You may have heard about the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace – but do you know what they mean? Every year millions of Americans visit our parks, forests and deserts looking for adventure in the pristine wilderness. Sadly, every summer trails and recreation areas are littered with trash and damaged by hikers behaving badly.
While every kindergartener knows that littering is bad, even seasoned hikers might find themselves wondering, “can’t I just toss this apple core on the side of the trail?” Or, “will it really matter if I take a shortcut?”
If you are hiking in the backcountry, or even your own backyard, how do you know what to do? The answer is, “Leave No Trace.”
The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace for hikers and campers are easy guidelines for best behavior when exploring outdoors. In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know about minimizing your impact on nature and leaving the wilderness just as beautiful as you found it.
What is Leave No Trace?
The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace (or LNT) were first developed as a series of educational initiatives by the US Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. In the 1960’s hiking, camping and backpacking exploded in popularity. As visitors flocked to public lands, many outdoor spaces were in danger of being “loved to death.”
In response, wilderness managers developed educational programs to teach and promote sustainable behavior in the outdoors. Over many years, those programs have evolved into what is now known as Leave No Trace. The nonprofit organization LNT, Inc. now exists to promote ethical outdoor behavior and educate the public on LNT principles.
The 7 Principles of LNT were originally developed with backcountry camping and hiking in mind. When traveling in the backcountry, there are few to no established trails and campsites, and human behavior leaves an exponentially bigger impact on the land. The Principles are now adapted to apply to every kind of outdoor activity – whether rock climbing, boating, or hiking.