Garden Stepping Stone Paths: 5 Tips to Make Them Perfect

February 25, 2022

tips for stepping stone paths image: stepping stone path by murray neill via
image by murrayneill
Tips for stepping stone paths - Japanese Zen Gardens at the UBC campus. image by Sparkle~and~Fade via
Japanese Zen Gardens at the UBC campus. image by Sparkle~and~Fade

 stone path through gravel via
Chicago Botanic Garden, image by slipgrove

What makes a stepping stone path in your garden successful?  

We have all experienced ones that are less than great – but perhaps never thought about why.  

Stepping stone paths in gardens can be tricky and here is what I think makes them work.

1) The stepping-stones should be dramatically different from the surrounding materials. 

Think stone and water, or stone and moss, or big stones and little stones.  It also would work just as well if you had, say, purple stones and white stones or some other interesting contrast, but contrast is key.

2) Make sure the stones are comfortably walkable. Easy distances take away the anxiety about falling off. 

Of course the anxiety is less if there is no water, but when faced with a stepping stone path, no matter how un-dangerous it is to step off (imagine surrounded by grass) – no one wants to miss a step or fall off the path.

So if you are designing a stepping stone path, make sure you consider the distance between the stones and aim to keep the excitement high but the fear low.

water and stone paths - Butchart Gardens image via
Butchart Gardens image by **mary**

3) Make sure your stepping-stones are big enough. 

Do you want room for one person or more? Make sure they are flat, step-able and big enough to stand on comfortably.

4) Consider mixing stepping stone material.  

An example – A path that goes from stone to wooden mat and back to stone again adds interest.  It provides a breather.  Consider a variety of materials.

5) If your stepping stone path is long, create a spot to take a break.  

You and your garden guests will appreciate the opportunity to pass others who are along the path, or to be able stop. A bigger stone, or a spot to step away can create a good break.

I love the stepping stone path, and when done well, it is  so completely inspiring and inviting.  Have you built one?  Share the pictures if you have, and let us know the lessons you learned.

Tokyo, Japan cobble and stone path. Image by hyphenated_czech via
Tokyo, Japan stepping stone path. Image by hyphenated_czech
tips for perfect stepping stone paths image by heather - via
Japanese tea garden. image by heather
tips for perfect stepping stone paths - Naka Shin-en (Middle Garden) image by soemmia via
Naka Shin-en (Middle Garden) was constructed in 1895. It contains the Soryu-ike pond which features the Garyu-kyo, a walkway consisting of stone pillars which once served as foundation stones for the girders of Sanjo Ohashi and Gojo Ohashi, famous bridges in the center of the city of Kyoto”. Image by Soemmia
tips for successful stepping stone paths image by ume kogi via
Ume-Kogi, Stepping stones by markfountain52 

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  1. louise garwood says:

    wonderful images, rochelle!
    You may enjoy this link to tour the Katsura Imperial Palace put together for Buildings and Cities course at columbia University.
    highlights several paths and other elegantly simple landscape features.
    this meandering stone path by james rose in a mid-20th century suburban nj lot that creates a sense of journey, passing among woodland raised beds (or is the path sunken??) and offering an opportunity to sit on a the stone bench and observe the scene.
    then there is the very strict geometry of paths from Stephen Stimsons Sconset House project.
    nice mix of materials and rhythm that is established by the design.

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