As the value and benefits of outdoor recreation become more recognized, we continue to see an upsurge in people flocking to public lands. Visitation to national parks, state parks, Forest Service lands, and Bureau of Land Management areas have steadily increased year after year. The intense popularity of these amazing landscapes means more bodies on the trails, which can be hard on the land, the agency managing the area, and fellow recreationists.
To help protect these areas, outdoor recreation experts Dr. Kelly Goonan, Program Coordinator & Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation, and Dr. Briget Eastep, Outdoor Engagement Center Director, offer a few tips on how you can help improve everyone’s experience while out on the trail.
Know the right of way: When encountering other groups or individuals on a trail it helps to know who has the right of way. As a rule, downhill travelers should yield to uphill travelers, bikers yield to hikers, and everyone yields to equestrians.
Keep it down: For many people, being on the trail is a way to connect with the natural environment. They want to hear the sounds of wind blowing through trees, and the songs of birds, not people shouting to each other or the beat of some trendy new album.
Pack it In – Pack it Out: The 7 principles of Leave No Trace set a great standard for trail and backcountry ethics which practically everyone can support.
Another detail that needs to be considered is the uncomfortable topic of human and pet waste. This type of pollution not only stinks, but can contaminate water sources, and spread disease to local wildlife and other hikers. At the very least hikers should carry an extra plastic bag to pack out used toilet paper. For areas where digging a cat hole isn’t an option, hikers should carry a WAG bag or other type of toilet kit.
Stay on the Trail: A shortcut past some switchbacks or a hidden path to a secret viewpoint may look appealing, but these “social trails” are actually a big problem for land managers. Trail systems are designed to provide visitor access while at the same time supporting natural habitats without damaging the area.
The characteristic that all of these tips share, and probably the most important, is to be considerate of others, both humans, and animals. With over 100,000 miles of trails in the United States alone, there should be room for everyone. Please join in the national effort to create and maintain quality outdoor experiences.
Briget Eastep Executive Director of Outdoor Pathways
Specializing in public lands, youth engagement, wilderness first aid, conservation youth corps, and recreation impact monitoring.
Kelly Goonan Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor recreation expertise with outdoor safety tips, planning national park visits, and planning and management of outdoor recreation.