This weekend I came down to Vuodnabahta along the spectacular Ávttje-canyon. The Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) marks trails with cairs and red painted T-marks. The local Sami organisation in Vuodnabahta, Vuodnabat Sijdda, is critical, as reported by nord-salten. They find that those markings are too visible, and not respectful of nature. A quote:

Vi foreslår at merking gjøres ut fra samisk tradisjon, der merkinga knapt er synlig, men likevel tydelig. Man må vite hva man skal se etter når man vandrer etter veistikker/sti-merking, skriver leder Mareno Mikkelsen og nestleder Heidi Andersen.


We propose that markings are done from a Sami tradition, where the markings are hardly visible, but still clear. One must know what one should look for when one is hiking along trailmarks, write Mareno Mikkelsen (president) and Heidi Andersen (vice-president).

In my ramblings in Sápmi I have learned that there are many non-tourist trails, often not on the map, sometimes leading to beautiful gábma (turf huts) that are in use by the Sami people and may in principle be used by anyone, but are not advertised for tourists. I find that I could get more out of my Sápmi tours if I learned more about the traditional Sami markings, rather than stay on trails marked by the official Swedish and Norwegian (and Finnish) tourist associations.

What are some traditional Sami ways to mark trails?

  • Just throwing this out there, but could they have used or still use rock cairns as trail markers?
    – montane
    Apr 15, 2014 at 1:12

1 Answer 1


The traditional Sami way of marking trails is with small constructions that are not intrusive but still easily visible if you know where to look, such as stacking stones.

From the website from the Swedish world heritage "Laponi":

De traditionella samiska ledmarkeringarna är ofta sparsmakade. Tanken är att inte göra för stor påverkan på naturen, markeringarna sätts där behövs och med små medel. Det kan handla om att lägga en liten sten på en större, placera ut en sten med en naturligt speciell färg eller luta en större sten mot en annan. De gamla markeringarna lades i stenig terräng, över fjällpass eller andra ställen ställen där man lätt kan gå vilse.

My translation:

The traditional Sami trail markings are often restrained. The thought is to not have too big impact of the nature and the markings are put where needed and with small means. A small stone could be placed on a bigger one or a stone with a different natural colour could be used. A stone could also be leaned on another. The old markings where placed in stony terrain, over passes or other places where you could easily get lost.

It might be hard to find the trails if you have no idea where to look, but if you know the general area some stacked stones usually stick out a lot from the surroundings. This is also how many of the summer hiking trails are marked in Northen Sweden, but then it is usually higher cairns.

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