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Leave No Trace – Outdoor Ethics

Everything we do, from planning and preparing before we arrive to packing out when we leave, protects and conserves RMNP and has a long-term positive impact just as everything counterintuitive to protection and preservation has long-term negative consequences.   One of the most important concepts of Outdoor Ethics here in Rocky and in all National Parks and Recreation Areas is Leave No Trace.   


The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace are:


1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Know the regulations and special concerns of the area; Be prepared for extreme changes in weather; Schedule wisely; Smaller groups leave less of a carbon footprint; Repackage food to minimize waste; Use a map and a compass instead of marking, flagging, or building rock cairns.


2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: established trails, campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses, or snow; camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams to protect riparian areas; Avoid altering the landscape in any way: Use existing sites and trails; Keep it small and simple; Walk single file in the center of trails; Play in sparsely vegetated areas; Avoid endangered or protected areas.


3. Properly Dispose of Waste: Pack it in, and pack it out. Leave no trash, food, litter, waste, TP or hygiene products behind. Use catholes for solid human waste as needed.  Use only biodegradable soap for washing and keep the water at least 200 feat from streams or lakes. Scatter used wash-water.


4. Leave What You Find Just As You Found It: Observe without touching or taking.   RMNP is an inter-dependent managed eco-system in which every creature and thing has a place and a purpose. Remember: It is illegal to remove antlers and other “earth souvenirs” from RMNP.   Do not build structures or furniture. Do not dig holes or trenches.


5. Minimize Campfire Impact: Many areas in RMNP and Estes Park are campfire and open fire restricted. If you must cook out there, please use the smallest possible camp stove only in approved areas. Where permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, grills, or mound fires. Keep all fires as small as possible. Use only ground-found or deadfall sticks that can be broken by hand for fuel.  Burn all wood and coals to ash.  Soak the fire pit or fire area to ensure the fire is completely out and scatter cooled ashes before leaving the site.


6. Respect Wildlife: Observe from a distance. Use the Zoom. Never feed, follow or predate wild life.  Secure all food to keep from inadvertently feeding wild life.  Avoid wild life during sensitive times. Never disturb mating, nesting, feeding, or birthing and raising young ones.  When in doubt, leave it alone. When concerned, call a responsible wild life responder. Never approach, touch or handle wild babies! You never know where Mom is and she’s probably a whole lot closer than you think.


7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Good manners are always appropriate. Be courteous. Yield to others on the trail; step to the downhill side of a trail when encountering pack stock; take breaks and set up picnics or wildlife viewing stations away from the flow of traffic on the trails, within stated boundaries, and in consideration of items 1-6 above!  Last of all, honor the natural beauty and serenity of the outdoors and all of nature’s creatures by speaking softly and minimizing sound.


For more information and additional resources regarding Leave No Trace please visit

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