Leave No Trace Principles
By USDA Forest Service

Thousands of visitors to public areas have a tremendous impact on the land. It's up to all of us to minimize our impact and to travel softly, leaving no trace of our visit so that future generations can enjoy the woods and mountains we all love. Be a low-impact hiker by following Leave No Trace principles.

These principles were developed in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Each Leave No Trace principle is grounded in scientific research, which provides the basis for guidelines that minimize hiker impacts in the backcountry.

The Leave No Trace principles include:

Plan Ahead and Prepare   

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies.
  • Visit in small groups. Split larger parties into groups of 4-6.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces   

General guidelines:
  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grass or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.

In popular areas:
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.

In pristine areas:
  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly   

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.

Leave What You Find   

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts   

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.

Respect Wildlife   

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife can damage their health, alters natural behaviors and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors   

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.


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