Trail Etiquette in Our National Parks
The summer season is the perfect time to enjoy one of nation's greatest treasures: our national parks. Share these tips with clients, and use them in your own planning.
Dress for Success
This is more about savvy than etiquette, but be 30 percent more prepared than you think you need to be—always bring proper shoes, water, layers, a hat, water, sunscreen, water, snacks and sunscreen. Don't be the one hiking in flip-flops.
Stay on the Trail
Footfalls have an obvious cumulative effect, and trails minimize the damage to vegetable and mineral alike. Stay in the middle of the trail and hike single-file if you're in a group. Moss, grass and other inconsequential-looking vegetation? Its presences helps prevent erosion. Don't squish it.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
National park rules for dogs, et al. are pretty restrictive. In general, pets are only allowed in parking lots, in your car (a bad idea in the desert heat), in most campgrounds and within 50 feet of the road—on a six-foot leash at all times. Don't plan on hiking with them. Call ahead for specific rules at each park, or find a kennel to board your pup while you take yourself for a walk.
Leave What You Find
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" has long been a hiker mantra. (In fact, even the "leaving footprints" part is frowned upon, these days.) Collecting flowers, stones, interesting plants or artifacts is frowned upon as disruptive to the natural ecosystem and enjoyment of others.
Finding a parking spot at the most popular trails can be tough, especially in the high season, but don't park where you're not supposed to. If it's full, come back later. Do yourself (and the world) a favor: Carpool or use shuttles when they are offered, or consider biking into the park.
When hiking, in general, down-hillers yield to up-hillers, hikers yield to horses and bikers.
Leave Your Inner-Decorator at Home
Cairns—those little stacks of rocks you sometimes see marking an otherwise vague section of a trail—are a nice, unobtrusive way to keep hikers on track. But if they start showing up every ten steps, they suddenly become ... What? Non-unobtrusive? Resist your decorator impulse and let the rangers handle the wayfinding. And of course, graffiti of any sort is verboten.
Adapted from Utah.com.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Elston.