Trail marking (blaizes or waymarks)
The GR trails (grande randonées, that is, long distance trails) throughout the Alps mostly use the same system of trail marking (“waymarking” in British English). A GR is marked with a white rectangle sitting above or upon a red rectangle.(Local, non-GR trails use other color combinations, or a mark of one color.) If two GRs (Grand Randonnées) cross or branch, the number of the GR will be written on each trail.
You will find the waymarks on trees, on stones, on signs, on walls—wherever there is any question as to the trail, and often just as reassurance that you are on it. I have found it difficult to get off the proper GR trail, but it can happen. If you do, backtrack to the first visible trail mark, or use a map to regain the correct route. Also, there are a a few spots here and there in the Alps where you might want the reassurance of a waymark, and there is not one. So a map or guide book —while not an absolute necessity—can be very helpful.
Upcoming turns of a GR are indicated by four perched rectangles, from top to bottom white, red, white, red. At the turn it self, an arrow will indicate the direction of the turn, and usually, should you miss the turn, the incorrect trail will initially be marked by a red “x” .
For those who are following the GR5 from Holland, in Luxembourg and in Alsace there are separate marking systems that predate the GR5. Obtain local maps or guides: In the Vosges mountains of Alsace the maps published by the Club Vosgien are best.
Obviously, where the GR trail markings diverge from the trace on your map or Topoguide, the markings take precedence. This means the GR has been rerouted. However, during the Alpine crossing, it is quite unlikely that the GR routing will have changed very much.
Trail Markings almost everywhere:
|White bar over red Bar||continue straight ahead|
|As above with white arrow|
|underneath, or white and red arrows||turn in direction of arrow(s)|
|White and red X||bad direction|
|Trail Markings in Vosges of Alsace, from the Donon to the Ballon d’Alsace, differ:|
|Red bar||continue straight ahead|
|Red bar with arrows||turn|
|Red X||wrong direction|
|Hors GR||off the GR trail|
|Tirets||dashes (dashed line on map)|
|Gite d’étape||communal lodging on a road|
|Refuge||communal lodging off road|
|Chambre d’hôte||guest room, bed and breakfast|
|Distributeur de billets (DAB)||ATM|
|Balisage||trail marking, waymarking|
|Cairn||rockpile marking trail|
|Devant||in front of|
|En face||facing you|
|Plus loin||farther than|
|En vis-à-vis||opposite each other|
|De, Du, Depuis||from (also de, du = of, of the)|
|Tout droite||straight ahead|
|Piste||rough dirt road|
|Chemin||minor road, dirt road|
|Voie (romaine)||way (Roman)|
|En lacets||in switchbacks|
|En contrebas de||further down than|
|Gare routière||bus station|
|Traverser, Franchir, couper||cross|
|Emprunter, Prendre||take (a road, etc.)|
|Bifurquer sur||branch onto|
|Se diriger vers||go towards|
|Déboucher||come out (at)|
|en flanc||traversing a slope|
|Champs, Pré, Pâturage||field, pasture|
|Beginners pronunciation: “a” is as in father, “i” sounds like e in he, “o” or “au” or “eau” is like “o”, “ou” is like “u”. (A “u” is pronounced half-way between u and e.)||“é” or “ê” or “er” or “et” is normally like a in hay;
è is like e in eh, “e with no mark is silent or like in the word the.