Protect Olympic - Leave No Trace


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. Take the time to read through the Leave No Trace Principles so you can help you protect our wilderness.


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


The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace

  • 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.

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 minimizing your impact within 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Deposit human waste in toilets where available. If not available, walk at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water, camp, and trails. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Urinate on rocks or trails, away from campsites or water.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. Do not burn any trash.
  • Avoid using soap near water sources. To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes, strain out food particles and scatter dish water.
  • Bury fish entrails in catholes.
  • 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.
  • Avoid damaging live trees and plants.
  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the wilderness. The use of lightweight stoves for cooking leaves no trace.
  • 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.
  • Pack out any campfire litter. Plastic items and foil-lined wrappers should never be burned in a campfire.
  • Put out fires with water, not dirt.
  • 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 always storing food and trash securely.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
  • 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.

Olympic Black Bear

Educating students and clients in Leave No Trace ethics and practices is critical for preserving Olympic's wilderness character now and for future generations. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics at has a variety of educational materials available.

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

Last updated: September 27, 2021

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