When I first arrived on the Côte d’Azur, I didn’t right away notice the various trail-markers. Once I did, and had found out what they meant, hiking the region became much easier and more fun. And I became aware of them everywhere, like secret signs promising pleasures.
So here is a short guide to the various waymarks (balises in French) and what they mean.
Red & While: Horizontal red and white stripes mark the long distance footpaths, the GR (Grande Randonnées) which criss-cross the country and extend to neighbouring countries in Europe. The GRs 4, 49, 5, 51, 52 and 56 wind through the mountains of the Med. This great website lists all the GRs across the country and links to route maps with accommodation and contact information.
To find the route, look for the red and white stripes. Where a route changes direction, the white stripe will be L-shaped showing which way to turn. Where a path forks or access ends, stripes form a cross, showing “do not go this way”. Look out for alternative direction markers – there will normally be two horizontal stripes to say “go this way instead”.
Yellow & Red: The yellow and red horizontal stripes mark the GRP (Grande Randonnées de Pays) routes designed to take in areas of particular natural or national interest. There are few of these in our region. As with the GR markers, horizontal marks show “go this way”; an L-shaped yellow dictates a change in direction and yellow and red crossing mean “don’t go here”.
Yellow: A single yellow rectangle of paint shows the route of the local PR (Promenade et Randonnée) walks. These are short walks, never more than a day’s worth of hiking. The Conseil Général’s free booklets available from Tourist Offices, the Guide RandOxygène, detail some of these. Otherwise, get the IGN TOP 25 Série Bleue maps from Decathlon (or some booksellers) where all local (and GR) walks are clearly marked.
The markers are generally painted at eye level on trees or on rocks beside the path. As with the GR waymarks, a horizontal mark shows the route; L-shape marks a change in direction while a yellow X shows no-entry.
Cairns: In a really rocky or gravely area where it might be hard to find the path and paint may wear away, look out for small towers of stones. These are often put up by other hikers and mark the route in trickier areas.
Signs & Posts: At the start of a marked trail, and where marked walks intersect, you will generally find a sign post. Some of these (the more recent ones) are numbered and this number corresponds with the point in the TOP 25 map – a very handy way to check you’re on the right track. The posts also detail the destination of the walk and sometimes include the expected duration.