Blazing

Objective

All maintained trails — except the Limberlost Trail —  will be blazed to some extent depending on the type of 1998 Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan (BWMP) opportunity class in which the trail falls. The objective in blazing is to mark the trail often enough to guide the hiker and keep the trail distinguishable, but not so often that blazes become a visual intrusion. In the Primitive Wilderness and Primitive Non-wilderness classes, blazing is not necessarily intended for the convenience of the hiker or horse user but to keep the trail distinguishable, open, and maintained for hikers of various ages and experience levels typically traveling in Shenandoah National Park backcountry.

General Standards for blazing

  1. Use 2-in. x 6-in. vertical rectangles.
  2. Place at eye-level on live trees. Avoid painting rocks.
  3. Use double blazes (one above the other) for sharp turns and trail junctions.
  4. Blazes should be visible across an intersection with another trail, a stream, or road.
  5. Where two blazes of different colors are used on the same trail, the two blazes are to be placed side-by-side.
  6. Avoid over-blazing.
  7. Cairns, metal diamond markers, etc. should not be used to mark trails.

Standards for Primitive Wilderness and Primitive Non-wilderness Opportunity Classes (blue-blazed trails)

  1. Use blue paint for maintained foot trails.
  2. Re-blaze only as necessary (generally no more than every three years) to keep blazes visible.
  3. No more than one blaze should be visible at any time, unless special conditions warrant (such as a trail difficult to follow due to overgrown vegetation).
  4. When standing at one blaze, pick a prominent spot ahead, walk past it a short distance and blaze the next prominent spot.
    • Blazes should be 300 – 500 feet apart.
    • Avoid abrupt changes in frequency.

Standards for Semi-primitive Wilderness and Non-wilderness and Threshold Wilderness and Non-wilderness and for Appalachian Trail Wilderness and Non-wilderness Opportunity Classes (Blue-blazed and white-blazed trails)

  1. Use:
    • blue blazes for maintained side trails
    • White blazes for the AT
  2. Re-blaze every few years to keep blazes visible and to replace missing or enlarged blazes. Carefully remove excess blazing.
  3. No more than one blaze should be visible at any time, unless special conditions warrant.
  4. When standing at one blaze, pick a prominent spot ahead, walk to it, pick the next good spot and place the blaze there.
    • Blazes should be 300 – 500 feet apart.
    • Avoid abrupt changes in frequency.

Techniques for Blazing

  1. Pick prominent, large, living trees; dark-colored bark provides a better contrast for the blaze.
  2. Choose trees which are prominent when foliage is out (clip away low bushes or protruding branches to clear the blaze area).
  3. Scrape a 3-in x 7-in. rectangle on thick barked trees, without cutting through the bark.
  4. Rub moss and lichen off a 3-in. x 7-in. rectangle on thin barked trees.
  5. Paint neatly; avoid using too much paint (it will run down the tree).
  6. Blaze in the direction you are hiking; walk back to blaze the other direction.
  7. Avoid blazing rocks.
  8. To avoid over-blazing, err on the side of too few blazes; more can be placed later if needed.

Equipment for Blazing

  • 1 gallon bucket with handle
  • 1-in. brush
  • Blaze paint
  • Paint scraper
  • Rags, paper towels, aluminum foil to wrap brush in until cleaning, etc.
  • Brush cleaner and hand cleaner for afterwards.