6 Common Types Of Trail Blazes

Blazes are found on prominent trees that are easy to spot on the trail. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes – they can be paint marks on trees, metallic plates affixed on trunks or more elaborate wooden signposts. They are usually placed just above eye level – or slightly higher in areas that receive snow. Painted markers are roughly two inches wide and six inches tall, while other types of markers and signs may vary in size.


1. Paint

Paint is most commonly used to mark a hiking trail. In the United States and Canada, the standard marking system uses rectangles in different configurations to guide hikers.


2. Cairns Or Ducks

Cairns are piles of rocks that hikers leave alongside their path to mark a trail and guide other trekkers. They are usually found above treeline or in areas where trees are sparse. Cairns vary in height, but they usually rise high enough to stand out from the surrounding landscape and be easily noticed. Smaller stacks of stones (3 to 4) are called ducks.


3. Posts

Posts with trail signs or markers are commonly used on ridge lines, rocky outcrops, and wherever else stones and trees are not available. Posts can also be very useful in areas where high snowfall are likely to obscure cairns.


4. Affixed Markers

As an alternative to paint markers, some trailblazers use markers made out of metal, plastic or wood that they nail onto trees. Due to the fact that paint can fade, affixed markers may sound like a more durable approach to trailblazing. However, it is not uncommon for these signs to fall off or get stolen, which is why paint markers still end up being the more reliable option.


5. Etchings

An etching is a name given to a trail sign that is carved into a tree. Although effective, this type of blaze is employed much less frequently than other methods as it causes irreversible damage to the trunks.


6. Flags

Some trails are blazed with flagging tape or ribbons in lieu of paint or affixed markers. Each flag is tied to a tree branch that can easily be spotted from the trail.

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