then mortar them into place along with the stepping stones. In that case, follow the first seven steps. Instead of pouring the rocks out of the bag and into the sidewalk, set the stones down in the sand firmly. Apply the mortar to the stones with a trowel, similar to grouting tile.


Check with the local utility companies to make sure there are no buried lines in your area before you dig.

Protect your hands with work gloves when moving rough stepping stones.


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