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Tread Lightly! Tips for Responsible Hiking

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Tread Lightly! Tips for Responsible Hiking

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Travel responsibly on designated roads and trails or in permitted areas.

  • Stay on the trail even if it is rough and muddy. Walking on the track edge and cutting switchbacks increase damage and cause erosion and visual scarring.
  • Walk single file to avoid widening the trail.
  • If there are no trails, and hiking is permited, spread out in open country. Spreading out, rather than following each other’s footsteps, disperses impact and avoids creating a new trail.
  • Flagging and marking trails is unsightly. If flagging is necessary, remove flags as you leave.
  • Comply with all signs and barriers.
  • Buddy up with two or three hikers. Traveling solo can leave you vulnerable if you have an accident.

Respect the rights of others including private property owners and all recreational trail users, campers and others to allow them to enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed.

  • Be considerate of others on the road or trail.
  • Leave gates as you find them.
  • If crossing private property, be sure to ask permission from the landowner(s).
  • Keep the noise down.
  • Be especially cautious around horses, bikes and motorized vehicles. Stay to the right of the trail and let them pass.

Educate yourself by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies, planning for your trip, taking recreation skills classes, and knowing how to use and operate your equipment safely.

  • Obtain a map of your destination and determine which areas are open to your type of travel.
  • Make a realistic plan, and stick to it. Always tell someone of your travel plans.
  • Contact the land manager for area restrictions, closures, and permit requirements.
  • Check the weather forecast for your destination. Plan clothing, equipment, and supplies accordingly.
  • Carry a compass or a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and know how to use them.
  • Carry water and emergency supplies even on short hikes.
  • Choose appropriate footwear for the terrain. Solid, lightweight walking boots are best. Sandals can be used on trail in summer and around your campsite.
  • Dress in layers and always carry a jacket. Weather conditions can change unexpectedly.
  • Your pack weight should not exceed 1/3 of your body weight.

Avoid sensitive areas such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams, unless on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitat and sensitive soils from damage.

  • Other sensitive habitats to avoid unless on designated routes include cryptobiotic soils of the desert, tundra, and seasonal nesting or breeding areas.
  • Avoid disturbing historical, archeological, and paleontological sites.
  • Avoid “spooking” livestock and wildlife you encounter and keep your distance.
  • Motorized and mechanized vehicles are not allowed in areas designated Wilderness.

Do your part by leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species, restoring degraded areas, and joining a local enthusiast organization.

  • Carry a trash bag and pick up litter left by others.
  • Pack out what you pack in.
  • Repackage snacks and food in baggies. This reduces weight and amount of trash to carry out.
  • In areas without toilets, use a portable latrine if possible and pack out your waste, otherwise it’s necessary to bury your waste. Human waste should be disposed of in a shallow hole (6”-8” deep) at least 200 feet from water sources, campsites, or trails. Cover and disguise the hole with natural materials. It is recommended to pack out your toilet paper. High use areas may have other restrictions so check with a land manager.
  • Following a hike, wash your gear and support vehicle to reduce the spread of invasive species.

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