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On The Trail: What are Rock Cairns?


Maybe you've been out on a trailhead or even out wheeling in your off-road vehicle and you come across what seems to be an confusing but innocent pile of rocks; or is it?

Generally speaking, a "Rock Cairn" are a way of marking the right of way on not-so-well-defined trail. More often or not we see more and more of these rock cairns in places they really shouldn't be and as harmless as it would seem, there's an obvious reason many may miss. So we decided to make a post on our blog to bring light on the purpose of cairns, some of their history, and why to avoid building them for fun on the backroads and backcountry.

Depending on where you might be geo-located in the world, trail markers can and will differ but they all carry similar informational purpose. The "White Blazes", part of a long tradition and history of hiking the Appalachian Trails that mark the route through 14 States. In historic times and still to this day from Maine to the Western Coast, you'll find stacked rocks, known as "cairns" marking many paths and trails. Even more so the further you travel South in the United States you will find even more routes marked with these cairns. In the most simplest form, cairns are stacked rocks in a variety of sizes and even some shapes for specific meanings and purposes. For those most active in the outdoors or with adventure in their veins, the purpose is generally specific to navigation, an outline of a route or trail.