LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s common shorthand that if you’re on a hike, you should keep an eye out for colored circles on trees. Those shapes are trail markers, the iconography hikers rely on in order to know where to go and avoid danger. Some are painted, but most in New York will be in the form of physical tags – which should not be removed.

Late last week, the Lake George Land Conservancy shared a bulletin from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, reporting that trail markers had been taken from several trails. Markers were missing from the Red Trail in the Cat & Thomas Mountains preserve, located west of Bolton Landing on Lake George.

The bulletin stated that the missing markers were likely taken by hikers seeking souvenirs. Trail markers can act as an especially vital guide during winter conditions, with snowfall like this week’s creating vastly different terrain, and changing the shape of hikers’ surroundings.

The Red Trail remains unmarked for the time being. In the meantime, the mountain preserve’s Blue Trail is recommended as an equal alternative route to the summit of Thomas Mountain.

DEC trail markers can indicate different information by color. It has nothing to do with difficulty, and everything to do with direction. Different colored markers break down like this:

  • Blue
    • Indicates a trail that runs north/south
  • Red
    • Indicates a trail that runs east/west
    • Can also indicate a trail leading to a fire tower
  • Yellow
    • Connector trails running between otherwise-tagged trails

Some trail marker types vary by state. In several states, trees painted purple denote “Do not enter,” falling under what are known as “purple paint laws.”

Tampering with trail markers is a “do not” among other ways to do one’s part to protect trails, listed out by the DEC. Leaving markers where they are is urged alongside Leave No Trace practices, handling one’s own trash, and not trampling vegetation while taking a hike.