Signage for parks, trails and preserves

We create designs that clearly enhance the visitor experience: identification, wayfinding, orientation, interpretation, instruction and information.


Typically placed at an entry point, these are special signs that welcome the visitor, identify the organization and are often part of the entry design and experience including an opportunity for a memorable photo. 

Identifiers can be a variety of sizes and structural forms dependent on the size of the facility and the ease of viewing upon approach. 

Most designs are custom, given the facility may have a long or short name, or the design is to follow existing organizational design standards.


A process to guide a first time or infrequent visitor from one decision point to the next. In all cases, appropriate scale, readability, contrast and consistency are key. This includes the guidance of motorists along roadways and pedestrians on a path or trail.


The relative position of something or someone defines the word orientation, but it is much more. Maps, seasonal schedules, rules and regulations, registration instructions call all be used to provide orientation. If the designs use consistent visual standards: typeface, formats and compatible panel sizes, the overall display will be easier to read and more inviting. In general, the map is the magnet that draws the visitor to the display.

Rules and Regulations:

Or as we call them “etiquette and expectations.” Most park visitors comply with the rules and the ones that do not comply are often not reading the sign anyway. With that level of pessimism we have found many different ways to deliver the massage.  

Some guidelines:

  • Area entry. 4 items that if heeded will eliminate a large percent of the problem. 
  • Area rules. Campground with a maximum of 8 rules, easily identified recreation symbol and succinct legend.
  • Site specific rule along a trail. Take the sign to the place where it can have the greatest impact.
  • Rules can be educational. Coming from the city, visitor may need a refresher along the trail.


Either you are a first time visitor, or the instruction procedure is unique to the particular facility, every organization has postings that are unique or part of a sign standard for a system with many facilities of the same type. Photos, Illustrations and symbols help provide visual interest and break up text to allow visitors to read through and understand information more easily. 


Clear information makes park use a lot easier and a well-informed visitor will use the park in ways that will protect the resources and themselves. Information is best presented to the visitor when and where it’s needed most.


From a nature walk to viewpoint, to the front of an historic structure or site - exhibits enhance the visitors experience. A rule of thumb is to share that which is unusual, invisible without the (missing words). A well-crafted exhibit allows a visitor to walk away having learned something new and interesting or provoke their imagination.


A great way to communicate at a glance is with symbols. Many applications can be more effective if these designs incorporate symbols. They are an invitation to the eye and provide universal visual understanding to written words. In some applications the symbol is dominant, and in others, the symbol supports language. Symbols can identify, prohibit (with circle and slash), and selectively warn. When symbols are used, we recommend that they are designed as part of a visually consistent sign standard.


First step in orientation within an unfamiliar place is to find a map. Maps provide a starting point and can introduce the trails for walkers/runners, hikers and bikers, or can show the way to a picnic site. They provide orientation to help you make decisions about where the next exploration begins or where to finish the day’s events.

In most every program we work on at Terrabilt, designing an approach to mapping parks and trails is a top priority. For purposes of wayfinding, designing an effective map guides our work to provide related signing for both vehicular routes and pedestrian paths and trails (water, rail, hiking, single track). Regardless of facility type, the posted map becomes a visual magnet.

Signing a Trail:

There is no single method to sign a trail, but knowing what the user needs to know guides the way. 

A map at the trailhead is key. A map orients the user and helps them plan their experience. If this is for a front country trail, a trailhead panel identifying conditions based on ADA/ABA (Architectural Barriers Act) can be appreciated by all users. Graphically this can take various forms but should be designed to inform and keep all users safe.

Along the trail, guidance is provided at each intersection. Directional panels describe each destination with distances to next destinations on the front and back to the trailhead the reverse side. At set increments along the trail, signage for waypoints is a helpful addition for emergency access and for users planning a walk or a run. Rules and site-specific warnings are posted at the trailhead and at other points where they can effectively provide protection of the user and the environment.

Enjoy your hike. 

Rail Trails: 

Comprised of 22,000 miles nationwide, rail trails are one of the single greatest recreation resources in the country. These trails are used as a safe recreation resource for all ages and is a method of “quiet” mobility, including: cycling, walking, hiking, skating and cross country skiing.  

 A successful signage program includes; an easy to read map, general trail rules, trail etiquette, site specific warnings, on-trail guidance, mile posts and waypoints.


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