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What does it mean to ‘Leave No Trace?’

Crumpled cigarette butts, initials etched into a boulder or tree stump, remnants of Fido’s breakfast . . . Sound familiar?

a sign on the side of the road a close up of a green field

 

If you’ve hiked before, there’s a solid chance you’ve encountered some of these unsavory scenes along the way. Rather than pointing fingers or condemning this behavior, let’s talk about how to be better environmental stewards. After all, leading by example is often the most effective way to impact others.

A good place to start is by following “Leave No Trace” principles. This unofficial hikers’ creed started to take form in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service began teaching visitors how to lessen their impact on the environment. In 1987, the three divisions came together to create a pamphlet titled “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.”

Initially, this movement was aimed at backcountry visitors who were traveling deep into the wilderness, far from developed or highly populated areas.

In the pamphlet, the groups outline seven principles that all backcountry visitors should follow. (The text in italics? That’s just us adding our own commentary.)

  1. PLAN AHEAD AND PREPARE. Hike Maui can help with that! Our guides are familiar with the local terrain, and have logged many miles hiking throughout Maui. They are all CPR and First-Aid certified and carry first-aid kits, so they’re prepared to assist in case of an emergency.
  2. TRAVEL AND CAMP ON DURABLE SURFACES. This is especially true when hiking in Haleakalā National Park, where much of the landscape has remained undisturbed for centuries. An off-trail footprint can take years to disappear.
  3. DISPOSE OF WASTE PROPERLY. This includes fruit peels and other foods, which sometimes take years to decompose, or can be devoured by wildlife—see rule #6. a bird lying on the grass
  4. LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND. Rock stack Trust us, avoid any temptation to take a souvenir rock home with you. And speaking of rocks, many Hawaiians consider rock stacking to be disrespectful, with some describing it as “cultural sacrilege.”
  5. MINIMIZE CAMPFIRE IMPACTS. Abiding by this principle depends largely on your location, but be aware that open fires are banned within Haleakalā National Park. a person lying on a dirt road
  6. RESPECT WILDLIFE. When possible, observe wildlife from afar, which is especially important during mating or nesting seasons. Also, avoid feeding them, as this domestication can disrupt their normal patterns.
  7. BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VISITORS. This one is pretty broad, but general hiking etiquette applies here. For example, it’s best to yield to groups walking uphill, and a good idea to give other hikers ample space on the trail.

Of course, these are good reminders whether we’re miles from civilization or barely out of the carpark.

On Maui, the majority of hikers will be visiting “frontcountry” areas, and all of Hike Maui’s excursions fall into this category (though some might consider our 4-mile Haleakala Crater Hiking Experience a backcountry trip).

Similar to the backcountry guidelines, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics lists these seven principles for frontcountry hikers:

  1. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.
  2. STICK TO TRAILS AND CAMP OVERNIGHT RIGHT.
  3. TRASH YOUR TRASH AND PICK UP POOP.
  4. LEAVE IT AS YOU FIND IT.
  5. BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE.
  6. KEEP WILDLIFE WILD.
  7. SHARE OUR TRAILS AND MANAGE YOUR PET.

Here at Hike Maui, we hope to lead by example, and a good place to start is by respecting “Leave No Trace” guidelines. We absolutely love our island paradise and feel so privileged to get to show others our favorite spots. Mahalo for helping us love it, too!

 

PHOTO CREDITS

Leave No Trace_bucket: “Human traces # 3 The forgotten bucket” by Ib Aarmo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Leave No Trace_banana peels: “mystery peels” by Somebody’s Mom is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Leave No Trace_bonfire: “Human traces # 8 The remnants of bonfire” by Ib Aarmo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Leave No Trace_grafitti rock: “K + M = Heart” by Not So Much is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Leave No Trace_rock stack: “IMGP0643” by adam_gulkis is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0