Land Stewarship

Trail Blazes on WPC Properties

Trail Blazes

The painted trail blazes at Toms Run Nature Reserve, Wolf Creek Narrows Natural Area and certain other WPC preserves follow a standard protocol for marking hiking trails in North America. Each blaze is roughly two inches wide and six inches tall.  The color, number and position of the blazes are meant to convey the following:


Continue Straight

A single rectangle indicates that the trail is going straight.

Left Turn

Two rectangles forming a left diagonal indicate a left turn (shown here).

(Two rectangles forming a right diagonal indicates a right turn. )

Please note, if the tree is too small to offset the rectangles, the blazes might be stacked – just be aware that the trail will be turning one way or the other.

Connecting Trail

Two stacked rectangles plus one to the side indicates a spur trail (connecting trail) or intersection. In this photo, there’s an intersection coming up with another trail leading off to the right. If the intersection is with an entirely different trail, the single blaze may be a different color, indicating the blaze color of the other trail.

Hairpin Turn

A single rectangle stacked above two rectangles indicates a hairpin turn.


Unusual Trail Situations

Occasionally, a situation comes up that requires some other type of trail blazing/marking, such as a place where the trail might be obscured by other surrounding features. In those situations, there might be additional paint on multiple trees, some brightly-colored flagging, a pile of rocks (a cairn) or some other indication. If you’re not sure where the trail is going, just follow along for a short distance (100 feet or so) until a standard blaze is located. If there are no other blazes, turn around, go back and try again.

For More Information:

Andy Zadnik
Director of Land Stewardship
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15222