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Always Practice Leave No Trace Principles When Hiking & Recreating Outdoors

Learn the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, created by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, are the prime guidelines to use when hiking or recreating in the Adirondacks - or, anywhere else. Get a rundown of Leave No Trace below, and take the knowledge with you on your next hike!

Note: Although widely known and accepted, the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace are not static. They are constantly being reevaluated and updated.

Principle 1: Plan Ahead & Prepare

hiker reading a map at trailh ead

Planning ahead for your hike isn't just for your safety - it helps prepare you to Leave No Trace, and minimize any resource damage.

For example, planning ahead food-wise means a decrease in garbage. Most foods should be removed from commercial packaging and packed in sealable bags to go in your backpack. Then, empty bags can be placed inside each other, and used to carry out your trash. 

Principle 2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

water on trail

When hiking and camping you'll want to move through natural areas in a way that avoids damaging the land or water. Traveling on designated trails (including walking through mud and water, not around it) helps to preserve trailside vegetation and animal habitats, and reduces the chance that multiple routes will develop and blemish the terrain.

In the event that you do need to travel off trail, consider the durability of the surface you're traveling on. Rock, sand, gravel, ice, or snow are fairly durable surfaces, and can likely withstand your trek. Living soil, vegetation, and mud are not durable surfaces for traveling over.

Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly

trash in woods by water

It should go without saying not to leave trash in the woods or backcountry, and to carry out what you carry in. But, trash on trails continues to be a problem in the Adirondacks, as well as hikers not disposing of their or their pets' waste properly.

In most hiking situations, burying human feces is the best method to use. Here's how to properly go in the woods: 1) Find a spot at least 200 steps from any water source. 2) Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and bury human waste. 3) Pack out used toilet paper. Or, make use of porta-potties that are available at some trailheads (something to research when you Plan & Prepare!).

Remember, the water in the lakes and rivers you visit may flow into your own drinking supply. 

Principle 4: Leave What You Find

Photo credit: Alan Nudi

This principle, although simple, may not be as obvious as the others. But carving your initials into a tree, picking a pretty flower, or even clearing an area of rocks can be massive alterations to the environment, and can disturb land or wildlife.

Leave areas as you found them, and avoid taking rocks, plants, or other objects of interest with you. Take a photo instead!

Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts

no smokes or flames of any type sign

Do you need to build a fire when camping? Maybe, and it's certainly a deep-rooted tradition many families, couples, and friends enjoy. But the development of lightweight, efficient camp stoves has nudged a trend away from campfires. Stoves are easy to use, eliminate the need for firewood, and can operate in almost any weather condition.

If you do decide to build a campfire, know where you can and cannot build fires, purchase firewood locally (within 50 miles of where you'll be camping), and ensure that you or someone in your group possess the skills to properly build and extinguish a campfire. A true Leave No Trace campfire means no one will be able to tell you built a fire in that spot.

Principle 6: Respect Wildlife

poster on bears on tree

Quiet, far-back observation is key here. Do not disturb, approach, or feed wildlife. Avoid any action that causes them to flee, like trying to get closer to grab that perfect photo. Quick movements, loud noises, and other animals (like dogs) can stress out wildlife.

This principle also ties back to Dispose of Waste Properly, because you don't want to inadvertently introduce pollutants or disease to these majestic creatures or their environment.

Principle 7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors

hikers at a summit, some are taking selfies

This principle is an important one for the Adirondacks, which has seen a major increase in visitors over the past several years. Trails can get crowded or over-hiked, and too many people out and about takes away from the solitude that recreationists come to the Park to experience.

When hiking or camping, keep noise to a minimum. This doesn't just mean avoiding playing loud music, but also shouting to each other on the trail. Keep pets close to you and under control.

In addition to noise on the trails, being considerate of other visitors means recognizing that there are other recreationists enjoying the park. Hikers, hunters, campers, anglers, skiers, snowmobilers, and even equine enthusiasts are out enjoying the great Adirondacks. Practice trail etiquette with other hikers and recreationists, and know when to yield the right of way.

Learn more about Leave No Trace >>

Check current trail conditions to Plan Ahead & Prepare >>

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