Trail Maintenance Guide

Trail Cleaning Guidelines

  • Over the years, the Voyageur Hiking Trail Association has developed some dos and don’ts when cleaning and building our Trail. Here are some tips to assist you on your first trail cleaning outing.


The VTA uses hand tools for the most part to clean trail (i.e. hand clippers, long-handled clippers, etc.). The best way to learn about using trail cleaning tools is to join an organized work party. Call your local club for details.

When cutting and trimming:

  • the best time to clean trail is during leaf season
  • when trimming maple saplings, bushes, trees, etc. try to keep the pathway at least 3 feet wide and 7 feet high so it will take some time before it grows back in and requires another cleaning
  • around blazed trees, ensure that vegetation and branches are cleared so that the blaze is clearly visible for a distance
  •  always trim as close to the ground as possible to keep stubs from tripping hikers
  • always cut off the tops flat (never leave them pointed as hikers would impale themselves if they lost their footing)
  • if possible, cut and haul away small trees in the pathway, however, if they are too big to cut, try to see that they are laying flat along the ground so they are easy to climb over. If that is not possible, cut a pathway around the tree so hikers can get around it without losing the Trail.
  • try to visit the Trail two to three times between May and October (or at least once) to check for blow downs and obscured blazes

When blazing:

  • our “standard” blazing method is: white blazes for regular trail, blue blazes for side trails to lookouts or access points, and yellow blazes for loop trails
  • VTA ‘diamond-shaped’ blazes or green hiker vinyl sign should be highly visible at all access points
  • when available, use pre-cut and drilled vinyl 5 cm x 15 cm (2″ x 6″) blazes. Otherwise, use latex exterior paint. Carry paint in a sealed jar or small can, and scrape away loose bark before applying paint.
  • always use aluminum nails (aluminum nails will not hurt machinery operators if the tree is harvested at some future date)
  • always leave the nails protruding from the tree about one half inch (as the tree grows, it will use this space and if the blaze is nailed on tightly, the tree will actually pop it off very quickly)
  • try to pick large, healthy-looking trees for blazes
  • always make sure that the next blaze is within view when standing next to a blaze; do not over blaze
  • it is best to blaze in one direction at a time, rather than both directions at once
  • avoid putting two blazes on opposite sides of the same tree–if the tree falls over, both blazes are lost
  • never nail blazes to power poles (if necessary to blaze a power pole, it should be painted on as aluminum blazes will interfere with people who climb poles for repairs if it is a pole which must be climbed to make repairs)
  • if painting on a light-coloured surface such as a power pole, use a brown border around the blaze
  • sharp turns in the Trail should be blazed as shown:
  • if re-routing the Trail, ensure that blazes on the old Trail are painted over using a tree-coloured paint or gently removed

Safety Tips:

  • stay with the group (it is easy to become engrossed in what you are doing and not notice the group getting further and further away)
  • don’t over-exert yourself (know your limits)
  • when leaving the trail for nature’s call, leave your pack on the trail so anyone looking for you will know where you have gone (or better yet, buddy-up and let someone know)

Other Ways You Can Help:

  • if you know of any surplus white, blue or yellow vinyl siding, or any blue plastic (such as children’s winter sliding carpets) that could be made into blazes, please let us know. Call 705-942-1891 or 1-877-393-4003.
  • when hiking the Voyageur Trail, if you run into any particularly bad sections, please call your local club contact or 705-942-1891 or 1-877-393-4003 and report it so an outing can be scheduled, or e-mail it to: (so our trail conditions page on the internet can be updated)
  • you can ‘adopt’ your own piece of Voyageur Trail–this would allow you to clean it at your convenience and, should you need assistance, request your own trail cleaning outing
  • watch for further trail cleaning outings in your Voyageur Trail Newsletter, your local media outlets (newspapers, local televison channels) or on our web site at:

and above all…please come again. We can ALWAYS use your help to clean trail!