Cairns Around the World

I remember coming across my first cairns on the beach at the Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island in Rhode Island and being drawn to the simplicity of these man-made objects that were at perfect balance with and enhancing the beauty of the nature around. Since then, I have come across them all over the world. My recent visit to the ancient cairn of Stonehenge made me wonder what draws man to stack rocks. Modern cairns are made just for their esthetics, our way of leaving a sustainable mark on places we visit. But through history they have been made as burial monuments, for religious ceremony and as property markers or directionals. Here are some other cairns my friends and I have come across in our travels.

Cathy Merrifield from RoarLoud

On our path we need guidance and direction at times, the route is not always clear.  In both hiking and life stay the course to reach your summit.

Cairn on Bond
The Bonds traverse in New Hampshire is a beautiful, challenging 19 mile hike that goes over 4 mountains that are higher than 4,000 feet. When bad weather rolls over these ridges cairns help guide your way.

Laura Lynch of Savored Journeys

Whistler, Canada

In Whistler, Canada, an Inuit Inuksuk (or cairn) was built for the 2010 Winter Olympics that were held in Vancouver and Whistler that year. The Inuksuk was built at the summit of Blackcolm Mountain and at the Whistler Olympic Park as a symbol of hope and friendship. It has become an unofficial symbol of Canada.

vancouver cairn
Vancouver, Canada
We saw these cairn rock formations that an artist had set up along the waterfront in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, last summer. The artist had put together an entire installation of them (dozens in total) and was selling postcard pictures of them to passersby.

Lauren Postgrads & Postcards

cairns around the world

I was driving the Ring of Kerry in County Kerry, Ireland early in the morning. This was 1 of 3 separate rainbows I saw! I remember feeling blue that morning but these rainbows turned it all around.

LeAnna Brown at The Economical Excursionist

cairns around the world

Settlers in the 9th and 10th Century would often build cairns in Iceland to mark their way. On this particular part of the Ring Road, it was believed that if you left a stone in this area that it would bring you good luck and fortune. Over time, travelers and people started forming them into cairns, spanning quite the distance.

Amar Hussain at Gap Year Escape

Photo by Amar Hussain

I found this Cairn on top of Mount Salen, Hammerfest which is located in the Arctic Circle in Norway.

My Visit to Upstate New York

Cairns around the world
Ornamental cairns at Robert Treman State Park near Ithaca, New York

You can read more about its hiking and swimming holes here.

Domonique Matthews at

Cairns Around the World
Ruby Beach, Washington

The impressive aspect of these cairns at Ruby Beach, Washington in the Olympic National Park, is the quantity of them. The beach has hundreds due to the large amount of rocks on the beach here.  They aren’t the biggest or tallest, but they are the most I’ve ever seen in one place!

Rob Taylor at

Cairns Around the World

Rock stacking has become more and more popular around natural areas in the Pacific Northwest.  Most commonly we see it along rivers that are more remote but frequented by hikers, but recently, we discovered a collection of cairns at the northern beach of Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington.  We always spend a moment making a stack or two, as it’s a great quick activity with kids, and here we found some stacks mimicking the nearby lighthouse at Point Wilson.
Stacking is a very zen activity.  That’s why we do it.  We’ve taught our oldest how to pick and stack rocks and he’s becoming quite the pro.  It’s a great way to calm him down when we hike or are at the beach.  Finding a place like Point Wilson where there were other visitors with the same thought was a treat and gave our son a great example of patience and sustainable fun.

My photo from Mohegan Bluffs, Rhode Island

Cairns in Rhode Island,
Block Island, Rhode Island, on the day I first became aware of cairns.

In the Deserts of California

What is on Zzyzx Road, California?
Even in the Mojave dessert in California on Zzyzx Road beautiful cairns can be found.

On the Summit of Tumbledown Mountain in Maine

Hiking in Maine's western mountains.
Me enjoying the summit of Tumbledown Mountain.

I love the idea that Rob is passing on to his children something that humanity has been doing for thousands of years. Another thing to show how connected people are.

Where have you seen the best cairns and how did they move you?

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