Leave no trace

Footprints are okay. Anything else needs to stay in your pack.

One of the top environmental benefits of hiking is that it fosters an ethic of conservation. But hiking can also have detrimental effects on your woodlands. These include erosion, habituation of wildlife, introduction of invasive species damage to cultural and historic sites and litter.

Hiking can permanently change nature's playgrounds, unless we embrace a simple ethic: Leave no trace. So whether your trails cut through backcountry wilderness, “frontcountry” open space, or a little of both, keep these principles in mind the next time you set out:

  • Travel on Durable Surfaces: Keep on trails at all times, and avoid ecologically sensitive areas such as seasonal nesting or breeding areas, meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams. Walk in single file when on trails to prevent trails from widening. In open spaces, spread out so that your group's impact is distributed and no new trails are created.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly: Carry out everything that you brought in. And don’t forget to carry a trash bag when you set out. You may need it to pick up litter left by others.
  • Leave What You Find: Preserve the presentand the pastby leaving behind rocks, plants and any cultural or historic objects you find. Take a photo instead. And use caution to avoid introducing species that don’t belong.
  • Respect Wildlife: Keep your distance from wildlife, and avoid feeding them intentionally or unintentionallyby securely storing food and food waste. Control your pets or leave them at home.

Source: Adapted from the seven principles of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, Lnt.org

Learn more

Teach your kids and teens how to minimize their impact when hiking by using these helpful resources, also from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: The PEAK (Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids) program for young children and the Teen program.

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