Visiting every National Park in the United States has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. The National Park Service (NPS) works to protect and preserve these important eco systems around the country everyday, as a visitor we must do the same. To help preserve our extraordinary National Parks, it is VERY IMPORTANT to practice the ‘Leave No Trace Principles’.
Each of the National Parks provides visitors with a great opportunity to explore diverse landscapes, and learn about the plants and animals that call them home. When visiting these fragile eco systems, it is on each and every one of us to practice and follow these principles.
Here are 20 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2020!
1. North Cascades National Park
The organization accomplishes its mission by providing innovative education, skills and research to help people care for the outdoors. By working with the public and those managing public lands, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics focuses on educating people—instead of costly restoration programs or access restrictions—as the most effective and least resource-intensive solution to land protection.The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
2. Yoho National Park
3. Banff National Park
4. Revelstoke National Park
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
6. Everglades National Park
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Leave No Trace Principle 1.
Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources. Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who, because of poor planning and unexpected conditions, degrade backcountry resources and put themselves at risk.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
7. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Why Is Trip Planning Important?
It helps ensure the safety of groups and individuals.
It prepares you to Leave No Trace and minimizes resource damage.
It contributes to accomplishing trip goals safely and enjoyably.
It increases self-confidence and opportunities for learning more about nature.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
Leave No Trace Principle 2
The goal of travel in the outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal. Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails. Backcountry travel may involve travel over both trails and off-trail areas.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
8. Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Travel on Trails
Land management agencies construct trails to provide identifiable routes that concentrate foot and stock traffic. Constructed trails are themselves an impact on the land; however, they are a necessary response to the fact that people travel through natural areas.
Concentrating travel on trails reduces the likelihood that multiple routes will develop and scar the landscape. It is better to have one well-designed route than many poorly chosen paths. Trail use is recommended whenever possible. Encourage travelers to stay within the width of the trail and not shortcut trail switchbacks (trail zigzags that climb hillsides).
Travelers should provide space for other hikers if taking breaks along the trail. The principles of off-trail travel should be practiced if the decision is made to move off-trail for breaks. Hikers in the same group should periodically stop to rest and talk. Avoid shouting to communicate while hiking. Loud noises usually are not welcome in natural areas.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
9. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave No Trace Principle 3
The Center encourages outdoor enthusiasts to consider the impacts that they leave behind, which will undoubtedly affect other people, water and wildlife.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease and maximize the rate of decomposition.
In most locations, burying human feces in the correct manner is the most effective method to meet these criteria. Solid human waste must be packed out from some places, such as narrow river canyons. Land management agencies can advise you of specific rules for the area you plan to visit.
There are several EPA-approved, commercially produced pack-out systems available that are easy to use and sanitary for backpacking/hiking use. Other systems (including reusable, washable toilet systems) are bulkier and may be better suited for paddling/rafting trips. As more and more people enjoy parks and protected areas every year, packing out human waste is likely to become a more common practice to ensure long-term sustainability of our shared lands. In some environments, particularly in fragile alpine settings, land managers may require that all solid human waste must be packed out.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
10. Presidio National Park
11. National Mall, District of Colombia
Leave What You Find
Leave No Trace Principle 4
Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Minimize Site Alterations
Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs or pine cones replace these items before leaving. For high-impact sites, it is appropriate to clean up the site and dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and constructed seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made.
In many locations, properly located and legally constructed facilities, such as a single fire ring, should be left in place. Dismantling them will cause additional impact because they will be rebuilt with new rocks and thus impact a new area. Learn to evaluate all situations you find.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
12. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Leave No Trace Principle 5
Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Should You Build a Fire?
The most important consideration when deciding to use a fire is the potential damage to the backcountry.
What is the fire danger for the time of year and the location you have selected?
Are there administrative restrictions from the agency that manages the area?
Is there sufficient wood so its removal will not be noticeable?
Does the harshness of alpine and desert growing conditions for trees and shrubs mean that the regeneration of wood sources cannot keep pace with the demand for firewood?
Do group members possess the skills to build a campfire that will Leave No Trace?Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Lessening Impacts When Campfires Are Used
Camp in areas where wood is abundant if building a fire. Choose not to have a fire in areas where there is little wood at higher elevations, in heavily used areas, or in desert settings. A true Leave No Trace fire shows no evidence of having been constructed.
Existing Fire Rings
The best place to build a fire is within an existing fire ring in a well-placed campsite. Keep the fire small and burning only for the time you are using it. Allow wood to burn completely to ash. Put out fires with water, not dirt. Dirt may not completely extinguish the fire. Avoid building fires next to rock outcrops where the black scars will remain for many years.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
13. Custer Gallatin National Forest
Leave No Trace Principle 6
Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.
Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears.) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animal’s ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
14. Death Valley National Park
15. Joshua Tree National Park
16. Zion National Park
17. Mount Rainier National Park
18. Grand Teton National Park
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Leave No Trace Principle 7
One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets and damaged surroundings take away from the natural appeal of the outdoors.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
The feeling of solitude, especially in open areas, is often enhanced when group size is small, contacts are infrequent and behavior is unobtrusive. To maximize your feeling of privacy, avoid trips on holidays and busy weekends or take a trip during the off season.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
19. Badlands National Park
Technology continues to shape the outdoor experience. Personal preferences range from high-tech outdoor travelers, who might want to listen to music and collect images on their devices, to an anti-tech perspective that favors a minimal use of gadgets. Different strokes for different folks, but be sure to thoroughly consider how your experience is affecting the way someone else enjoys the outdoors. For example, earbuds may be a less obtrusive way to enjoy music than external speakers, but if you have the volume turned so high that you can’t hear someone behind you who wants to pass, your personal preference for music will negatively affect other people.
The general assumption on a narrow trail is that hikers headed downhill will step aside to allow an uphill foot traveler to easily pass. In many places, there’s an expectation that hikers will yield to equestrians, and that bicyclists will yield to both hikers and equestrians on trails. Stay in control when mountain biking. Before passing others, politely announce your presence and proceed with caution.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
Groups leading or riding pack stock have the right-of-way on trails. Hikers and bicyclists should move off the trail to the downhill side. Talk quietly to the riders as they pass, since horses are spooked easily.
Take rest breaks on durable surfaces well off the designated trail. Keep in mind that visitors to seldom used places require an extra commitment to travel quietly and lightly on the land. When selecting a campsite, choose a site where rocks or trees will screen it from others view. Keep noise down in camp so as not to disturb other campers or those passing by on the trail.
Bright clothing and equipment, such as tents, that can be seen for long distances are discouraged. Especially in open natural areas, colors such as day-glow yellow may contribute to a crowded feeling; consider earth-toned colors (ie. browns and greens) to lessen visual impacts. Keep pets under control at all times — Bowser is not in the wildlife category. Please pick up dog feces from camps and trails. Some areas prohibit dogs or require them to be on a leash at all times.Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
20. Boston National Historic Park
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