Did you know that in New York State Parks alone there are over 2,000 miles of trails? That’s a lot of hiking, biking, running, and riding! From smooth paved paths, to steep rugged climbs, there’s a type of trail for nearly everyone. Often, trails are the only way we can get to special places like waterfalls, lakes, and mountain tops. Because trails are so popular, it’s important to know how to enjoy them responsibly so we can protect those special places for everyone.
Leave No Trace and the Seven Principles
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a non-profit organization that works to educate people on responsible ways to enjoy and experience the outdoors. To do this, they created the Leave No Trace Seven Principles (below) as guidelines you should follow every time you’re out in nature.
Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Here are some examples of how you can use the Leave No Trace Seven Principles next time you head out on a trail:
- Know Before You Go
Be prepared! Check the forecast and bring the right clothes for the weather. Use maps to make sure you know the route and you won’t get lost. Bring a water bottle and enough water to stay hydrated. Learn about the areas before you visit to make the most of your trip.
- Choose The Right Path
Follow the trail! Going off the trail damages plants and can create trails where they shouldn’t be. Read signs and follow trail markers so you won’t get lost. If you’re camping, look for a designated site to camp rather than creating a new one.
- Trash Your Trash
Pack out what you pack in! Don’t leave litter. Bring a baggie to store your trash and dispose of it properly when you leave. That includes food waste like apple cores and banana peels that don’t belong in nature.
4. Leave What You Find
Leave plants, rocks, and other natural features as you find them for others to enjoy. Treat living things with respect; don’t pull plants, break limbs, or carve on trees.
5. Be Careful With Fire
Follow the rules and don’t build fires where they aren’t allowed. If allowed, use an existing fire ring, keep the fire small, and only use down and dead wood. When done, douse with water to make sure fires are completely out and check the coals to make sure they are cold.
- Respect Wildlife
Observe animals from a distance; never approach, feed, or follow them. Human food is not healthy for animals and feeding them starts bad habits. If you bring a pet, make sure to keep them on a leash.
- Be Kind To Other Visitors
Share the trail and say hello! Have fun, but let others enjoy nature as well. Avoid loud noises and yelling. You’ll see more animals when you are quiet!
Trails are one of the best ways we can all get outside for fun, exercise, and adventure. Following the Leave No Trace Seven Principles is a great way to do your part and protect our trails and outdoor spaces for the future. To learn how you can plan for your next trail adventure, visit the State Parks Trail Tips page. For more information on Leave No Trace, visit their website.
See you on the trail!
Reference: © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.