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Make Like a Tree and Leave No Trace

Please Practice Leave No Trace

So, I’m running the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim later this year. This’ll be my birthday run. 42 miles of trail running for my upcoming 42nd birthday. As I’ve been piecing together my plan, I’ve been tooling around the Grand Canyon website and have been happy to see their promotion of the Leave No Trace principles.

I’ve spent countless hours in the wilderness and open spaces the last 25 or 30 years so these principles seem pretty common sensical. But, we all know what they say about common sense. I can tell you that based on my last camping trip up on Guanella Pass in Colorado, there’s a nearly epidemic shortage of common sense in the backcountry. So, just for good measure, I thought it would be a nice reminder to us all to read the 7 principles of takin’ ‘er easy on ol’ Mother Nature.

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.

Steve Lemig

Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Managing Editor at Road Runner Sports for the last 11 years.