Cairn building can be a surprisingly meditative practice that brings you closer to your community and the earth. Whether you’re making a traditional rock cairn or a creative stack of rocks, it’s a way to take your mind off the everyday and focus on balance and permanence.
Throughout history, different cultures have used cairns in many ways. They could have been built what is cairn making to mark a path, indicate a food supply, or warn of danger. In North America, Native American peoples also used cairns as burial sites, a practice called inukshuk.
The word “cairn” comes from the Gaelic for “heap of stone”. They are usually constructed in the form a hill. They range from small rock sculptures up to large manmade hills of stones. Some are similar to kistvaens, dolmens and earthworks but built with stone instead.
Cairns can be used in many different ways by hikers. They can be used to guide hikers back to the trailhead after a tough day of hiking, or to aid them in finding their way in remote areas of wilderness.
A well placed cairn could save lives and guide a group hikers who get lost or are having difficulty finding the trail. Some people claim cairns are not part of the natural environment and that they violate Leave No Trace.