Leave No Trace

People walk on a steep, eroding, dirt trail.
Many visitors fall in love with Glacier and then want to know how to reduce their footprint. NPS PHOTO

This is not a black and white list of rules or regulations. Rather, it is a way of thinking, an attitude, and an ethic, that helps us reduce our footprint on the places we love.

Rangers work at computers and help waiting visitors.
Glacier's rangers will be happy to help you figure things out but your trip will go much better if you research and plan ahead.  NPS PHOTO

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Start planning on Glacier’s Plan Your Visit Webpage.
  • Have a plan B and C. Things like fires, floods, and traffic, can close large areas of the park on short notice. Once inside the park there is little to no cell phone service available.
  • Expect crowds or schedule your trip to avoid times of high use. Glacier hosts more than three million visitors per year and almost all of them arrive between June and September.
  • Bike or walk or take the free shuttle whenever possible.
  • Bring your own reusable dishes and water bottles and avoid plastics. There are places to fill water bottles throughout the park.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.

A small signs says, "No off trail travel," with a mountain sunrise in the background.
The growing season for alpine plants is extremely short. Watch your step and give the flowers a chance! NPS PHOTO

Stay on Durable Surfaces

  • Glacier has more than 700 miles of trails that should take you everywhere you need to go. In some highly sensitive areas there are boardwalks which are especially important to stay on to avoid damaging fragile vegetation.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. There are hundreds of established campsites throughout the front country and backcountry of Glacier. Camping away from these sites is not allowed.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. Some of Glacier's busiest trails have been widened more than 10 feet by spread out hikers!
  • Do not leave gear, and certainly not food, unattended. Animals that learn to see human gear as a food, salt, or play source must often be put down.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Littered orange peels on a rock with a red don't symbol over them.
Many people do not realize how it can take years for littered orange peels to break down in this environment.  NPS PHOTO

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite, food preparation areas, and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Apple cores, banana and orange peels, and other food scraps, do not decompose easily in this climate. Littered food scraps can also lure wildlife dangerously close to roads and trails.
  • Utilize toilet facilities whenever possible. Otherwise, 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.
  • Bring a garbage bag to pick up litter and hold trash until you can find a bin.

A rock with white paint on it in the mountains and a large red don't symbol over the painted rock.
Leaving painted rocks in Glacier, or any National Park, is considered littering. NPS PHOTO

Leave What You Find

  • Leave artifacts as you find them. Removing artifacts from their context ruins their scientific value. If you think you’ve made a discovery take a photo with a common object for scale and show the photo to a park ranger.
  • Also leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them, Glacier National Park is preserving these resources for everyone and for future generations.
  • Do not leave anything behind either - especially not invasive species! Learn how to have your boat inspected for aquatic invasive species.
  • Do not build cairns or stack rocks. Removal of rocks from waterways can displace aquatic life, like mayflies and stoneflies. Abundant or randomly placed cairns may cause confusion, as they are used to mark routes. Stacked rocks take away the wilderness character of a place, making it feel less wild.
  • Leaving painted rocks in Glacier, or any National Park, is considered littering.

Two people sit next to a campfire.
Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, otherwise use a camp stove. Most backcountry sites do not permit camp fires. NPS PHOTO

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, otherwise use a camp stove. Most backcountry sites do not permit campfires.
  • Keep fires small. Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely.
  • Fireworks are always prohibited in all National Parks, including Glacier.

Groups of people on a trail approach a mountain goat.
Observe wildlife from a distance. Stay at least 25 yards from all animals and 100 yards from bears and wolves — not just for your safety but for theirs.  NPS PHOTO

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Stay at least 25 yards from all animals and 100 yards from bears and wolves. Not just for your safety but for theirs.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors (habituates them to humans), and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times with a six foot or less leash or leave them at home. Pets are not permitted on backcountry trails.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter, and respect closures in effect to protect sensitive wildlife.

Many hikers share a mountain trail.
Expect crowds or schedule your trip to avoid times of high use. NPS PHOTO

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 off the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and music near other people.

A person takes a sunset picture with their phone as illustrated words and squiggles emanate from the phone saying, "adventure, rad, stoked, epic!"

Reduce the Impact of Social Media

Social media have a bigger impact on wild places than you might think. Behaviors, that alone have very little impact on the environment, are spread and amplified on social media.

  • Encourage positive behavior! Posting about conservation, leave no trace, and safety helps spread and support the mission of the National Park Service. If you tag us #ProtectGlacier on a post about conservation, leave no trace, or safety we might feature you. Negative behavior in a National Park is not great. But promoting negative behavior on social media is much worse! Please don't approach wildlife and extra please don't post pictures that encourage others to do so!

  • Share locations thoughtfully. Avoid giving directions to sensitive areas off trail. Consider the impacts a location geotag might have on a sensitive environment before posting.

    Consider Glacier's remote alpine peaks, fragile environments with a preciously short growing season, that were once only rarely visited by mountaineers. Today, social media has sensationalized several of these remote mountain tops, and crowds of off-trail hikers are each posting their own location-tagged photo from the top, spreading the word.

  • Be mindful of what your images portray. Do you really want to share illegal or unsafe behavior? You might like to free-solo up mountains without a helmet or whitewater raft without a life jacket but be cautious about promoting dangerous activities without context. Also, don’t be the person who posts a selfie while feeding wildlife. If park staff sees those kinds of posts you may receive a citation in the mail.

  • Do you have a permit for that? Commercial services are carefully regulated in National Parks because no one wants to see these wild places overrun with advertising. Commercial photographers, product ambassadors, influencers, and other marketers should check out Glacier’s Permits page for more information.

We all have a responsibility to reduce our impact on the places we love. Following these Leave No Trace Principles can help us minimize our collective footprint. These principles were established by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and built on work by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management in the mid 1980s. This relationship continues today. The principles are based on and informed by scientific research in the fields of recreation ecology and human dimensions of natural resources. Take a look at the science behind the principles on the Leave No Trace website. Leave No Trace Seven Principles © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org

People load onto a bus.


We realize that the easiest way to move towards sustainability is to commit to it from the start.

A garbage can sits in the sunlight.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Take a moment to adopt a more sustainable mindset on your visit and reduce the negative impacts on Glacier.

Last updated: March 15, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

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