Those who cairn too much

balzaccom

Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
624
I got a lot of feedback from a recent blog post on my website about trailwork to Lake Margaret. Lots of people wondering why we are taking down cairns. It's pretty simple: they're unnecessary. And part of Leave No Trace is to ...you know...Leave No Trace. I knocked down more than 130 cairns in 4 miles on this trail. I left three.

So here's my summary of cairn policy.

Should you ever put up a cairn? Before you do, ask yourself this question: Am I lost? If you are lost, don't put up a cairn. It will just confuse anyone who follows you. If you are not lost, then you don't need to put up a cairn. You found your way just fine. Please allow other hikers to do the same.


If you can see where the trail goes, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see the trail behind you, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see a log cut for the trail, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see a blaze on a tree, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see a strip of plastic ribbon, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see footprints in the dirt or sand, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see a path through the grass, don't put up a cairn.

If you can see branches outlining the trail, Don't put up a cairn.

If you can a cairn ahead or behind you, don't put up a cairn.

If it's obvious where the trail goes, don't put up a cairn.

If you are moved to create artwork with natural materials, do it in your garden at home. Don't put up a cairn.

And if you do put up a cairn to help you find you way back....take it down on your way back.

When in doubt, don't put up a cairn.
 

Jackson

I ❤️ GYE
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May 31, 2015
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2,927
Love this. The only time they've been helpful for me is in finding my way across large expanses of slick rock, sand, and brush on the Colorado Plateau. If there's a easily visible trail, then there's no need at all.
 

OwenM

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Aug 6, 2019
Messages
322
If you are moved to create artwork with natural materials, do it in your garden at home. Don't put up a cairn.
One of my big pet peeves is people building huge "decorative" cairns. I view it as vandalism/graffiti/whatever you want to call it, and react accordingly.
Boggles my mind that people go somewhere beautiful, and can only think of ways to deface it.

I've only had the opportunity to interrupt the process twice, at Zion and a SNA in TN, but both times it was probably a shock to the other people involved as I kicked over their "artwork" before scattering it in all directions.
"What's wrong, did you forget your spray paint?" is what I ask them.

I don't see much of that in the backcountry. It's usually on easy trails with easily accessible THs.
The one at Zion was on the Taylor Creek Trail, and had 4 people working on it.
It was over 6ft. tall.

Make that 3 times. I got roped into a dayhike with a cousin and some of her inlaws last December. Had to stop two of the kids(15-18, young "adults") who were smashing rocks into a tree, and throwing some that were the size of cinder blocks over a cliff-right down onto where people stand to get the best view of the waterfall we were headed to. They could have literally killed someone.
The other started building a cairn right in the trail.
-What are you doing?
"I'm building a monument to myself."

I suppose that's the mentality(?).
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
3,339
Ikl
While I appreciate all the enthusiasm here for knocking down cairns, I should point out that my original post was based on a USFS trail crew project. We were AUTHORIZED to take those puppies down!
call and get a permit to do it ...wait ...none needed .. most cairns are a joke and can be eyesores... They put them in canyons, stream bottoms, next to well worn trails, 59 ft apart, etc. ....the ones on open untrammeled areas get left..
 

jholmes01

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2020
Messages
145
I'm also not a fan of cairns, but found this to be a fascinating story of a local, historic cairn on Rincon Peak:

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1523460_10152278748999363_242976976_o (1).jpg
 

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