Leave No Trace

layers of carvings in a red rock
Layers of graffiti on a boulder


Responsible Enjoyment

Leave No Trace is a national program that protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. The seven principles of Leave No Trace promote responsible outdoor recreation by building awareness, appreciation, and respect for public lands. The seven principles are:

To learn more, visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website.

Characters carved into a rock wall stand out brightly next to historic inscriptions
Rangers are seeking more information about graffiti in the Capitol Gorge area from April 2023. This large carving damaged an area of historic inscriptions which are valuable cultural resources.


Graffiti and Vandalism

Your eyes stare in wonder, your breath catches, and you can’t stop taking pictures. Surrounded by such beauty, it’s easy to see why this place was deemed worthy of protection as a national park. Capitol Reef National Park is an exceptional place—with a very common problem: graffiti on those unique and beautiful rocks.

You might be shocked: “Graffiti? In a national park?” Nearly every day, rangers find words or shapes drawn, carved, scratched, or painted on rocks at Capitol Reef. Over one million people visit every year, and many may not know that all graffiti in the park is vandalism—no matter how small or superficially drawn.

Leaving a mark is in our nature. Across the Colorado Plateau, American Indians, settlers, and cowboys all left signs of their presence. These marks are part of regional history, dating back more than one thousand years. But the world is a different place now: there are more people and more choices in how we express ourselves. Writing on the walls isn’t necessary, and in a national park, it’s illegal.

Yet graffiti keeps appearing throughout the park: on rock walls, on boulders, even across ancient petroglyphs. It is a growing problem facing many national parks, as you may have seen in recent news stories. Removing graffiti takes time, money, resources, and a lot of hard work. Depending on the type of graffiti, park staff may use brushes and spray bottles, or grinders and sledge hammers to remove it.

Even if the graffiti is removed, the rock is still discolored. It will never be the same.

park ranger removing graffiti with water and a soft brush
Park employee working to remove graffiti with water and a brush


How to Help

Will you help stop this problem? Instead of carving on the rocks, there are many other ways to mark your journey here: a spectacular photo, an unforgettable hike, a quiet moment of reflection. Share your experiences on social media, write a postcard or letter, or call your friends to tell your story. Be inspired by the National Park Service mission: “to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

Help protect Capitol Reef National Park by not leaving your mark. Make memories, take photos & leave no trace.

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) states that all acts of vandalism are illegal and are punishable by up to 2 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. Help spread the word and let others know that these activities are illegal.

Anyone with information concerning vandalism within Capitol Reef National Park should immediately contact the National Park Service. Report all crimes or suspicious activity to the Visitor Center or a National Park Service employee, or call the Capitol Reef tip line at (435) 425-4134. Reports can be anonymous.

Bumpy looking red sand with black tops under a Juniper tree
Biological soil crust

NPS / Shauna Cotrell

Don't Bust the Crust!

Biological soil crust, sometimes called cryptobiotic soil crust, is alive, and plays a crucial role in this desert ecosystem. Biological soil crusts help prevent erosion, by holding the soil in place, and trap water moisture in the soil. This black, bumpy crust can be damaged with a single footprint, and can take decades to regrow. Help protect the biological soil crusts by staying on existing trails; walking in sandy washes or on slickrock; and camping on durable surfaces.

Respect Wildlife

Help keep wildlife wild; for your safety as well as the health and safety of the animals. Please stay at least 30 feet (9.1 m) away, do not feed animals, pick up trash, do not leave food unattended, and keep pets on a leash.

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
4 minutes, 8 seconds

Watch this illustrated stop motion video about food conditioning, habituation, and what you can do to help keep the wild in wildlife!

Last updated: April 14, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775


Recorded park information available 24 hours a day. Phones are answered when staff is available. If no one answers, please leave a message, your call will be returned. Questions may also be sent to care_information@nps.gov.

Contact Us