Protect Olympic - Leave No Trace

Campers on meadows at Heart Lake 1969

Why Leave No Trace?
Think about why you are visiting Olympic's Wilderness. Then consider that nearly 40,000 other people are backpacking in Olympic each year.

Olympic belongs to all of us. It also belongs to future generations of Americans. In order to preserve Olympic's wild character, protect its plants and wildlife and protect recreation opportunities, all of us should take care when traveling within Olympic.


Our actions can cause lasting impacts such as permanent vegetation damage, harm to wildlife, human waste problems as well as impacting the experience of other visitors.

The Leave No Trace Principles are not regulations. They are guidelines meant to help wilderness users to make informed decisions in the wilderness so that they may leave the area as beautiful and as natural as they found it.

When you are on the trail or in camp, please take the time to think about your actions and how they might affect or impair wildlife, plants, rivers, lakes, fish or other visitors.

Please read through the Leave No Trace Principles so you can help you protect YOUR wilderness. You can make a conscious choice to be responsible for the preservation of your wilderness park.

There's only one Olympic. Its health is in your hands.


Olympic's Seven Principles
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Bring proper clothing and equipment, including the Ten Essentials.
  • Visit in small groups. Smaller parties tend to have less impact.
  • To reduce trash, repackage food into reusable containers.

2. Camp and Travel On Durable Surfaces
In high-use areas, concentrate use.

  • Hike on existing trails down the middle of the trail, even if wet or muddy.
  • Camp in pre-existing sites. Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site can cause lasting impacts.
  • Minimize impact by concentrating camping activities within the site.

When off-trail, spread out your use.

  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
  • Keep party size small and spread out while traveling.
  • Hike and camp on impact-resistant surfaces: snow, rock, gravel, grasses.
  • Avoid fragile vegetation such as heather and huckleberry.
  • Bring a map and compass to eliminate the use of rock cairns or flagging.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.

3. 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.
  • Urinate on rocks or trails, away from campsites or water.
  • Deposit human waste in toilets where available. If not available, dig a cathole 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. Avoid using soap. Strain out food particles and scatter dish water.
  • Bury fish entrails in catholes.

4. 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. Do not stack rocks and make cairns as they could mislead hikers from the designated trails.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting nonnative species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the wilderness. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. Wood-burning camp stoves are prohibited because they use wood the soil needs.
  • Know where fires are restricted. Where permitted, use established fire rings and leave them clean.
  • Keep fires small. Use loose, dead and down wood no larger than your arm.
  • Burn all wood to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

6. 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, yourself and your gear by storing food and trash securely at all times.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other wilderness visitors and their desire for solitude.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.

The Campsite Check
Many wilderness travelers perform "the campsite check" before they leave their campsite. This activity allows the visitor to take a good look and check to see if their actions have had a negative impact on wildlife, plant life or other visitors. Look for overturned rocks, flattened flowers or plants, bits of garbage or food, or any other sign that someone has camped there.

Strive to leave the wilderness as you found it, or better.


Educating students and clients in Leave No Trace ethics and practices is critical for preserving Olympic's wilderness character now and for future generations. Please have your participants watch the Leave No Trace video prior to their trip. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics at also has a variety of educational materials available. Ask the Wilderness Information Centers for a DVD of the video.

Click here for a free online Leave No Trace Awareness Course.

Instructor-led courses are also available. offers a variety of teaching resources as well.
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Take the Bigfoot Challenge!

Leave No Trace? Bigfoot has been doing it for years. Take the Bigfoot Challenge.

Last updated: September 7, 2020

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