There’s no better way to social distance than by getting outside. Whether you’re a first-time hiker visiting the region or someone who frequents the trails, we all have one thing in common: a desire to enjoy the great outdoors. Leave No Trace is an organization with a mission to protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. It’s the best way to minimize our impact on the outdoors.
To ensure our trails and open spaces stay beautiful for all to enjoy for years to come, we encourage everyone to learn and practice Leave No Trace principles. Looking to do your part? Follow these seven tips before hitting the trails!
1. Plan Ahead & Prepare
Planning before a trip seems like a no brainer, but it often goes overlooked when it comes to the outdoors. Lack of planning can lead to damage of natural resources and unsafe conditions. Before heading out, make sure to research the trails, know what weather and conditions could arise, pack for all possibilities and bring plenty of snacks and water.
2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
When traveling in the outdoors, it’s important to avoid damage to land and waterways. Use proper trails and never cut the switchbacks. When going off trail in the backcountry to search for bathroom privacy or a camping site, be mindful of the vegetation and surface durability. Rock, sand, gravel and even ice and snow are examples of highly durable surfaces that can withstand a lot of traffic.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Everyone’s gotta go when spending a lot of time outdoors with no bathroom in sight – just make sure to choose your location properly to reduce negative impacts on the outdoors. For example, you can dig cat holes at least 200 feet from water, trails and camp. Make sure the hole is 6-8 inches deep and find a site with deep, organic soil. Toilet paper should be used minimally and can be thoroughly buried in a cat hole (if it’s plain and non-perfumed) or packed out. Always pack out all garbage, including organic trash like orange and banana peels, apple cores or nut shells, which can be dangerous to wildlife.
4. Leave What You Find
We’ve all been tempted to take a piece of nature home with us, but doing so can damage areas and ruin others’ experiences. It’s important to leave sites as you find them. Avoid leaving your mark by carving into trees or spray-painting rocks and don’t take any natural objects or artifacts. Even the simple act of picking a few flowers can be damaging if everyone were to do so.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
Building a campfire can be fun, but it can also be super risky. Certain areas have been impacted by the overuse of fires, and fires are often banned if a region is currently under a fire danger warning. Stoves are a great alternative to fires. If campfires are allowed, choose areas where you can eliminate all evidence of the fire afterward. Use existing fire rings rather than building new ones, construct a mound fire or use a fire pan.
6. Respect Wildlife
While it’s great to capture photos of animals in their natural habitat, it’s important to avoid getting too close and observe them quietly. Movements and loud noises can be very disturbing to animals. Never touch or feed wildlife, as these actions can put you at risk of catching diseases and the animal at risk of abandonment and malnourishment.
7. Be Considerate of Others
People want to get outdoors and enjoy it without others intruding on their experience. Make sure to keep music low or in your earbuds while hiking or camping so you don’t disturb others. Avoid peak times to ensure you can space out effectively. Learn the general trail rules like who should yield to whom. Typically, downhill hikers will yield to uphill hikers, hikers will yield to equestrians and bicyclists will yield to hikers and equestrians. Keep pets on leashes at all times unless in a designated no-leash zone. Be kind and mindful.