Nothing ruins a hiking trip more than stumbling upon a pile of garbage left behind by the people before you.  Keep the wilderness wild by following the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare- Know where you’re going and if there are any special permits or requirements that you must follow. Did you know that on Mt. Rainer your group cannot be any larger than 12 people due to the classification as a wilderness area?
  2. Be Considerate of Other Visitors- Nobody likes a noisy neighbor especially when you’re in the wilderness. Be courteous and respect those around you. Keep your camp noise level to a minimum. If you know you’re going to be a little rowdy, make sure you contact your neighbors or set your camp up out of earshot of other groups in the area.
  3. Travel and Camp On Durable Surfaces-  Did you know there is name for that little path between the switch backs? It’s called a desire path because it is the shortest or most easily navigated way. Don’t take the desire path! These paths can destroy valuable habitat and plant life. Make sure you walk straight down the trail, even if it is the muddier way.  Place your tent in an area that will have the least amount of impact.
  4. Leave What you Find- While that little seashell will make a great memento of your trip to the beach, it will make an even better home for a hermit crab. Leave things the way you found them so that others can enjoy Mother Nature the way she created it au natural.
  5. Respect Wildlife- While it may seem like fun to let your kids run loose and chase the ducks away from the lake, it could be chasing them away from their nest; leaving their young exposed to predators. NEVER feed the wildlife! Wild animals were not meant to eat human food and it can damage their health.
  6. Minimize Campfire Impacts- Only light fires in areas that are designated locations like fire rings or in a fire pan.  Instead of lighting a fire for cooking, use a backpacking stove. It will cook your food much faster and save your pots from scalding.
  7. Dispose of Waste Properly-  This one is a necessary evil, nobody likes packing out garbage and human waste. Yellowstone National Park boasts more than 3 million visitors per year.  Everyone has to use the bathroom, and that waste has to go somewhere. Think about that.  If no one dug cat holes in the woods, a walk through the park would more closely resemble a walk through the mine fields with little white toilet paper flags marking their path. Be sure to wash your dishes and relieve yourself more than 200 feet away from streams and lakes to avoid contamination of water sources.


Follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace on your next trip so that everyone can enjoy nature for years to come.

To learn more about LNT Principles, take a look at their website

Originally Published: May 27, 2014