Friends Don't Let Friends...Stay Inside*

*And Other Cautionary Tales

Sometimes it’s nice to find solitude in nature. Other times, it’s good to take a friend. Especially if that friend was going to binge watch Cobra Kai or Halloween instead of heading outside. Friends don’t let friends stay inside. And once you’re out in a park, there are certain other activities that friends never let friends do.

Friends don’t let friends move firewood.

man and woman sit by small campfire
Always use local firewood; it's often available for sale at visitor centers. Check with your park.


Nothing says camping like a blazing campfire, but if you move firewood from place to place, you may also accidentally carry invasive pests that could cause serious harm to a new area. That's why friends don't let friends move firewood. Use local firewood. Do not bring in firewood from outside the immediate area. (Check park websites for specific instructions). Learn other ways to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Friends don't let friends feed wildlife.

two people prepare meal in picnic area
Keep birds and other wildlife healthy by picking up everything after a picnic...down to the last crumb.


When visitors feed animals—either accidentally by leaving crumbs or on purpose by throwing bread to birds—it has a negative effect on wildlife. The healthiest diet for wildlife is whatever they naturally hunt, forage, or scavenge. Learn more about the Dangers of Eating Human Food for wildlife.

Friends don’t let friends stack rocks.

two people jump toward lakeshore
There are plenty of fun things to do when exploring national parks, like running and jumping...leave the rock stacking to professionals.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Swaffer (@swaffer_says)

Cairns are rock piles that guide hikers along trails. When authorized, they’re incredibly helpful. But in recent years, sometimes people like to stack rocks for fun. It’s important to leave rocks where they are; stacking them disrupts the natural plants and animals and it changes the views. Learn all about Rock Cairns.

Friends don’t let friends get too close.

two people watch moose across a lake
Check with the park you’re in, but the rule of thumb is to stay 25 yards from most wildlife, and 100 yards from predators like bears and wolves.

NPS/M. Reed

Watching wildlife is a fantastic activity to do in’s right up there with hiking and camping. But whether you’re birding or hoping to glimpse bison or moose, don’t get too close. It’s dangerous for you, your friends, and the wildlife. Before your next adventure, check out the 7 Ways to Safely Watch Wildlife.

Friends don’t let friends litter.

hands open trash can designed to keep bears out
It’s especially important to put trash in bear-proof bins when you’re in bear country!

NPS/M. Reed

You know the drill: Pack it in, pack it out. Give a hoot, don’t pollute. Don’t be a litterbug. Keep America Beautiful. Don’t Mess with Texas. Trash can be dangerous to our wildlife, and it looks gross. Friends Don’t Let Friends Litter, especially in our national parks.

Friends don’t let friends take dangerous selfies!

group poses for selfie
While we want you to capture all of the splendor of our amazing parks, do not put your life at risk for a picture.

NPS/Denali National Park/Mesner

National parks are perfect back drops for your vacation selfies. Some things just can’t be argued with. We know that, but we want you to be safe, too, so remember that friends don’t let friends take dangerous selfies. Keep a safe distance from wildlife, and make sure you have firm footing. We have a lot of tips on how to Keep Safety in the Picture.

Friends don’t let friends go off trail.

people climb paved trail with mountains in background
Designated trails help protect fragile plants and animals in our natural areas.

NPS photo/M. Reed

When park visitors walk off trail, we introduce the potential for harm to the beautiful plants, the soil, and the nearby wildlife. Going off trail increases risk to threatened or endangered plant species in some areas. Keep your buddies with you, on established trails, so we can all enjoy these beautiful places.

Friends don't let friends leave campfires unattended.

park ranger stirs coals in a campfire ring
Make sure your campfire is cool to the touch before leaving it unattended.


“Only you can prevent wildfires...” Yes, Smokey Bear was talking to you and your friends. Between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2019, 66% of fires in national parks were human-caused. Some of these undoubtedly came from unattended campfires or campfires that were not fully put out. So, remember, before you leave a campsite, make sure your campfire is cool to the touch; and if not, drown it with water until it is. Pay attention to any fire restrictions that may be in place at a park: it means fire danger is higher than usual, and it’s more likely a wildfire can start. Do your part and make Smokey’s day! For more campfire tips, visit our Campfire page.

Friends don't let friends fly drones.
text no drone zone
We know drones can be fun, but national parks are off limits to drone use. From noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, safety concerns, and wildlife harrassment, drones can negatively affect the experience for many visitors. Small drones have crashed in geysers in Yellowstone National Park, attempted to land on the features of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, been lost over the edge of the Grand Canyon, and been stopped from flying in Prohibited Airspace over the Mall in Washington DC. There are many other public lands where drones are allowed, including national forests, and Bureau of Land Management lands. But, also remember, even on other public lands, drones are prohibited in designated Wilderness areas or Primitive areas, and never fly your drone near a wildfire, because if you fly, we can’t.

Please keep all of these tips in mind, but most importantly, friends don’t let friends stay inside! Spending even just 30 minutes outside, in natural areas is good for your health. Grab a pal and go enjoy some time outdoors.

Last updated: November 8, 2021