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. Know Before You Go
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. Stick To The Trails
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. Leave It As You Find It
We all enjoy discovering beautiful plants, rocks historical and cultural items. It's important we leave them as we found them so everyone can experience the joy of discovery. NEVER leave 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.
4. Trash the Trash
Pack in the beautiful views by packing out the trash and leaving a place better than you found it. And make sure not to forget the peels and cores. Just because it’s good for you, doesn’t mean it’s good for the wildlife. No bathroom around? No worries. Be prepared with a disposable WAG bag (found in most outdoor stores), and conveniently pack out your waste. Alternatively, find privacy 70 steps from any water and the trail, dig a 6- to 8-inch hole and then bury your business.
5. Be Careful with Fire
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. Keep Wildlife Wild
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. And if you’re ever unsure if you are too close, follow the rule of thumb: If you can cover the entire animal with your thumb, you’re at a safe distance.
7. Share Our Trails & Parks
People want to get outdoors and enjoy it without others intruding on their experience. Make sure to keep 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. Downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. All hikers yield to equestrians and wheelchair users. Bicyclists yield to hikers and equestrians. Keep pets on leashes at all times unless in a designated no-leash zone. Be kind and mindful.
Interested in getting more involved with Leave No Trace or want to learn more about the 7 principles? Visit www.lnt.org. You can also learn more at Care for Colorado.