What They Look Like and What They Mean
Many people feel overwhelmed when they think about hiking outside of their home country. We often get asked, “What the trails are like? …Are they well marked?” The amazing thing about the Swiss is that they are extremely organized in everything they do. So when you go on their hiking trails you will find well groomed trails and many alpine trail markers.
There are over 40,000 miles of marked hiking and walking paths in Switzerland. The Swiss Hiking Association is in charge of the installation and maintenance of the trail signs. Volunteer workers ensure that they are carefully inspected each year.
One of the best alpine trail markers to look for is a very normal, but practical, pole with yellow stacked rectangles, and in black lettering the destination name as well as the time it will take you to hike there. It should be mentioned that the Swiss are also very fit, so the time estimates can seem a little fast at times. But you can usually guarantee to arrive within that time or a few minutes later, depending on your speed.
The alpine trail marker that is most common and is suitable for any type of hiker is a yellow diamond with a black hiker inside of it. Along with the yellow signs, you will see other markings along the trail. They usually look as if they have been spray painted onto the rocks or terrain in the area and are very neat and recognizable. This is a great way to make sure you are on the right trail even if weather affects your visibility. These signs tell you whether the trail is a technical trail or not.
For example, on the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route (see the terrain) you will find a flag that marks the trail with three vertical stripes, two white on the sides and red in the middle. This means that although it is a more challenging trail (like bouldering) it does not require any special equipment.
The other trail type is marked similarly, but instead of red in the middle it is a light blue. This means that the route is part of a high-alpine trail which requires special gear such as harnesses, ropes, helmets and carabiners. This kind of trail is a lot less common.
Regardless of the type of hiking you plan to do in Switzerland, it is sure to be an experience including scenery you won’t soon forget. If you should find yourself lost, you’ll find the Swiss to be a very friendly bunch and usually very happy to help you find your way!
See you on the trails!