Can You Use A Riding Lawnmower On A Hill? (Safety Tips)

Some landscapes call for steep lawned hills like golf courses. You’ll need more than your average walk-behind lawn mower with such a large area to cover.

So Can You Use A Riding Lawn Mower on a Hill?

In short, you mow on a hill using a riding lawnmower. However, to prevent the mower from flipping, sliding, or rolling over, it’s best to mow up and down vs. side to side. Also, if the hill is too steep, you may need to use an ATV with a pull behind mower attachment. 

Mowing on hills is different than mowing on flat lawns. Some risks are associated with it, so it’s essential to learn how to mow on all hills, especially steep ones. 

You must take certain precautions to stay safe, which we’ll discuss more in this article. Stick around to learn more about how you can safely use a riding lawn mower on a hill.

How Steep is too Steep for a Riding Lawn Mower?

Before you take a seat and begin mowing, you should scale out the area. You want to make sure it won’t be too steep, or else you might damage your lawnmower.

Here’s how you can get started.

Calculate the Slope

To know if the slope is safe enough for your riding lawn mower, the best precaution you can take is to measure the slope percentage. As a general rule, the slope shouldn’t exceed around 27%.

The formula for the slope percentage is (Rise x 100%)/Run. That’s good and all, but how would you measure a lawn slope?

Well, you’ll need a few tools first. Find yourself a couple of wooden stakes, a rope, a measuring tape, and a hanging bubble level. Next, insert the wooden stakes into the lawn at each end of your hill.

Now, get your rope and tie it to each wooden stake to connect them in the middle. From atop, it should look like you made a half-circle. Then, hang your bubble level in the middle to make sure the rope is balanced out.

Now, it’s now time to get your measuring tape out. 

First, estimate the rise by measuring the height from the bottom to the top of the wooden steak. The run is then calculated by measuring the distance between the top of the wooden stake and the hill’s peak.

Tab in your numbers in the slope percentage formula to get your answer.

Make Sure You Have the Right Riding Lawn Mower

Some riding lawn mowers are built for heavy-duty jobs. Others, not so much. You want to make sure your riding lawn mower has suitable features for a steep job.

For instance, it should have exceptional traction. You wouldn’t want it to be slipping around easily, or worse, tipping over. This is why your riding lawn mower needs sufficient stability.

If you’re unsure about the features, you can always consult a specialist about your riding lawn mower’s tire traction safety levels.

Another feature you should look out for is whether a zero-turn or front steering mechanism operates the mower. In this case, you might find the latter more effective when put on a slope.

Think of it this way. You’re moving upwards, and if the wheels on the back are giving the support going up, you’ll risk falling backward. Likewise, zero-turn riding lawn mowers are harder to move on slopes since you don’t want to go sideways when moving up or down.

The best way to ensure your mower is up to standard is to check the user’s manual. It’ll give you a rundown on whether the riding lawn mower can handle a steep hill.

Check Your Terrain

We recommend inspecting the terrain you’ll be mowing to ensure you don’t accidentally get knocked over by heavy debris or a boulder. Try to clear the way for a safer mowing ride.

This saves you from any dangers of tipping over and saves time on extra maintenance. A messy terrain can easily take away some years from your riding grass cutter.

Another issue you might quickly run into is a wet lawn. You should try your best to avoid mowing a wet slope, or, you guessed it, you can slip and rollover. Not to mention that your lawnmower can get clogged up with chunks of wet grass.

The opposite is also true. If your grass is bone dry, it can also create a slippery surface. This is because the ground won’t provide you with the same traction as a slightly hydrated lawn.

Safety Tips for Using a Riding Lawn Mower on a Slope

Now that you’ve made sure your terrain is adequate to use your riding lawn mower, you should focus on the process. That includes how you need to maneuver around the slope and the precautions you should take.

Check Your Directions

This is one of the most crucial safety tips to focus on. As you start up the mower and fire the engine, you might first think, where should I go?

If your first instinct is to go up and down, that’s good thinking on your part. If you picture going side to side on your lawnmower, you might see the mower falling backward.

Mowing side to side can also increase your chances of ‘crabbing.’ it happens when the heftier side of your grass cutter drags you down as you move sideways. That’ll make the process much more difficult for you and your engine.

On the other hand, going up and down means you’ll get a better ground grip on the slope’s surface.

This tip works best if you have a front-steering riding mower rather than a zero-turn one since the latter is pushed from the back wheels.

Not so Fast!

Whenever you drive your car up a hill, things naturally move slower. You’d never speed when moving up.

Now, apply this principle with your riding grass cutter. We highly recommend keeping your gear levels as low as you can. While that means you have to move slowly, it doesn’t mean you should stop, start your engine, or turn, when you’re on the slope. You could easily risk falling over.

If you feel like your front tires aren’t making an impression on the grass, you need to move back immediately. It’ll help prevent you from rolling to the back.

Everything Should Be Clear

While operating the riding lawn mower, you need to make sure you have eyes on everything surrounding you.

There could be bumps or holes on the road that you’ll need to maneuver around. We advise you to mow the lawn when the sun is present to clear the way.

What if You Can’t Mow the Slope with Your Riding Lawn Mower?

This could happen for a bunch of reasons. For example, your riding lawn mower might not be up to standard, the hill might be too steep, or the terrain simply isn’t mowable.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a dead-end from here. You can proceed with various alternatives. For example, if this is a private area, you can fence it up and either let the livestock do the work for you or turn it into a beautiful hillside garden.

Another option would be to use your ATV (if you have one) and purchase a mower attachment. Most home improvement stores, such as Lowes, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, etc., offer different attachments for an ATV. 

Other than that, you could always save up to purchase the right tool for the job. But, again, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Can you use a riding lawn mower on a hill? While there’s no definite answer, you should ensure you have the right equipment and tools to lawn mow a hill.

Tipping, rolling, or falling over could pose a serious risk to both you and your riding mower. To avoid that, you’ll need to follow the safety tips we mentioned.

You might even enjoy the ride to the top with the correct safety measures taken.

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