Guidelines for Trail Marking (Blazing)       by Rich Freeman

Purpose of Blazing and signage: The purpose of blazing is to indicate the hiking route and identify sharp turns. Careful placement of signage assures hikers they are on the approved trail which helps reduce trail erosion and vegetation trampling.

Types of Blazes: Paint, plastic, and metal are the most common. Paint is easy to apply and does not harm the tree. You can buy commercially made plastic circles or squares, plastic coffee can tops works well also, as an inexpensive alternative.

Signs: Hiking organization trail signs are placed on both sides of the road where the trail crosses. Small weather proof signs designating the name of the road are also posted on both sides of the road. These are faced toward the trail (away from the road) for the benefit of the hiker.

Placement: Blazes should be placed or painted at eye level (approx. 5 � feet) in both directions for hikers traveling in either direction. Painted blazes should have sharp corners and clean edges making it easy to discern from a distance and to distinguish from natural markings. Blazes should be placed on healthy trees of at least 3" in diameter.

Look down the trail after placing one blaze and note the next tree that catches the eye. If this tree is at a suitable distance, and beside the trail, place a blaze on it. On straight, wide or well cleared trails this may be some distance ahead. One well placed blaze is better than several poorly placed or hidden blazes. Make blazing continuous, even along roads or unmistakable parts of the trail. Sharp turns in the trail require a double offset blaze indicating the direction of the trail.

A right turn blaze looks like   and a left turn like this Untitled art 1.eps (131990 bytes) .  The upper blaze indicates the direction of the turn.

Avoid placing blazes on both sides of the same tree, the loss of one tree will result in loss of marking in both directions.

Frequency: Trail marking is for the benefit of hikers unfamiliar with the area. The character of the trail determines the frequency of blazes. A narrow, winding woods trail requires more blazing so the hiker can see from one blaze to the next. On well worn trails or rail trails, place blazes farther apart. At junctions, place a blaze even if there is a directional sign. Then a second blaze within 50 to 100 feet down the trail. Do not over blaze. No more than one blaze should be seen at one time in either direction. Consistency is the final consideration. Avoid sudden variations of spacing of blazes. An abrupt change in the marking interval may confuse a hiker.

Painting Blazes: Surface preparation is important when painting on rough bark. These can be scraped using a hardwood floor scraper (1 � " blade & 6" handle). Remember never scrape entirely through the bark. Apply an oil based paint in the proper color. Note: oil based paint lasts up to 8 years, while a water-based paint fades within 3 years. Blazes size should be a 2 inch wide by 6 inch long rectangle.

Blaze Color: We think of red as a bright color but actually it is one of the worst colors to use for blazing. It fades quickly and is hard to spot against dark tree bark. The best colors are white, light blue, orange, and yellow in descending order.

Attaching Markers: Attach metal or plastic markers with two eight-penny galvanized or aluminum nails with big heads. Drive the nails only part way, leaving � to 3/8 inch or more of the nail protruding to allow the tree to grow.

Construction of Sign Posts: Use 4-inch X 4-inch X 8-foot long pressure treated wood that has been treated with a preservative on the bottom 4 feet. With a post hole digger, dig a 3 foot deep hole and place the post in. Level the post and check to make sure the sign is facing the proper direction.

Read the article called "A Trail Revolution" to find out about trail building organizations. 

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