Getting ready to enjoy the trails of Golden, CO this summer? With more than 250 trail miles, there’s a wide variety of scenery and terrain to explore! And when we do go hiking, even if just for a morning stroll or sunset hike, it’s important to leave the outdoors as we found it. This is known as Leave No Trace (LNT) and it’s a really important practice for preserving the outdoors for future generations, as well as for protecting our planet, vegetation, and wildlife.
There are so many ways to practice Leave No Trace, but below are a few specific examples to keep in mind on your next adventure.
5 Ways To Practice Leave No Trace
1. See Wildlife? Practice the Rule of Thumb.
Wildlife needs space. Next time you see a bighorn sheep or elk or moose or deer or snake or any animal on the trail, a good way to know if you’re too close is to use your thumb. Close one eye and hold it up - your thumb should cover the animal completely. If you can see any of the animal outside of your thumb, you're too close.
2. Dispose of Dog Waste Properly.
Have you ever heard the phrase, pack it in, pack it out? Well, this includes more than hiking out your own trash, it also includes your dog’s waste. Many trails in Golden and the surrounding area allow dogs. So if you do decide to bring your beloved pup with you, always clean up after it. Dog feces can contaminate water, soil, and spread diseases. This means the waste needs to be properly placed in bags and packed out.
3. Gotta Go to the Bathroom? Dig a Cat Hole.
What if you have a bathroom emergency on the trail and there are no restrooms around? Dig a cat hole (a trowel helps) that is 6 to 8 inches deep, 4 to 6 inches in diameter, and at least 200 feet from the trail, water sources, and campsites. Then make sure to cover it up with dirt. When hiking away from and back to the trail, make sure to hike on durable ground so as not to disturb the surrounding vegetation and wildlife.
4. Review Paper Maps or Digital Maps Before Starting Your Hike.
It’s important to know where you’re going on a hike so that you can plan what to bring and what time to start. Is your hike going across exposed areas? You’ll want to avoid this during the afternoon since thunderstorms are common in the summer. Are you hiking at a higher altitude than what you are used to? You’ll need to bring plenty of water (and don’t forget electrolytes). The more you know about your upcoming hike, the more prepared you can be, and the less chance of getting lost and damaging the natural area.
Going on an overnight trip in the backcountry? Many areas out west have restrictions in place for campfires due to the high risk of wildfires. Always check the restrictions in your area before starting your trip.
5. Took a Snack Break? Check Your Area Before Leaving.
We all love a good snack break (or two, or three) when hiking. So after you’ve enjoyed your fruit, chips, and sweet electrolyte water, make sure to check the area for any trash on the ground. Sometimes it’s easy for wrappers and cracker crumbs to get left behind - so we always want to take a quick look around to ensure we’re picking up after ourselves.
At Rocky Mountain Hiking Company, we believe in sharing our passion for the outdoors with everyone, through unparalleled insight and expertise. We want to provide an opportunity for you to experience the outdoors on your terms, whether it's day hiking on the 261 miles of trail in Golden, Colorado, or spending multiple nights out in the backcountry of some of the country's most beautiful landscapes. We hope the energy and excitement you feel with us on the trail make you that much more excited to pursue more time and experiences in the outdoors. All of Rocky Mountain Hiking Company's guides are certified in Wilderness First Aid or higher and CPR, and we follow Leave No Trace Principles.