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Signs for a hiking trail suitable for the disabled in Saarland
Cross-border hiking trail on the German-Swiss border

Hiking trails are with signposts marked footpaths that the hiking permit on interesting routes or attractive targets. Signposts , distance information, overview maps, hiking maps and directions are additional means of making orientation easier.

Types of hiking trails

There are different types of trails, such as target trails , hiking trails , track Horse , Lasso trails (hybrid of circular and distance hiking trail), distance trails and long-distance trails - nationally or Europe .

To theme paths , for example, is one of nature trails , nature trails , Barefoot Park , Watt hiking or planetary paths .

In alpine terrain, the hiking trail is differentiated from the via ferrata as well as the mountain and alpine hiking trail, which, in addition to the basic surefootedness and fitness, also requires a basic level of climbing technique and a good sense of direction. Especially in the mountains, the transition from hiking to mountaineering is fluid. In addition to well-developed hiking trails, there are those that are only visible as a trail, or they don't even have a trail mark over a distance of several hundred meters. The SAC hiking scale used in Switzerland provides information about various levels of difficulty.

There are also combined cycle and hiking trails that are shared by pedestrians and cyclists, such as the Elberad and hiking trails .

Hiking trails are sometimes laid out on former railway lines , such as the Odenwaldexpress ; they are then also referred to as hiking trails.

Quality criteria and designated hiking trails

There are quality criteria for hiking trails that should receive a predicate certificate. For these, the following applies: As small a part as possible is allowed on roadways, the majority of the route should run on natural soil and paths with a path character. Natural beauties, changes in landscape formations, views and sights contribute to the attractiveness. Good marking and signage are important. 90 percent of all hiking trails are not certified.


Hiking trails can be awarded different ratings in Germany . On the one hand, there is the rating " Quality Trail Wanderable Germany" from the German Hiking Association , which assesses sections of 4 kilometers of a hiking trail on the basis of 9 basic and 23 optional criteria, on the other hand the rating Deutsches Wandersiegel des Deutschen Wanderinstituts e. V, which rates every kilometer based on 34 criteria. Services for planning these routes are also offered for these so-called “premium routes”, which are referred to as a marketing tool for tourist destinations. In connection with the latter, premium hiking trails are also used.

In order to obtain the seal of approval, various core criteria and various electoral criteria must be met. The quality criteria are based on the wishes and preferences of the hikers and are intended to make the attractiveness of the hiking trail measurable. In addition to the nature, route and marking of the route itself, they also take into account factors such as B. scenic and cultural sights, variety and “adventure potential”. If a hiking trail has achieved a defined quality level and this has been confirmed by an examination, it can advertise with the respective rating.


Signposts next to the Seehütte on the Rax ; the old one on the left and the new one on the right, standardized, in order to achieve uniform signage in the Eastern Alps

In Austria , hiking trails are looked after by the Alpine associations and similar institutions. In the last decade there has been a growing trend in Austria for hiking trails to be laid out and looked after by tourism associations, sports clubs or local hiking clubs . The federal states occasionally support path supervisors in signposting hiking trails.

Signposts in Austria look very similar to those in Switzerland. The identification of the "difficulty" of hiking trails is only partially compatible. Historically, the Austrian system is derived from the classification of ski slopes: blue stands for easy, red for moderately difficult, black for difficult. Blue can be omitted on signposts. Since the basic color of the boards is yellow, this avoids a contradiction with the Swiss system. The specification is not enforced by any government agency, but adherence to it forms the basis for state-supported quality seals to be awarded.

In principle, the markings on the signposts can be mapped quite easily in the SAC scale:

  • T1 / hiking: with blue or missing point
  • T2 / mountain hiking: if there is a red dot
  • T3 / challenging mountain hiking: at black point
  • T4… T6 / alpine: with the "Alpine ROUTE!"


In Switzerland, the municipalities and cantons are partly responsible for the marking, but above all for the maintenance of the hiking trails. Since 1987, the “Federal Law on Footpaths and Hiking Trails” has obliged the cantons to provide hiking trails. The hiking trail associations plan the trail networks on behalf of the cantons. T1 hiking trails according to the SAC hiking scale are maintained by the municipalities, T2 and T3 trails by the cantons. The Association of Swiss Hiking Trails agrees performance agreements and financial compensation with its cantonal sections and the cantonal and local authorities.

Hiking trails from different countries

Wandering mark of the listed Rothaarsteig: lying on its back, white R on a red background


In Germany, the hiking trails are shown regionally. The signalization is very different. Many, especially well-known, hiking trails such as the Rothaarsteig or the Rheinsteig have their own symbols. Some regions have now switched to uniform markings. In the northern Black Forest , for example, local and regional hiking trails are marked with yellow signage, whereas the classic long-distance hiking trails remain with their familiar markings (mostly a lying diamond).


Swiss signposts: mountain trails (white-red-white), alpine route (white-blue-white)

Switzerland has a network of uniformly marked hiking trails with a total length of 62,000 km, of which 14,000 km are hard surface and 21,000 km are mountain trails.

Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland

Signpost on the ridge trail in the Czech Republic: white hiking trails, yellow bike trails

The hiking trails in the Giant Mountains and the Tatras were laid out in the 19th century and are distinguished as follows:

  • white-red-white  : ridge paths with long stretches of good visibility, paths to or along tourist spots, often well developed
  • white-green-white  : forest paths, paths through nature reserves and nature trails
  • white-blue-white  : Less interesting trails with greater difficulty
  • white-yellow-white  : comfortable hiking trails with rather small differences in altitude; short connections between main routes

The color classification is mainly found in the Giant Mountains, where the trails are very old. It is not always adhered to consistently, but mostly applies.


Marking the GR hiking trails in Spain
The GR-221 on the Balearic island of Mallorca

Spain has a well-developed network of hiking trails. The long-distance hiking trails in Spain are called Senderos de Gran Recorrido (abbreviation GR ). They are typically marked with red and white markings and are part of the GR long-distance hiking trails . The most famous long-distance hiking trail is the GR 65 , which is also known as the Camino de Santiago . There are also those

  • Senderos de Pequeño Recorrido (PR, with yellow and white markings), hiking trails with a length between 10 km and 50 km,
  • Senderos Locales (SL), hiking trails up to 10 km
  • Senderos Urbanos (SU), urban hiking trails

See also


  • German Tourism Association V. and German Hiking Association e. V. (Hrsg.): Wanderable Germany - Quality Offensive Hiking . 1st edition. 2003

Web links

Commons : Hiking Trails  - Collection of Images
Commons : Hiking trails in Germany  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hiking trail  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Leaflet of the German Hiking Institute (PDF, 867 kB).
  2. Development on, accessed on May 11, 2014.
  3. Route handbook of the Alpine Club ( online )
  4. Hiking and mountain path concept of the state of Tyrol
  5. Handbook of signposting hiking trails