Hiking With Dog

#TrailTip Tuesday: Cairn


When you hike in the wilderness, you will find that trails are often not marked. Sometimes, the trail disappears altogether all of a sudden. When that happens, see if you can spot a cairn nearby.

Cairn:  (Def.) A mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline.


Cairns are left by hikers to assist other hikers when the trail is confusing to follow.

If you happen to find the path but don’t see a cairn, feel free to leave a cairn next to the path for other hikers. Someone will be grateful for your kind gesture.


I personally enjoy hikes that call for cairn searching. I feel connected to other hikers who’s been there before me. Also, this type of hike hones your problem-solving skills and brings an adventurous vibe to the hike.


Get Our Latest Comprehensive Dog-friendly Trail List Here. Enjoy!

Happy Hiking!

6 comments on “#TrailTip Tuesday: Cairn”

  1. Beware, sometimes people just build cairns because it’s fun, and not necessarily as a direction-finding tool. Always best to have a topo-map and compass/gps, whatever, along to help varify trail directions, etc. I’ve lost the trail or been confused at a Y along the trail more than once, ended up bushwacking, etc. yet confident of my approx. location on a map… while on/off any evident trail, and eventually ending up at my destination. Also be aware of nearby trails/roads, power-line right-of-ways, rivers, lakes, etc. that might help with the direction-finding. Once while hiking with a grandson, I had to explain to him that we’d lost the trail… but not to worry, because we weren’t lost- and he understood. Eventually we arrived at our destination. Next day we went back to the same trail and found where we’d lost it the day before! Sometimes it can be challenging. But that’s why we hike! A few years later a group of us got turned around on a trail out in Yellowstone, and that same grandson led us out successfully! I was very proud of him.

    1. Thanks Mike for your helpful comment as usual! Luckily, I haven’t run into those fake cairns often but yes they do exist and I appreciate you sharing that with our readers! I hope you and your family are staying safe in this crazy time.

  2. I agree with Mike, the previous comment. More and more we’re finding people are making cairns because they want to not because they’re directional or helpful. These new cairns can often lead you off the trail.

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