leave no trace

Leave No Trace – The Seven Principles

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leave no trace

We love to be out in nature camping, hiking, or just enjoying everything it has to offer. It is a place that many of us go to get away from what most call “life.” Sadly others not so much. Others go to vandalize, trash, and even worse, disturb our ecosystems and those who live amongst it. I want to go over Leave No Trace’s Seven Principles for these various reasons. I feel that by raising awareness on the issue and spreading light on these principles we can have a positive impact on our planet.

You can find the seven principles here.


The Leave No Trace Seven Principles are the bedrock of the Leave No Trace program. They provide guidance to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. The principles have been adapted so they can be applied in your backyard or your backcountry.

Note: click any of the headers below for a much deeper explanation on each principle.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
    • In popular areas:
      • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
      • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
      • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
      • In pristine areas:
      • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
      • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

leave no trace

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the environment. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

leave no trace

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.


There are many things that you can do to make a difference and have a positive impact on our world. Here are a few things that you can do to help reduce our footprint in nature.

  • Pick up trash on your hikes. I always carry a trashbag to pick up other people’s trash and carry out my own.
  • Pack out what you packed in. Never leave your trash behind. Always carry it back out and dispose of it properly. Recycle what you can.
  • Coordinate a cleanup day. It is always fun to get a group of friends together and do a cleanup. It can be a park cleanup, beach cleanup, you name it. Make it fun. Afterwards head over to a coffee shop or a hike as a reward.
  • Volunteer to clean up or attend a cleanup event. Many community’s have cleanups scheduled throughout the year and they are always looking for volunteers. This is a great way to get involved in your community, meet new people, and even do good for Mother Earth.

  • Adopt a trail. Some places have the option for you to adopt a trail. I would Google “adopt a trail in (city, state that you live in)” to get the programs available near you.
  • Raise awareness. Tell your friends and family about these principles and how they can make a difference. Share pictures of you volunteering and raising awareness and they will eventually start to join you on this mission.
  • Teach your children to love and care for our world. I believe that it all stays with a good foundation. It is up to us (the parents) to teach our kids how to cause a positive impact on our planet. By doing so you will also be doing cleanups with them, bonding and spending more time together, and best of all… passing good values to your kids.

Disclaimer: The Walking Mermaid is in no way affiliated with Leave No Trace. TWM is a blog focused on spreading awareness on certain enviromental issues in our world. TWM highly believes that these seven principles will help preserve our world and the natural habitats you visit. All of the principles are copyrighted to Leave No Trace. You can view copyright guidelines here.

To view all of our outdoor adventures go here.

Hi, I'm Jessica!

I am a wife and mother to three amazing kids. A coffee addict and wine lover. I also have a huge love for the mountains and the the ocean. Through my blog I hope to inspire families to spend more time outdoors. 


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