Low-Impact and No-Trace
Camping & Hiking

As an American, I Will Do My Best to:
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation-minded.

-- The Outdoor Code

Back-country areas are places to seek solitude and a "wilderness experience" away from crowds, noise, and daily pressures of life. By using Leave No Trace skills, trail users can reduce their impact on the diverse, fragile, and spectacular areas in our country. The following are guidelines that will assist trail users in successfully enjoying the American wilderness.

Leave only footprints
Take only memories

Seven Keys to Low-Impact and No-Trace Camping

Pretrip Plans

  • Wear a uniform or other clothing that will blend into your surroundings.
  • Obtain as much information as possible before venturing out. This includes topographic maps, recreation maps, information sheets, and guidebooks.
  • Learn about regulations and restrictions of the area prior to traveling.
  • Avoid popular areas during times of high use.
  • Select areas that are right for your activities.
  • Plan 12 or fewer in your group or patrol.
  • Check ahead to see if the area can accommodate and/or will allow your group size.
  • Repackage food into lightweight containers that can easily be carried out with you.
  • Be prepared to filter or boil all water during your trip.
  • Leave a detailed itinerary with someone prior to venturing out.
  • Take along trash bags and use them.


  • Stay on designated trails and avoid any cross-country travel.
  • If unavoidable, select hard ground or snow for cross-country travel.
  • Do not cut across switchbacks.
  • Read your map carefully to avoid having to build cairns.
  • When encountering equestrians, step to the downhill side of the trail and remain quiet.


  • Use designated or already impacted campsites when appropriate.
  • Choose sites free of fragile plants.
  • Hide your campsite from view, out of sight of trails, streams, and lakes.
  • Stay as few nights as possible in one place. Before leaving the area, naturalize it as much as possible.
  • Select a campsite 200 feet or more from trails, lakes, streams, trails, and wet meadows.
  • Avoid constructing structures or digging trenches.
  • Do not ditch tents.


  • Use a lightweight stove for cooking rather than building a fire.
  • If having a campfire, use existing fire rings instead of building new ones.
  • Build fires only were appropriate, away from trees, rocks, shrubs, and meadows.
  • Make sure the fire is dead out.
  • Scatter the ashes and naturalize the area.
  • Use only dead and down wood. Never cut green trees or bushes.
  • Know the fire restrictions for the area.
  • Replace sod or ground cover to erase burn scars.


  • Burn food scraps completely in a fire or put them in a plastic bag and carry them out.
  • Pack out everything that you pack in.
  • Do all washing 50 feet (about 75 steps) away from camp and water sources.
  • Dig latrines 200 feet or more from camps, trails, and water sources.
  • Bury sump holes and latrines when you are through with them, and restore ground cover.

Horses and Pack Animals

  • Keep groups small and carry lightweight equipment.
  • Keep the number of animals to a minimum.
  • Select a campsite that has enough feed for your stock.
  • Keep stock 200 feet or more from lakeshores.
  • Bring pellets, grain, or weed-free hay to areas where feed is limited or grazing is not allowed.
  • Remove (or scatter) manure; Remove excess hay and straw.
  • Use hitch lines, hobbles, and pickets to constrain pack animals. Hobble or picket in dry areas.
  • Tie to sturdy trees or rope.
  • Move picket pins and temporary corrals several times per day.


  • Hikers step off a trail to let horses pass.
  • Do not pick wildflowers. Enjoy them where they are, then leave them for others to see.
  • Keep noise down when you are around other campers and hikers. Personal electronic audio/video devices other than cameras are a distraction, and violate the spirit of and reason for wilderness camping; leave them at home. (Exceptions:  radio to listen to weather reports and cell phone for emergencies in areas where reception is possible)
  • Attempt to be as courteous to others as possible. Excessive noise, unleashed pets, and damaged surroundings distract from the quality experience in the backcountry.
  • Please remember that visitors can help preserve these sites for future generations by not disturbing them in any way.

More Information

  • The national Leave no Trace program, which advocates leaving minimal impact while using an area for recreation purposes, is another good source of information. This program provides comprehensive information that can assist in achieving a stewardship ethic. For more information, contact: The National Leave No Trace Program 1-800-332-4100
  • Boy Scout Handbook (#30176)

Edited by: Bill Nelson, Unit Commissioner, Tempe District, Grand Canyon Council, Boy Scouts of America. Please let me know of any additions or corrections.

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