In Minecraft, it's useful to know which way is north in order to determine how to manipulate mine cart tracks. Usually, people keep track of which way is north by placing torches on the northern walls of their mine shafts. How can you initially determine which direction you are facing? (Above ground)
Above ground, you can use the sun or moon to orient yourself. They both rise in the east and set in the west. Also, according to an answer here, you can punch the ground, and the pattern of cracks will always be oriented the same way relative to north.
Finally, there are third-party mapper programs that you can use to orient yourself (although I haven't used any and can't vouch for them). Some players might consider this cheating, or at least unsporting.
1Whoops didn't notice the question you linked; I think my question might be a duplicate. Oct 9, 2010 at 18:47
@Kevin, it's not :)– badpOct 9, 2010 at 18:52
In versions prior to beta 1.9.4 (and the XBox version), the Sun rises at the "top of the map". So either you are holding the map with North on the left (unconventional), or the Sun actually rises in the North and sets in the South! minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Day-Night_Cycle– BradCJun 13, 2012 at 19:54
Using cobblestone, there is an "L" shape in the block looking at it from the top. When the "L" is in the top left corner and right side up, then you are facing north.
Please refer to this awesome paint diagram.
Note: Once seen, can not be unseen.
Also works on netherrack.
+1, due to the availability of cobblestone, this is a much better answer than most of the others. It's what I use.– zzzzBovMay 24, 2011 at 22:44
I think this is the best method of determining north. It works when you can't see the sun, only requires common materials, and works even in the nether. May 25, 2011 at 4:56
21.8 update: Jeb has announced a new texture for cobblestone, which means the 'L' method will no longer work. No change has been announced for the netherrack texture, though, so this method may still work with netherrack. Jun 30, 2011 at 19:15
The new cobblestone texture has appeared in 1.7, and it still has an 'L', although the 'L' is now in the top right of the block. Jul 1, 2011 at 23:08
In addition to what sjohnston said, clouds always move west.
This to me is the easiest way. May 25, 2011 at 11:34
Clouds move towards west since a long time ago. Jul 13, 2013 at 8:52
@AlvinWong Thanks! I haven't played Minecraft in quite a while, so I didn't realize this changed. I've updated my answer. Jul 13, 2013 at 10:48
A great trick is to use redstone ore. When you place down the redstone, there is a cross shape on the block. On two of the 4 arms, there are rectangle shapes. When you orient yourself so that one of the rectangles is to the left and one is in the front, you're facing north.
Can you give us a picture of what this looks like? Nov 9, 2010 at 21:43
minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Redstone_(wire) should work. I can't put up a picture right now as i am operating under a firewall that blocks Mineapedia; i can't download the image. Sorry.– Nick HNov 9, 2010 at 21:47
2I'll insert it for you. Nov 9, 2010 at 22:09
1Brant user posted this in the chat: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/143539#143539 It shows how you can use the Cobblestone and Hellstone texture to orient yourself. But be careful! What is seen can't be unseen! Nov 13, 2010 at 12:36
1This no longer works, as the redstone texture has been changed.– ResorathDec 15, 2011 at 23:04
Press F3 to get the debug menu, then look under the x, y, z coordinates and see the letter "f". This gives you the direction you're facing (0 south, 1 west, 2 north, 3 east).
If you need more help then you can also go to the Minecraft wiki and look up anything you may need.
The current answers are excellent. You could also try Zan's Minimap Mod, which works in both SSP and SMP. However, since Minecraft 1.6 is releasing this week, and one of the new features is going to be a map, this mod may become obsolete very soon.
You can also set waypoints with it.
EDIT: Since the maps of Minecraft 1.6 are virtually useless, I've just installed the new update for this mod, which now displays coloured wool as the appropriate colour, and as a bonus, no longer requires Modloader to install. I'll also include a video of the mod in action.
1Handheld maps, mind. If people aren't able to read the maps (and thus orient themselves) mods like this will still be better, and will probably remain simpler to use to boot. May 25, 2011 at 0:20
There is a program called cartographer, and if you build an arrow on the ground and then load your map in cartographer, you can see what direction your arrow is pointing...
But if you know the direction of the sun moon and clouds, you can then orient yourself from there.
Consider building landmarks to keep yourself oriented quickly
This is an old question, but now you can easily see the direction you're facing in the F3 stats:
Look for the field that says "Facing", on the left. It will be north, south, east, or west.
Thank goodness. I was looking at all these weird, time consuming answers about small texture details. I was beginning to think nobody else knew about just hitting F3 Aug 5, 2016 at 13:59
@MacedonZero there's one other answer that mentions F3, but it must be for an older version. Nobody's probably been on this question since they added this to F3. Aug 8, 2016 at 2:02
If you have a few minecart tracks available, you can use the south-west rule to orient yourself. There are two ways:
Orienting yourself using cross-intersections (and a minecart)
You need one minecart and at least 5 track pieces.
Lay out two cross-intersections (or lay out one, destroy, and lay out the second). Then, put a minecart on it, push the minecart and watch the direction it moves when hitting the cross.
Look at this image from Minecraft wiki to understand what I mean.
Orienting yourself using T-intersections
You need 4 track pieces.
The T-intersections also try to follow the south-west rule when they are laid out on the ground. If they are unpowered (no button or redstone powering the T), the curve will try to point to south-west. So, if you lay out two T-intersections, you can orient yourself.
Look at this image from Minecraft wiki to understand what I mean.
You can find East by keeping a sunflower handy. When placed, sunflowers always face east.
A map can easily and precisely tell you which direction you're facing.
Craft a map, put paper around it until it's the largest size, and you can easily determine your direction at any time in a large area.