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Signage and wayfinding

Summary – Signage is useful to all trail users to provide essential information about distance, location and amenities; it is essential, also, to all users to avoid getting lost in the outdoor environment.  For people with disabilities predictable signage is indispensable to better monitor their hike and resource consumption and thereby maintain their level of confidence.

Description – Trail signage comes in all kinds of types and levels of sophistication, from the simplest color swatch on a tree to mark the trail, to mileage markers, to informational kiosks at trail heads and major intersections.  It is useful for the potential hiker to understand beforehand the quality of signage that can be expected and its frequency.  Ironically, too much signage may detract from the outdoor experience and may dissuade a potential user from choosing a particular site, therefore finding a balance is important.

Importance/Purpose – For a person with a disability to venture into an outdoor environment requires a certain amount of knowledge beforehand, as discussed under Trail Maps, to better plan for their hike and to determine if a particular trail is of interest.  Knowledge about the quality and availability of signage will provide the user a comfort level that they can succeed at their hike and safely.

Signage has many of the same concerns as the topic of Trail Maps: don’t rely on color alone; wherever possible include a tactile equivalent; make sure the information is low enough to be visible with people in wheelchairs, but not so low that signs are readily hidden by plant materials, snow or covered with mud.


  1. If using color coding to identify trails, provide trail numbers as well, especially at intersections where two color-coded trails cross.

  2. On trail signs, don’t rely on color alone to identify the trail or accessible features use shapes, as well.  See the Symbols page.

  3. Place signage along the trail low enough that it can be read by people using mobility devices, for instance between 30” and 36” for signage with text, but different heights for various markers.

  4. Indicate on the website if an audio guide or a smart phone app is available and from where, to provide a possible substitute.

  5. See Section 3, More topics, for information about wayfinding


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Wayfinding encompasses all of the ways in which people orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.

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