AT: Appalachian Trail 

Blaze: a trail marker. Blazes can be done with paint on trees or rocks, or by nailing in plastic, metal, vinyl, or other material markers onto trees or posts.

Bushwhack: Some obscure routes or unofficial trails may require bullying through thorns and other vegetation. Bushwhacking is for the most intrepid of hikers.

Cairn: a pile of stones placed in open areas to show the route of a trail

Kiosk: an information board placed at many trail heads, often with maps and park rules and regulations

Loop Trail: A trail that doubles back on it's point of origin.

Lollipop Loop: A trail that begins at one point, but then loops back onto itself at another point other than where it started. Many lollipop loops require doubling back on trail already hiked to complete.

LP: Long Path

Non standard blazing: Blazing that does not conform to standard range from metal or plastic arrows, land steward group names, or paint. They can be neatly placed or sloppy, easy to follow or difficult.

Point to point trail: A trail that has a beginning and end in different places. Unless specified otherwise, assume trails are point to point.

Puncheon: Term used to describe a small "bog bridge". Puncheons are not standard bridges, but rather simply made wooden structures laid over wet areas of trail.

Side hilling: a trail maintenance technique which describes a trail grading into the edge of a hill, which allows for smooth walking and directed run off.

Standard blazing: Most trails follow the same standard for marking, but many do not. Assume trails are standard blazed unless otherwise noted. See "Standard Blazing" below. 

Trail head: Beginning of a trail

Unmarked: A trail that has no significant discernible markings. Many obvious routes such as rail trails require no blazing.


The majority of  hiking trails follow what is referred to as "The International Standard". There are many variations of what is understood to be normal trail blazing, but a few key points are found most everywhere.

Standard trail blazes are usually no more than two inches wide, and are between three and six inches tall. The Appalachian Trail, for example, is two by six. Others such as Patriot's Path, Lenape Trail, and many other trails are two by three. By having limited width to blazing, it allows for turn be placed more accurately.

When the trail turns left or right, a double blaze is used. Usually, the top blaze is placed off center to the bottom one, and it signals the direction in which to turn. Sometimes, a double blaze is used to signify a change in trail conditions, to alert hikers. A few parks use double blazes to show a beginning or end of trail, though triple blazes are more common.

Three blazes mean beginning or end of trail. Sometimes they are placed vertically in line, but most commonly it is done in a triangle. The beginning of a trail is shown with two on the bottom, one on the top, while the end has two on top, one on the bottom.

Conforming to this standard, and implementing it's use by placing it on the legend of maps, and in trail head kiosks promotes safe navigation of trails. Encourage your local parks to conform to this standard if they do not already do so, and help us make trails navigable for everyone to enjoy!

Click HERE to find the original illustration of standard blazing symbols.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trail_blaze-symbols.svgTerminology_files/Trail_blaze-symbols.svgshapeimage_3_link_0