Remote or pristine areas, often referred to as being “off-trail,” are typically seldom visited and show little sign of human use. The Northeast’s extensive trail systems provide a great variety of hiking routes and access to most popular destinations. With no established path, terrain is often difficult, and vegetation thick. As such, there is little need to travel off-trail. However, if you do choose to explore beyond the established trails, go only if you have knowledge of minimum-impact practices and a commitment to Leave No Trace.
Keep group size small to avoid both environmental and social impact. Apply your judgment to determine the minimum safe group size when traveling off-trail, but it should not exceed four to six people. For a group larger than this, off-trail travel is not recommended.
Utilize durable surfaces and spread out while hiking. Walk on rock, sand, gravel, snow, pine needles and leaf litter whenever possible. Dry grasses and sedges are also reasonably resistant to impact because of their hardy root structures and flexible stems. Fan out while hiking to minimize the amount of trampling done to vegetation and to prevent the creation of new trails.