How Far We’ve Come: AMC Trailblazing

May 29, 2018


AMC’s trail-blazing legacy extends back to its founding, in 1876. One of the organization’s first White Mountain projects, constructing Lowe’s Path, involved installing signs on 400 trees. The crew hung a small board every 100 meters (yes, they originally used the metric system) and painted the same information on flat stones, from treeline to Mount Adams’s summit.

A variety of blazing and signage methods used by AMC and other trail builders led to a confusing lack of conformity, however. Early-20th-century images from the AMC Library & Archives show boulders coated in paint, wooden posts filled top to bottom with signs, and sprawling stone cairns. Photos also reveal tiny signs, short on information and barely visible from the trail.

Charles Blood, who served three years as AMC’s Councilor of Improvements starting in 1914, sought to change that. As AMC was transforming the disparate trails of the White Mountains into a connected network, Blood began cataloging trail markings and formalized a block-letter style for trail signs that was easy to replicate. As old signs and blazes wore out, AMC gradually replaced them with a more uniform system.

Today, blazing styles still differ from one area to another. But in the White Mountains, AMC trail adopters refresh painted blazes every six to 10 years and maintain cairns, rather than painted rocks, above treeline.


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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.