Many people shortcut switchbacks or create new trails trying to save time and energy. Cutting switchbacks or going around puddles, water bars and stream fording sites causes erosion and creates unsightly scars. Sturdy boots and gaiters protect feet from mud and water and make it easier to stay on the trail even in wet conditions.
Cross country travel:
If you travel off trail, try to avoid taking the same path time and again. Instead, move carefully, staying on durable ground, each person taking a slightly different route. This will help prevent creating new paths that might attract others.
Durable surfaces include rock, sand, forest leaf litter or dry grass. Avoid traveling through wet meadows, over leafy plants or on desert “cryptogam” (black, crusty soil), which are all fragile and show signs of foot prints or hoofprints for a long time.
Bicycles and motorized vehicles are allowed on designated trails and roads. Cross-country riding creates unnecessary new trails and causes erosion. Bikes and motor vehicles are not permitted in designated wilderness areas.
Ribbons, signs, cairns and blazed trees left to mark a path detract from the naturalness of an area. Discuss your planned route with group members so you don’t need such markers, and use maps and natural land marks to pinpoint your location. If you mark a route while hunting, remove markers as you depart.
A boat on the water leaves no trace but can cause damage at landing sites.
Choose a sandy, rocky or established landing site, below high water if possible. Avoid tide pools, coral reefs or sites rich in wildlife when pulling boats ashore.
Designated or established campsites lessen damage to surrounding vegetation by concentrating impacts in already disturbed or barren areas. Choose an established campsite that is at least 200 feet (70+ adult steps) from water, meadows and trails when possible. Local regulations may require more distance.
When there are no established sites, place your camp-especially the kitchen-on a durable surface 200 feet from water and trails to minimize impact. Disperse your activities to avoid creating new paths to shelters, water or equipment. Before leaving camp, disguise the site by replacing rocks as you found them, and scattering leaves, twigs, or rocks around the site.
Good campsites can be found on raised areas with a slight slope. These drain well, making trenching around tents unnecessary. Set your camp behind trees, rocks or shrubs to give yourself and others more privacy. Beware of standing dead trees, avalanche areas, potential hazards from falling rocks or flash-flood sites.
When traveling by boat, the most durable surfaces may be close to water and below the high-water line: use these, when appropriate, being cautious of tides or changing water levels due to storms or dam releases.
In bear country, separate sleeping areas from food and cooking areas by 100 feet or more. Food and strong odors attract bears. Store food and scented toiletries well off the ground (10-12 ft high), or in approved storage containers.
Limit your stay to as few nights as possible to avoid accumulation of waste, garbage, and injury to plants. This also makes it easier to LEAVE NO TRACE of your visit when you depart.