Going outside is something we all love and want to do more of; that’s obvious. But how can we do it respectfully? If we want to enjoy our wild places for years to come, we need to tread lightly and in a way that preserves the pristine alpine lakes, meandering rivers, and expansive pine forests that make our planet special. Nothing ruins a nice hike like a careless piece of trash on the trail! As humans, it is our job to act as stewards of the outdoors, and that’s where the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles come into play.
What is LNT?
The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace are a guide for going outside. It lays out some fundamental rules about how you can experience the outdoors while leaving the least impact possible. It has roots in backcountry exploration but can be applied anywhere. Local parks, hiking trails— you name it! The concept can be extended to any activity in any location.
You can think of LNT as a code of ethics for anyone exploring the outdoors. It was established by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and has been widely adopted by outdoor enthusiasts, local governments, and even the National Park Service. At Peace, we fully support folks getting outside as much as possible! But we want it to be in a way that keeps it beautiful for everyone. Here are some best practices for enjoying and protecting our outdoor spaces.
Principle 1: Plan Ahead & Prepare
Check regulations in the area you’re heading to. Start on the website (if available) or talk to local rangers to ensure you’re up to date. Some areas may have fire restrictions, food storage rules, best hiking practices and more.
Principle 2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
We’re sure you’ve seen the signs that ask you to stay on the trail. It might be annoying if you want to take a short cut, but we beg you to heed the request! The less we tread, the more life we preserve. When you’re outside, stay off vegetation, stay on trails, and camp on maintained sites (rock, gravel, sand, or dry grasses). Remember, in the backcountry, campsites are found, not made. You shouldn’t have to clear out bushes or tie back trees to set up your tent. This helps minimize damage to delicate ecosystems and preserve the environment’s natural beauty.
Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out! That means all your food, your trash, and any remnants you might leave behind while outside. To be a true LNT hero, you’ll even pick up scraps you spill while cookin’. If you’re trying to reduce waste, you might even eat it. Remember to wash your dishes at least 200 feet away from your campsite and any natural water source. That also includes burying waste or using wag bags!
Principle 4: Leave What You Find
It can be difficult to leave the pretty rock you see on the trail, or to abstain from picking every single wildflower you come across. But it’s neater in nature; leave it where you found it! This helps preserve the natural beauty and lets the next person experience the same things as you.
Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts
We love a good bonfire and starry sky! Campfires are a-ok if done properly. Obviously, start by consulting principle number 1: make sure you’re allowed to have a fire. If you’re headed somewhere where fires are safe, use designated pits, rings, or mounds to minimize impact. Gathering fuel? Don’t cut it off a tree, even if the branch looks dead. Pick up things on the ground, or buy local firewood on your way into your campsite. Of course, make sure you completely put out your fire when you’re done enjoying the crackling flames.
Principle 6: Respect Wildlife
Wild animals are, well, wild. Some squirrels may be particularly bold after years of people feeding them crumbs, but you shouldn’t encourage that. As a general rule, don’t harass, feed, or approach them. Gaze at a distance at the spectacular beast you are so lucky to be in the presence of! This principle also includes proper food storage so animals don’t get your snacks. That might mean bear boxes or bags in some places depending on what’s out there.
Principle 7: Be Considerate of Others
Honestly, we think this applies to all parts of your life. But in the outdoors, there are some basic etiquette tips to keep in mind: camp far off the trail, yield to uphill hikers, make sure your pets are under control, and generally be cordial to others enjoying the outdoors like you!
LNT for the Best Outdoor Experiences
Now you know all about the seven principles of Leave No Trace, were any of them a surprise to you? Let us know in the comments!