Chances are, the past few months you have probably spent a lot of time at home or in front of a screen due to COVID-19. Now that restrictions are slowly easing up and it is warm out, fresh air and sunshine is exactly what many people want and need. Particularly, hiking.
Hiking has become one of the most popular outdoor activities because you don’t need any equipment, it can essentially be cost-free. People are craving the chance to break away from screens and be outdoors to feel better physically and mentally. However, as more and more people are hiking, it can take a toll on the natural world. Here are things to keep in mind and ways you can minimize the impact on nature:
Take Nothing but Photos
People often take flowers, an interesting rock, or some other type of souvenir when hiking as a way to remember that hike. But can you imagine how much damage it would cause if nearly 40 million people did that when they hike every year? Take photos to remember your hike and nothing else. Leave natural things in nature where they belong.
Always Walk On the Trail
There are thousands of miles of hiking trails and if you’re hiking in a park or nature preserve that has trails, walk on those trails at all times. The trails are designed to keep you safe and to protect the ecosystems that are off the trail. If you try to create your own shortcut or path other people might start walking on your path and soon the entire area would be a mess, leading to trail washout and erosion of topsoil that provides vegetation with nutrients. So, opt not to do that. Stay on the trails.
Keep Your Dog Leashed
Dogs are fantastic hiking companions. But, they should be on a leash at all times. Dogs that are off the leash may get too excited and run off to chase wildlife, dig, bite bark or loose tree branches, and rip bushes. Take dogs on hikes, just respect the trail and others on it and keep them leashed.
Don’t Disturb Wildlife
You might see wildlife like birds, deer, rabbits, chipmunks… but never get too close and don’t try to feed them or follow their tracks. If you want to capture the memory take a distance photo with your phone and then keep on the trail.
It is always a good practice: whatever you bring with you onto trails should leave with you and whatever is there at the trails should stay as is. Leave nothing behind and don’t disturb the trail systems. Leave no trace while having fun, exploring nature and enjoying the outdoors.