Leave No Trace: 6 Tips for Visiting the National Parks

The national parks are some of our country’s greatest national treasures—so it’s important that while we enjoy them, we also take care of them, especially when hiking and camping in backcountry areas. To help keep the parks pristine, visitors need to take an active role in maintaining them. Here’s how you can make the most of the national parks and make sure you leave no trace:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Hiking in the backcountry is inherently risky. Three miles of hiking at the high elevations in Wyoming may be much harder than three miles in your neighborhood park back home. Choose appropriate routes for mileage and elevation gain with this in mind, and carry hiking essentials.

Man hiking in mountains
Keep elevation in mind when planning a backcountry hike. Photo © Camila Picolli/iStock.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

In front-country and backcountry campgrounds, camp in designated sites. Protect fragile plants by staying on trails even in mud, refusing to cut switchbacks, and walking single file. If you must walk off the trail, step on rocks, snow, or dry grasses rather than wet soil and delicate plants.

Leave What You Find

Flowers, rocks, and fur tufts on shrubs are protected park resources, as are historical and cultural items. For lunch stops and camping, sit on rocks or logs where you find them rather than moving them to accommodate comfort.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Make fires in designated fire pits only, not on beaches. Use small wrist-sized dead and downed wood, not live branches. Be aware: Fires and collecting firewood are not permitted in some places in the parks.

Bonfire at campsite
For bonfires, stick to designated fire pits. Photo © James Mahan/iStock/

Respect Wildlife

Bring along binoculars, spotting scopes, and telephoto lenses to aid in watching wildlife. Keep your distance. Do not feed any wildlife, even ground squirrels. Once fed, they can become more aggressive.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

In particular, be aware of cell phones and how their use or noise cuts into the natural soundscapes of the parks.

For more information on Leave No Trace, visit www.LNT.org.

Happy camping!

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