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How to Leave No Trace on Your Adventure

Halie West Photography | Adventure Wedding Photographer


Table of Contents

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What is Leave No Trace and Why Is It Important?

Adventuring responsibly by Leaving No Trace ensures that wild places will stay wild for years to come. For me, this is the top reason to follow Leave No Trace Principles (LNT) while on any adventure. LNT was created to educate the public on how they can be better stewards for our wild places. The world is full of so many beautiful places that are worth protecting. Not only will the places we visit benefit from our practice of LNT, but so will we. Together we can create better outdoor experiences for all to enjoy. Learn how to leave no trace on your adventure by following these 7 LNT principles.

The 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Plan Ahead and Prepare

A well planned trip, especially in the backcountry, can result in a better trip. Knowing what the weather may be like, trail conditions, and what gear to bring is important. Spontaneous adventures can be amazing, but having some knowledge of the area you are visiting can help from something going wrong. Be prepared and have a backup plan. Adventures change and having knowledge of the area can cause a lot less stress.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Staying on trails, sand, or other durable surfaces is important to do in any ecosystem. Trails were put in place to minimize impact. When you go off trail you risk crushing vegetation or sensitive soils that are helpful to the environment. Some of this damage, like stepping on sensitive cryptobiotic soil in certain deserts, is practically irreversible. If we do our best to stay on trails we can minimize our impact and preserve places for years to come.

Dispose of Waste Properly

The outdoors is no place for waste, it is important to dispose of any waste properly. Above all this means packing out your trash and throwing it away so no wildlife can get to it. Even your poop should be packed out in wag bags. Pack it in, pack it out. Waste doesn’t stop at solid pieces of trash! Wastewater should always be dumped at least 200 feet away from water sources (lakes, streams, creeks, etc.).

Leave What You Find

The outdoors aren’t ours to take from. Natural resources you find are better used by wildlife and for preserving ecosystems. Taking cultural artifacts is definitely a huge no. Altering areas, digging holes, or moving rocks to form fire rings should be avoided- or at least returned to its natural state once you are finished. The golden rule is to leave nature as you found it.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Fires should only be built in areas that can sustain them. This is dependent on the time of year, ecosystem, restrictions in place, and amount of wood available. Bringing locally sourced firewood and using a designated fire ring is the best practice. Be sure to put your fire out completely. Burn all the wood in the ring, pour water over it, and stir it until it is no longer hot. Campfire can add warmth to any camping trip when done responsibly.

Respect Wildlife

Remember that you are in someone else’s home. The wildlife you may, and should, be stoked to see calls the beautiful place you are visiting home. Let them be at peace in their home and enjoy wildlife sightings from a safe distance. A good rule of thumb (literally) is to hold out your hand and see if your thumb can cover the creature from sight. If you can still see them you are too close and could be putting yourself at risk.

Be Considerate of Others

Everyone should have a positive outdoor experience. Playing disturbing or loud music, or having your dog off leash can cause disturbances to others. Instead, try using headphones and keeping your pup on leash. When hiking downhill always yield to those hiking uphill. While enjoying the outdoors, and in everyday life, it is important to keep others in mind.

Practicing LNT on Your Adventure

For Lovers

Hey people in love! If you are getting married in a wild place, such as a National Park, you should carry certain responsibilities to leave it better than you found it. This place is about to become very special to you. I’m sure you will want to see it thrive for generations to come. Follow all park regulations and rules. Have your ceremony on a durable surface or in a designated area- protect the plants! Remember that confetti is a huge no-no, and that decorations may need to be kept to a minimum. I’ve heard it’s good karma to stay on trail and pick up trash on your wedding day. If you have guests, be sure to teach them about LNT too! Take the time to learn how to leave not trace on your adventure. Together we can all be stewards for the great outdoors!

For Photographers

Hey fellow photographers! Educate yourself on LNT. Educate your clients on LNT. Talk about it in your posts and show you are following it in your photos and stories. What we post has an impact. It is up to us if that impact is positive or negative on the environment. We all can and should be better together. And it’s going to take everyone to protect our wild places. These 7 principles are a great place to start.

I practice LNT by picking up all the trash that I can on the trail. The day after a hike I tend to find wrappers in the pockets of my hiking clothes, or in the pockets of my pack. I take care to watch where I step, put out my campfires, and wave at the cute little deers from afar. Every time we go into nature we leave an impact no matter how careful we are to abide by LNT. Practicing LNT can help us to minimize this impact the best we can. In the end, all we can do is to do our best.

This guide is only an introduction on how to Leave No Trace on your adventure. Read through the Leave No Trace Center’s website for more information on how you can be responsible for public lands. Park rangers can also be a great resource for rules specific to the area you are adventuring in. Together we can be better stewards and make the outdoors enjoyable for all. Now get out there and go on your greatest adventure yet.

Looking to get married in a National Park? Check out my guide on how can create your dream wedding day.

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