Reading Trail Markers

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Sunday, August 10, 2014
The most common method of marking hiking trails in the NYC/NJ area, in North America for that matter, is to use trail blazes. Little rectangular (sometimes triangular) shapes that are either painted or attached to trees or rocks that mark the path. If you've done any hiking you've run across them. Some are single rectangles but sometimes they are in groups of two or three. Here's what the different trail blaze patterns mean.

Common Trail Blaze Meanings
Look for these markings every 2-300 yards to help keep you on track. They can be in different colors, with a different color marking a separate trail in the park system. Sometimes two colors are used, usually white and another color, if the park has a lot of distinct trails to mark.

Pretty simple. One blaze = straight, two blazes = turn left or right depending on which blaze is higher, 3 blazes all the same color means the start or end of a trail. An easy way to remember start and end is to think of the three blazes like an arrow pointing to the trail. If it's pointing towards you, you're at the end, away you're at the start. If you see 3 blazes but 2 are one color and another is a different color, that indicates you're at an intersection with another trail. The color with 2 blazes will be the trail you're on while the single color will be the new trail.

Here are some examples of common trail blazes. Can you find and identify them?

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