The Appalachian Trail has a language all its own.

Trail markings includes three essential pieces of information: the start of a trail, where to turn and warnings.

On the AT, most markings are painted in 2-inch by 6-inch colors called blazes.

A single white blaze means you are on the Appalachian Trail and headed straight forward. Two markings, with one slightly to the left or right of the other, means a turn is coming.

Warning signs can come in many different forms depending on the severity of the obstacle ahead.

Is this one telling you to turn left or turn right?

Generally speaking, a blue blaze designates a side trail off the AT.

Blazes can be painted on trees or rocks. Also piles of rocks, called cairns, are used to keep hikers on the trail.

Each individual trail has its own blaze. Some are plastic disks or triangles which are nailed to trees, some are painted rectangles or dots. Most good hiking maps will designate which blaze you should be following.

As a general rule, blazes are placed far enough apart so you can see the next one. However, that can vary depending on the difficulty of the trail: If the path is naturally easy to identify, blaze frequency can be reduced, and vice versa.

Volunteer Work on the AT!

Regardless of frequency, all trail markings should be made in regular intervals.

Blazing too little can cause confusion for hikers and blazing too much can be an eyesore.

The DD trailmarker marks the way as the Doris Duke Trail cuts through deciduous forest in Sterling Forest State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y.

An eyesore?

Yes, some people having the opinion that sections can be “over-blazed” and that it needs to be treated as wilderness.

Presumably, they’ve never been lost in the woods before.

Downed trees can be a problem, especially when a blaze goes down with it. So some times you need to check both sides of a tree for markings.


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Quick! What does this one mean?

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