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How to Preserve Nature While Hiking

There’s no better way to get a little vacation from the stresses of your everyday routine than to go for a hike, especially along such scenic trails as the Appalachian Trail. Hiking is fantastic exercise, and its exercise that nearly everyone can do even if they’re not in the best shape. It’s one of the most popular outdoor activities and millions of people enjoy a hike regularly.

However, lots of people going out to hike can end up taking a big toll on the environment. If you want to hike regularly but want to do it without damaging any of the local natural landscape, here are a few things that you should always do:

Stick to The Marked Trails

A woman with a backpack walks along a trail through a meadow laden with lupines and other wildflowers, toward snowy peaks in the distance.
North Cascades, Washington. Photo: Robert Long

It’s fun to play explorer and try to find your own way through the woods and natural landscape. You might want to take a shortcut to a lake or other great area. But you should always stay on the marked trails that are provided for hikers. The trails are there for your safety and to protect the environment.

If you leave the trail you could damage the delicate plants and flowers that grow alongside the trail. You also might end up wearing down the soil and contributing to soil erosion in the area. It’s very important that you stay on the trails that are already there when you’re hiking.

Keep the Water Clean

If you are on a multi-day hike and you’re going to be washing up while you’re out on the trail, it’s very important that you don’t contaminate any of the water sources the local wildlife use to drink from. You should always use biodegradable soaps and make sure that you are at least 400 yards from any water sources that the animals use like a stream or a pond.

The best thing to do is use baby wipes to wash up and take those used wipes with you when you go. But if you must wash up, make sure you are nowhere near the potable water the animals drink.

Leave the Animals Alone

You’re a guest when you’re out hiking, and the animals who live there deserve to be respected. If you approach the animals, they could get so scared that they run away, leaving behind babies in some cases. They also could be so frightened that they won’t return to the area, which could impact the entire ecosystem.

A brown and gray grizzly bear walks through the middle of the frame in a field of tall wild weeds, with scattered tall trees visible behind it.
A grizzly bear saunters through a field in Yellowstone National Park. When hiking, make sure to stay away from animals. Take photos from a distance. Photo: Terry Tollefsbol

Don’t approach the animals. Also don’t offer them food trying to get them to come to you. Food created for humans could make them sick or even kill them. You can take photos of them from a distance, but don’t disturb them.

Wipe Your Feet

Before you hit the trail take a few minutes to use some of your bottled water and wash off your boots, or wipe them down with a baby wipe. When you enter the area without cleaning your boots, you could be bringing in seeds or an invasive species that doesn’t belong in the area, resulting in damage to the environment.

This article was provided by, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only.

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