• Photo of early morning clouds hanging low in the valley with mountains of the Continental Divide stretched out above. NPS Photo/Schonlau

    Rocky Mountain

    National Park Colorado

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace is a national program which promotes the protection of our nation's wildlands through education, research, and partnerships. Leave No Trace teaches minimum impact hiking and camping skills and wildland ethics and builds awareness, appreciation, and respect for our public recreation places. The four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all promote the Leave No Trace message. Working with outdoor retailers, educators, and user groups these federal agencies are helping to make Leave No Trace the common language for all outdoor enthusiasts.

With increasing visitor use, both day and overnight, it is important to minimize our impacts and Leave No Trace of our visits to wilderness, parks and special other places. Trips that include awareness and the use of minimum impact practices conserve natural conditions of the outdoors which make the adventure enjoyable and allows others the same experience.

Leave No Trace is simple, whether you are hiking and camping in the park's wilderness or driving Trail Ridge Road for an afternoon. At its heart it is a set of seven principles which can be applied in any natural setting to minimize human impacts on the environment. Following the Leave No Trace principles and combining them with your personal judgment, awareness, and experience will help protect precious park natural and cultural resources and preserve the park experience for you and for future visitors.

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable Surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Please learn and practice Leave No Trace skills and ethics and pass them on to those you come in contact with. It's easy to enjoy and protect the park simultaneously.

For more information stop by the park's Backcountry Office, or visit the Leave No Trace website.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know and obey the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Be physically and mentally ready for your trip.
  • Know the ability of every member of your group.
  • Be informed of current weather conditions and other area information.
  • Know and accept risks associated with backcountry experiences.
  • Take responsibility for yourself and your group.
  • Always leave an itinerary with someone at home.
  • Choose proper equipment and clothing in subdued colors.
  • Plan your meals and repackage food into reusable containers.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

While Traveling:

  • Stay on designated trails and hike single file. Never shortcut switchbacks.
  • When traveling crosscountry, choose the most durable surfaces available: rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. Spread out so that you don't grind a path where one didn't exist before.
  • When you stop to rest, be careful not to mash vegetation. Sit on rocks, logs, or in clearings.

At Camp:

  • Camp safely away from standing dead trees as near as is safely possible to the metal arrowhead and post that marks the site.
  • Restrict activities to the area where vegetation is compacted or absent.
  • Use a large plastic water container to collect water so you don't need to make frequent trips to the water source.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • There are pit toilets at many backcountry sites. Use them.
  • If there are no pit toilets nearby, urinate or defecate at least 200 feet (75 adult paces) from water, camp, or trails.
  • Urinate in rocky places that won't be damaged by wildlife who dig for salts and minerals found in urine.
  • Deposit human waste in cat holes dug 6-8 inches deep. Carry a small garden trowel or lightweight scoop for digging. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished, or pack out solid waste.
  • Use toilet paper sparingly and pack it out along with sanitary napkins, and tampons in an airtight container. Consider using natural toilet paper such as a smooth rock or soft pinecone.
  • Wash your dishes and yourself at least 200 feet (75 adult paces) from water sources, and use small amounts, if any, of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Strain food scraps from wash water and pack them out.
  • Pack everything you bring into the backcountry back out.
  • Inspect your campsite for trash and evidence or your stay. Pack out all trash: Yours and others'.

Leave What You Find

  • Treat our natural heritage with respect. Leave plants, rocks, and historical artifacts as you find them.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site should not be necessary. Don't build structures or dig trenches.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Speak softly and avoid making loud noises. Allow for others to enjoy the peace and solitude of being in the backcountry.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Always use a lightweight, portable stove for cooking. A campfire is a luxury, not a necessity.
  • Enjoy the sounds and wonders of the darkness, or use a candle lantern instead of a fire.
  • Where fires are permitted, use the metal fire grate. Don't scar large rocks by using them to enlarge the fire area.
  • Gather dead and down sticks, no larger than an adult's wrist, from a wide area, and leave them in their natural form until you are ready to burn them. Scatter any unused sticks.
  • Do not snap branches off live, dead, or downed trees.
  • Put out campfires completely.
  • Remove, and pack out, all unburned trash from the fire grate. Scatter the cold ashes over a large area well away from camp.

Respect Wildlife

  • Enjoy wildlife at a distance.
  • Never feed wildlife.
  • A carry-in/carry-out bear-resistant food storage canister is required May - Oct for all backcountry sites below treeline.
  • Minimize noise.
  • Avoid sensitive habitat.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Visit the backcountry in small parties. More people means more impact.
  • Avoid popular areas during times of high use.
  • Avoid conflicts.
  • Minimize noise.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Take breaks and rest well off the trail, on a durable surface of course.
  • Yield to horse traffic.

Download the Leave No Trace poster

Did You Know?