Leave No Trace in Yellowstone

Author:
Publish date:
Hikers at Dunanda Falls in Yellowstone

Hikers at Dunanda Falls in Yellowstone

Wildland Trekking founders explain why they teach their travelers to reduce their impact while exploring national parks.

Even if you live by the phrase “take only photos; leave only footprints” when you’re outdoors, it still might seem counterintuitive to pack out food scraps rather than leaving them to decompose or be eaten by animals.

But packing out your trash—regardless of what it is—is a vital Leave No Trace principle, and it’s important to practice Leave No Trace the best you can whenever you’re adventuring in our national parks.

Seven Principles of Leave No Trace

The seven principles of Leave No Trace were written by the National Forest Service in the 1970s to help people understand how to best interact with the environment when they’re outside. They basically boil down to making as little impact as possible.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

“One of the core philosophies is to be considerate of other people’s experiences around you while you’re there and after you’ve left,” says Steve Cundy, co-founder of adventure tour company Wildland Trekking, which makes a point to teach its customers about Leave No Trace principles on every trip. “You need to make sure you take appropriate action to make sure that happens.”

Practicing Leave No Trace

Wildland Trekking runs hiking and backpacking trips in national parks throughout the country and world. Its national park destinations include Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky, Rocky, Yosemite, Olympic, Zion and Bryce. Because their customers are often first-time backpackers, Wildland Trekking guides give an overview of the practices at the beginning of each trip and then reinforce each one out in the field. Sometimes, it takes a few reminders. Not everyone understands right off the bat that you can’t toss food scraps on the trail. Even though they’re biodegradable, they could pose a hazard to wildlife and the ecosystem.

“Some guests might even see it as a little bit silly sometimes,” Cundy says. “They might not understand why you can’t throw a little bit of food in a creek… [but] it shows a respect for the national parks and the environment as a whole, and we try to instill that respect for the land in all of our guests.”

Going to the Bathroom in the Backcountry

Backcountry bathroom etiquette in particular is something that’s easier to learn when you’re out on the trail than it is to memorize when you’re reading about it online. So when Wildland Trekking brings customers out on backpacking trips, they’ll make sure everyone understands how to bury their waste properly (at least 6 to 8 inches deep, and 200 feet from water, camp, and trails), and that they pack out toilet paper. They camp on durable surfaces to protect fragile ecosystems, and avoid burning food scraps, which can attract wildlife.

If you’re not familiar with Leave No Trace principles, start by reviewing the full list at lnt.org/learn/seven-principles-overview.

Perhaps the most important rule is the first one, “plan ahead and prepare,” co-owner Seth Quigg says. If you plan thoroughly from the outset, you won’t run into issues where you don’t have a permit to camp, or you get to camp too late and end up stomping over fragile ground in the dark. And if you prepare for whatever might come your way, you can often avoid emergency situations that can be destructive to the environment.

No matter how prepared you are, though, it’s always important to be ready for the unexpected, too.

Next time you head out into the backcountry, consider going a step further than leaving no trace of your own. Bring a separate trash bag and look around your campsite or lunch spot for wrappers and other trash previous hikers left behind. Pack out as much as you can. The wildlife, and the next set of hikers, will thank you for it.

Horizontal rule

Ready to go on nature-friendly guided hike in your favorite park? Wildland Trekking offers hiking and backpacking tours at national parks in the U.S. as well as internationally. Learn more at www.wildlandtrekking.com.

Related

Releasing a Sawtooth wolf pup into the Nez Perce acclimation pen, February 1997.

1995 Reintroduction of Wolves in Yellowstone

The history of wolves in Yellowstone - what has happened to the environment when they were eradicated and when they were returned Jan 12, 1995.

Bison herd in Yellowstone

Culling the Last Wild Herd of Bison in Yellowstone National Park

These bison stem from an original population of 25 that survived mass killings. Yet, for the past 17 years, they have been sent to the slaughterhouse.

Trumpeter swans taking off from Yellowstone Lake. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco

Trumpeter Swans Bounce Back in Yellowstone Country

A record number of swans are calling southwest Wyoming their winter home, giving biologists and conservationists something to trumpet about.

Using the EcoVessel Boulder Bottle

Why Reusable Water Bottles Are Important

Here are 5 tips from EcoVessel on why drinking water from a reusable water bottle is so essential both on and off the trail.

Family hiking on Bunsen Peak Trail in Yellowstone

Top 3 Trails for Hiking with Kids in Yellowstone

There’s no better way to experience Yellowstone than out on the trail. Just follow these tips for family-friendly fun.

Outdoor guide Ron Bubb

A Guide's Insight to Yellowstone National Park

A Wildland Trekking outdoor guide gives the inside scoop of why winter is the best time to visit Yellowstone.

Spring Wildflowers in Yellowstone

5 Ways to Celebrate Summer’s Arrival in Yellowstone

With the summer solstice ushering summer the evening of June 20, celebrate summer’s officials arrival by seeing the best of Yellowstone.

Video: Conserving Wild Bison

Video: Conserving Wild Bison

Since wild bison compete with humans for habitat, it is necessary to "manage" this "wildlife." This video, discusses the problems with bison management.

Grizzly bear by lake

How many people get killed by bears in Yellowstone?

Although both black bears and grizzlies have a fearsome reputation for scratching or mauling people to death, attacks rarely occur, and deaths are even chancer.