Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Trail Tips

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Leave No Trace Principles

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses 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.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

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.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

© 2008 Leave No Trace.
This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:


  • Do not leave anything valuable in your car. If you do experience a break-in, be sure to report it to law enforcement authorities.
  • Do not leave food in your car or in a trail shelter. Any food that is left in an unsealed container is an attraction for wildlife. Bears have been known to break into cars if they smell food. Even unopened containers left in trail shelters have been broken into by wildlife. If you must leave food, use a bear-proof canister and secure it out of the reach of bears.
  • Do not drink unpurified water from open streams, lakes, or ponds. Bring water from home or use a water purifier.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Avoid dehydration by drinking water regularly. You know you are drinking enough if you urinate often and the urine comes out clear.
  • Avoid getting lost by staying with your group, staying on the trail, and paying attention to trail markers. If lost, either backtrack or use a cell phone to call for assistance.
  • Avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be deadly. Stay cool and avoid the sun in the heat of the day. Drink plenty of water. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that blocks and reflects the sun.
  • Avoid hypothermia by staying dry, wearing appropriate layered clothes (no cotton), avoiding exposure to wind, drinking plenty of water, and eating high-energy food in cold weather to stay warm. Hypothermia usually occurs gradually and hypothermic people are often not aware that they need help. Hypothermia can result in shivering, stumbling, slurred speech, reduced breathing rate, fatigue, and eventually cardiac and respiratory failure and death.
  • Avoid insect pests by learning which insects are prevalent in your area at the time you are on the trail, wearing protective clothing, avoiding perfumes, including perfumed hair sprays, shampoos, and soaps, and covering exposed areas of your body with insect repellent.
  • Avoid exposed areas when thunderstorms may occur. Take cover in advance of a storm and stay away from tall trees and bodies of water. Take off metal backpacks. Crouch down on dry ground with an insulating object under your feet.
  • Avoid poisonous plants by learning to recognize poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Avoid contact by wearing long pants and sleeves in areas where poisonous plants occur and washing your clothes when you leave the trail.
  • Be prepared for inclement weather by checking the weather forecast before you hit the trail. Be aware of signs of worsening weather and prepare to take an alternate route or return to your vehicle. Carry alternate clothing, plenty of food and water, and map and compass if necessary.
  • Be prepared for adverse trail conditions, including fallen trees, washouts, landslides, floodwaters, and patches of ice and deep snow.


The following general courtesy and etiquette guidelines may not apply to all trails or all uses. Be sure to follow any trail-specific guidelines posted on trailhead kiosks.

Bicyclists yield to pedestrians and equestrians, Runners and hikers yield to equestrians
  • Don't litter. Pack out your trash.
  • Take only pictures. Leave what you find.
  • Be friendly and courteous.
  • Stay on the trail. Shortcutting the trail and bypassing muddy areas destroys vegetation, leads to erosion, reduces habitat quality, and causes unsightly damage to the landscape.
  • Avoid using trails when they are excessively muddy.
  • Respect wildlife. Keep your distance. Never feed wild animals.
  • Respect private property.
  • Respect other visitors and their experience. Avoid excessive noise.
  • Use extra caution when using headphones. You may not be able to hear warnings.
  • Keep your dog under control at all times.
  • Keep yourself and your bike or horse under control and proceed at a safe speed and within your ability at all times. Anticipate other trail users around blind curves.
  • Share the trail. Keep to the right except to pass. When in doubt, give the other user the right of way. Warn people when you are planning to pass.
  • Bicyclists yield to pedestrians and equestrians. Runners and hikers yield to equestrians.