Leave No Trace When Hiking

The art of being courteous to the land, animals, and other hikers.

Leaving no trace is all about developing mindful practices that guide our exploration of the Great Outdoors. It is really easy to forget about the wildlife all around us and the next batch of hikers to come in later. We, as members of a species numbering around 8 billion, can inadvertently cause much harm. By holding to just a few key concepts we can avoid many issues.

There are many principles contained within Leave No Trace. Since we all benefit from knowing them, we will cover each in brief detail. 

Here’s what you need to know about Leave No Trace when hiking in Durango, Colorado:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Preparation is not the first thing one usually thinks of when it comes to the principle of leaving no trace, but many costly issues arise during a hike for those who have not planned their trip thoroughly. 

Unprepared hikers may wander into protected/restricted areas that are off-limits, that require proper permits, or limit party size. They may carry food that produces needless amounts of waste, that they cook despite current fire bans, or cannot find deadwood for and resort to pulling green wood from living trees. 

Stay on the Trails

Staying on official tails is an important component of preservation. They are useful for confining foot traffic to deliberately made paths. When hikers stray out on their own, they create footpaths or “desire-paths”. These are vague, widen over time, and inevitably encourage others to wander off-trail themselves. 

Staying on-path prevents excessive damage to flora and “living soil”, prevents soil erosion, triggering slides, or contaminating water runoff. 

Dispose of Waste Properly 

Burying human waste in a cat hole is still the most practical method for disposing of your business. Holes should be at least six inches deep and placed at least two hundred feet from trails, people, or water sources. They should also not be done in protected areas, river canyons, or on heavily populated trails. Only use natural, unscented toilet paper.

As outdoor recreation continues to grow in popularity though, best practices will shift towards more long-term solutions, such as bagged toilet kits that let you efficiently transport your waste out with you.

Further, be sure to pack all other forms of waste out with you, big or small. 

Do not leave wrappers, food scraps, containers, cigarette butts, etc. laying around to be scattered by the wind or investigated by curious animals.

Leave What You Find

Perhaps the easiest task on this list, do not to take or damage what you find while out on the trail. Minimize what you clear away natural artifacts in resting areas, and rearrange what you move before you leave. 

Do not take artifacts you find (except for rogue trash), as nearly everything serves a purpose in the local ecosystem. 

Finally, leave no signs of your visit, such as fire rings, etchings, or any kind of decorative art.

Respect Other Visitors

Everyone is welcome on the trails, but it is a courtesy to minimize actions that broadcast your presence. This includes playing loud music on external speakers, unobtrusively recording other people, intruding on hikers' and campers' personal space, or resting sites, and clogging the middle of the trail when not moving.

Make your presence known when you plan to pass, and keep your earbuds low enough that you can hear others approaching from behind.

Finally, be sure that you can control any animals or equipment you have brought with you onto the trail. 

Horses, dogs, or bikers speeding by can be very intimidating when not properly maintained.


With this, you have everything you need to know regarding the. 

Over time you will be able to streamline some of these issues for a more convenient trip. Still, always follow your local trial’s regulations on any of these matters, as they may differ somewhat from the information stated here.

Be safe and have fun when hiking in Durango!