Leave No Trace When Camping

Look, Don’t Touch

Leave No Trace encapsulates many different principles and guidelines, not all of which will be covered here. However, we prepared an introduction to its core ideas, and to help you plan your next big camping trip. If you follow these principles, you will leave a happier, healthier environment for others to enjoy and discover.

Read on to learn about some of the basic tenets and habits that make up the Leave No Trace philosophy when camping around Durango, Colorado:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Planning your camping trip helps you figure out your goals, pack enough resources to get you to and through them, and helps avoid injury or running out of certain necessities. 

Without planning ahead, you may find you have forgotten certain necessities that would have allowed you to contain and clean up messes created while camping. 

Stay on the Trails

Most parks that permit camping have well-maintained trails, and many prohibit off-trail excursions. Respecting any prohibitions is important, as land is usually restricted for a good reason. 

This can include rare or delicate species of plants and animals in the area, diminish the risk to fragile ecosystems, or avoid potentially dangerous situations. 

This extends to campsites as well; try to set down camp on established sites, rather than needlessly clearing the new ground.

Dispose of Waste Properly 

Be sure to always collect all waste materials and pack them back out of the park with you. Whether big or small, organic matter or human-made, everything you bring in should be taken back out with you with few exceptions. Camping with a vehicle affords additional storage space compared to backpacking. 

It is very simple to store your individual or communal trash bag in your car and to just pull it out for post-meal cleanups and camp checks before departure.

Further, though you may choose to resort to cat holes for your human waste, you also may find you have space for a portable campsite toilet and go-bags that you can take with you throughout your day hikes. 

These make it easy and clean to take your waste back out with you.

Research and Respect Fire Restrictions

Fire bans change all the time around Durango, season to season, and even week to week. During hot and windy summer droughts or in Durango, expect bans. 

This is of utmost importance, as few things can be more dangerous to the land, animals, and other campers than wildfires. 

So, be sure to check in on the regulations so that you know what is permitted.

As a side note, do bring in your own firewood from home. Collect scraps of wood from the ground only, or purchase bundles locally. Try to use existing fire rings, and completely clear away any you make yourself.

Leave What You Find

You will find a variety of interesting artifacts on your camping trip. However, most of the natural objects you will find serve vital functions within the ecosystem. It could be as food, nesting material, or to simply decompose back into the soil. So, admire them, take photos, make sketches, etc., but leave what you find where you found it. 

Further, you may come across cultural relics, particularly in the historical sites around Durango. We can not emphasize enough the need for these objects to be left where they are. 

Respect Wildlife

Your actions affect the animals around you. Respect their distance (200 feet or more), be still and quiet, and watch for signs of anxiety or hostility. 

Also, it is best to place your campsites and cat holes well away from water sources, as your noise and scents can discourage local wildlife from making use of them.

 Be conscientious about how your stored food, left-over food scraps, soaps, lotions, etc. can attract wildlife or pollute water. 

Never, ever feed the animals. As the Forest Service says, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

Respect Other Visitors

Leave No Trace principles also help ensure that everyone has a chance to experience clean, natural habitats for themselves. You should strive to leave the land in the best possible condition for others, just as so many did before you. 

Brush up on your trail etiquette (who should pass whom first), be respectful of the personal space of others, and keep your own noise levels down. This makes your presence less of a distraction to others on the trail.


We hope that you will adopt the Leave No Trace philosophy for your own camping style. It is a valuable system for protecting our area while still being able to enjoy all that Durango has to offer.