Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson


Planning, Building, and
Maintaining a Rural Road

Planning to develop property in rural Larimer County?

Chances are some sort of road construction is necessary. Road construction in rural areas of Larimer County can be a challenging project. Many times it is necessary to negotiate hillsides and other steep terrain. The construction may involve crossing streams, wetlands or areas of special wildlife value. Special care must be taken in these situations.

Proper design should strive for a safe, functional road that minimizes erosion potential, scarring of hillsides and disturbance of natural landscapes. Maintenance problems in the future can be minimized with proper planning and design.

Here are some planning hints to minimize these problems:

  • Minimize surface disturbance.
  • Avoid extensive cuts and fills.
  • Minimize steep sections.
  • Provide an all-weather surface.
    • Gravel, recycled asphalt, etc.
    • Provide good drainage.
  • "Fit" the road to the site.
    • Follow contours, hide the disturbance.
  • Strive for a design that is functional.
  • Think about emergency access needs.

When you're ready to build the road:
  • Consider the topography of the land.
  • Construct roads along contours.
    • Avoid steep hillsides.
    • Blend the line to natural contours.
  • Minimize hillside cuts and areas requiring fills.
    • Increased cost.
    • Difficult to revegetate.
    • Subject to erosion and failure.
  • Minimize steep portions of the road.
    • Difficult to maintain.
    • Subject to erosion.
    • Emergency vehicle access difficult.

Maintenance of your road:
  • Maintain roadside ditches.
    • Keep culverts open.
    • Maintain open flowline.
  • Replenish and regrade surfacing material as needed.
  • Maintain crown.
    • Insures good drainage from road surface.
  • Maintain vegetative cover on slopes and ditch.
    • Vegetation stabilizes the soil.
    • Helps to hide cuts and fills.
    • Retain natural vegetation as much as possible.

The following rural road design guidelines for single access driveways or roads are recommended by Larimer County:
  • A minimum all weather (such as gravel) surface width of 12 feet.
  • Maximum gradient of 10% - not exceeding 12% for a distance of more than 200 feet.
  • Horizontal curves a minimum of 100' radius.
  • Follow contours of topography as much as possible.
  • Maintain natural drainage patterns.
    • Adequate culverts to handle 10-yr. storm.
    • Stormwater should not run in road.
  • Slopes of cuts and fills should be 2:1 profile or shallower.
    • Decrease erosion
    • Facilitate revegetation.
  • Be creative in planning a functional, safe road that "fits" the natural contours.

We are very interested in hearing your ideas about this subject. If you have suggestions regarding the information provided in this presentation, would like more information, or wish to express your opinion about the content, please contact:

Traci Shambo, Larimer County Engineering Department, 200 W. Oak Street, Suite 3000, Fort Collins, CO 80522, Phone: (970) 498-5701. Or you can e-mail Scott at

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Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.