Leave No Trace Tips: Travel on Durable Surfaces

As part of our regular feature on the seven Leave No Trace Principles, we’re featuring Principle #2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. We’ll focus on the first part of this Principle – Travel on Durable Surfaces. The next time, we’ll focus on Camp on Durable Surfaces.

  • Travel on Durable Surfaces: The goal of backcountry travel is to move through the backcountry while avoiding damage to the land. 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.
  • Travel on Trails: 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 short cut trail switchbacks (trail zigzags that climb hill sides). 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.
  • Travel Off-trail – Spread Use and Impact in Pristine Areas: All travel that does not utilize a designed trail such as travel to remote areas, searches for bathroom privacy, and explorations near and around campsites is defined as off-trail. Two primary factors increase how off-trail travel affects the land: durability of surfaces and vegetation, and frequency of travel (or group size). Durability refers to the ability of surfaces or vegetation to withstand wear or remain in a stable condition. Frequency of use and large group size increase the like hood that a large area will be trampled, or that a small area will be trampled multiple times.

Learn more at Leave No Trace Canada.

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