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Leave No Trace and The 7 Principles


We are so grateful to call the beautiful NC Smokies our home, and just like any home, we want to keep it clean! Haywood County has partnered with “Leave No Trace” to support efforts of conservation and sustainability. Keep reading to discover their 7 principles for helping protect the wilderness around us.

1. Plan ahead and prepare.

If you’re going to be spending time in the wilderness, it’s important to do your research. You don’t want to be caught off guard by unfavorable weather or unexpected dangers. In addition to checking the weather forecast and packing accordingly, you should also make sure that you have the right equipment with you. When setting out on a hike through nature or a climb up a mountain trail, it’s always good to double-check yourself before setting out: Do you have the right gear to stay dry? Do I have enough food and water for myself (and my pet)? Have I informed someone where I’m going? You’ll thank yourself later for being prepared.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Much like building a house, you want a solid, reliable spot for your foundation. The same mentality goes for camping! When possible, avoid camping on top of loose soil, vegetation, or anything that can be affected by your presence—even if it seems like there won’t be any damage left behind. Instead, it’s best to look out for established campsites instead of creating new ones. You’ll rest easy when you lay your head down at night knowing your spot is a good one!

3. Dispose of waste properly.

Pack it in, pack it out! This mantra means everything you bring outdoors should be taken out with you when you leave. If properly taken care of, this method not only minimizes your impact on the environment but can also help maintain a cleaner campsite for others to enjoy. Make sure you properly package food that may spill or leak. Ensure that any food or drink containers are completely closed before storing them away. When it comes to human waste, use toilet facilities—and bury your business properly. No matter what the waste, it is important that we leave no trace!

4. Leave what you find

While there are a lot of neat things in nature, it’s important to leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them. If unavoidable, please restore disturbed areas when your trip is over by removing all traces of your stay. It is important to remember to respect the living vegetation around us by not carving into trees, picking flowers, or causing any other damage to live plants.

5. Minimize campfire impacts.

We understand that a campfire can be a big part of the camping experience. Make sure you camp in areas where wood is abundant and select an area that will cause the least amount of damage. Build fires only where they are permitted, and when doing so, keep them small and use durable ground surfaces. The best place to build a fire is within an existing fire ring at a campsite. When it is time to put out the fire, make sure you use water to ensure that it is completely extinguished. We all love a good s’more, it’s just important to make sure we’re using fire responsibly.

6. Respect wildlife.

This is another good principle to remember. We love our wildlife, and it is important to respect them in their natural habitat. While they may be interested in your food, do not feed wild animals, as food can make them dependent on humans for survival. This may put their lives at risk later. Just like you appreciate your personal space, don’t forget to keep your distance from wildlife too!

7. Be considerate of other visitors.

You should always be respectful to others, whether you’re on a trail or in a campground. That means keeping your voice down and respecting the privacy of others. If you are exploring with pets, make sure they are on a leash. When hiking along narrow trails be mindful of other travelers passing by and politely move out of the way when necessary. We are all here to enjoy the beauty, so let’s show a little respect for each other while doing it!

The seven principles of “Leave No Trace” are used by millions of people every year to create a better experience for everyone outdoors. When visiting the NC Smokies and keeping these in mind, you’ll be doing your part to leave no trace behind while enjoying the great outdoors. Be sure to use #LeaveNoTrace and tag us with #HayNow or @VisitNCSmokies on social to show your support.


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