Making Trail Signs While Hiking With Girl Scouts

by Cindy Killip
Girl Scouts teaches girls self-reliance through a variety of activities like hiking and camping.

Girl Scouts teaches girls self-reliance through a variety of activities like hiking and camping.

Outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, trekking and trail blazing teach Girl Scouts essential adventure skills, leadership and independence. These activities also encourage environmental awareness and foster positive self-esteem in girls from different backgrounds. Girls are taught to respect the environment and leave nature as undisturbed as possible. When hiking, they should follow safety rules and be careful not to damage or disfigure property, disrupt visible habitats or create dangerous situations on the trails.

Teaching Self-Reliance

According to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, the mission of Girl Scouts “is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Girl Scouts was founded in 1910 as a girl’s alternative to Boy Scouts. Agnes Baden-Powell founded the group, which she originally called Girl Guides, and worked with her brother, the founder of Boy Scouts, to adapt the Boy Scout laws and activities for girls. One precept they kept in the Girl Scout organization was to learn about the outdoors through hiking and camping. Two years later, Juliette "Daisy" Gordon started Girl Scouts in the United States where she carried on the mission to help girls develop self-reliance and resourcefulness through a variety of activities, including hiking and camping.

Trail Markers

Safety and awareness are an important part of Girl Scout activities so scouts use trail markers to help them identify trails and potential dangers when they're hiking. Common symbols made out of sticks, rocks, pebbles and long grass are used to leave messages for other hikers and help scouts find their way back to their home base. Trail markers are placed on the ground close to the trail, especially in places where there might be confusion, such as at a fork in the trail.

How to Make Trail Markers

Sticks and pebbles can be used to make arrows pointing in the direction of the trail or in a straight horizontal line or X shape to tell others not to go a certain direction. Where pebbles or sticks aren’t available, rocks may be piled one on another in specific configurations to leave messages. For example, a smaller rock balanced on a bigger one is a symbol to continue straight ahead. Bundles of long grass tied into a knot can also be used for trail markers. A large stone placed in the center of a circle of smaller stones tells other hikers that they’ve gone home.

Hiking Safety

As Girl Scouts are learning to hike safely, it’s important to teach them to pay attention to their surroundings. Besides trail markers, they should notice landmarks such as hills, trees, boulders and gates so they can find their way back if lost. They should also be aware of the trail as they walk so they don’t trip over a tree root or rock. Girl Scouts should be taught to hike with a buddy and always tell someone where they are going and when they expect to return. Planning ahead is also important. They should wear sturdy shoes and sunscreen, and carry water, a snack and a jacket. Girl Scouts should always be accompanied by an adult and, while trail markers are helpful, they won’t replace a map, compass, whistle and first aid kit.

About the Author

Cindy Killip is a health and fitness specialist, health coach, author and speaker who has been teaching and writing about exercise and wellness since 1989. She authored "Living the BONES Lifestyle: A Practical Guide to Conquering the Fear of Osteoporosis." Killip holds multiple certifications through the American Council on Exercise and degrees in communications and sociology from Trinity University.

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