In many European countries, dedicated long-distance hiking trails are marked with a white-red marking, like in the photograph below:

White-red marking Source: Wikimedia Commons.

I've seen this in at least The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Poland. Switzerland has its own, different system.

Is there any such system in North America or parts thereof? Wikipedia doesn't really help here.


Those are blazes. They used to be done with an axe, now they're done with paint. There's no national standard, but there are usually standards for a particular trail.

The Appalachian Trail, for example, uses white blazes.

The Ozark trail uses a small plastic OT logo lightly tacked to trees.

Double-blazes are often used to signal a sharp turn.

See Wikipedia's article on blazing.

Here's an Ozark Trail blaze.

  • Wow, never heard the word blaze before, and as of now not linked from the European markings either...
    – gerrit
    Jan 17 '13 at 22:24
  • How common are those in practice? Is this mostly done in parks near cities where many people go for day hikes, or also on trails in remote regions in the Rocky Mountains or Alaska?
    – gerrit
    Jan 17 '13 at 22:26
  • Hmm, Rockies and Alaska I couldn't say. In the state parks around where I live, I don't think I've seen blazes. On long trails they're the norm. The OT goes out into some pretty secluded areas, and it's marked along the whole trail. The AT is also marked along the whole trail, AFAIK. Jan 17 '13 at 22:34
  • @gerrit the usage of blaze is from "to blaze a trail", as in to be the first
    – sdg
    Jan 17 '13 at 22:53
  • 1
    @gerrit They are common in eastern canada as well, the Bruce Tail for example uses white for main trail, and blue for a side-trail, also using double-blaze for a turn as noted by Don. Likely any maintained trail will use something similar. A specific random-use non-maintained trail (e.g. hunting) perhaps not,
    – sdg
    Jan 17 '13 at 22:55

There is no standard for the color and shape of blazes used to mark trails in the US. Generally, trails are managed locally, so at best a set of blazes follows a pattern in a particular area.

A few longer trails have well known consistant blazes the whole length. The AT, for example, uses a vertical white rectangle that has a speficified width and height. Generally, any one trail will be consistant, but there is no higher level standard or plan.

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