Step by Step Signing Guide

A small brown mounted sign, next to a paved pathway that extends over a pedestrian foot bridge.
National Historic Trail pedestrian sign, indicating the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro hiking trail.


Step by Step Guide to Sign Planning and Implementation

Signing projects typically start with you and your ideas about where national historic trail (NHT) signs are needed to make the trail and trail sites visible. The earlier you contact National Trails (NPS) staff, the more assistance we can provide throughout the project. The process may also vary based on the specific needs/conditions of your project, so the steps shown here are just a general outline.

1. Review the How to Create A Sign Plan, if you haven’t already.

2. Identify your sign plan area and purpose. A sign plan can be as simple as a few directional signs identifying one historic trail site, or as complex as complete signing of all publicly accessible trail crossings, sites, and segments across a county. Most sign plans use logical project boundary areas such as city or county limits.

3. Contact NPS to: discuss your ideas, get set up with an account for the online sign planning viewer, discuss funding sources, and for general assistance.

4. Start your sign plan. Depending on your comfort level with computer use and digital tools, this may be done mostly independently or in close collaboration with National Trails staff.

A large brown sign at the entrance to el Golondrinas, wrapped in adobe.


5. Notify National Trails staff when your first draft is complete. If needed, we will suggest changes to be consistent with other national historic trail signing or to ensure it complies with road safety standards.

6. Review the plan with a National Trails staff member to finalize sign types and locations and to plan for implementation. Once finalized staff will run and send a sign plan report for your project, which provides information on the sign types used, proposed sign locations, and all necessary installation location information.

7. Obtain signed jurisidication agreement forms (for road sign plans). Jurisdictions may include state departments of transportation, counties, cities, or other landowners/managers. Contact all involved road jurisdictions and send them the project sign plan report and agreement form. NPS will provide the agreement form(s).

Note: For pedestrian sign plans, the land manager only needs to verbally agree to install the signs according to the final sign plan. Once these steps are completed and funding is available, signs can be ordered and shipped directly to the road jurisdictions or land managers for installation. Total time to completion depends on many variables, including the plan size and complexity, availability of funding, and the speed of approvals. However, finalizing the sign plans and gaining the approval of the jurisdictions are the bulk of the work in signing the NHT.

Last updated: February 6, 2020