Tag Archives: trails

Halloween Haunts

What’s this! Your cheeks sense chill air, crisply scented with leafy decay as a slow creeping sensation causes the hairs on the back of your neck to rise… it’s Halloween!! State parks are the best year-round, but are also the SP🎃🎃KIEST way to get a taste of nature as the days shorten. We thought we’d list prime, kooky ways to get your heart rate up!

Trains and Treats in California

There’s festive fun aplenty to get your autumn on track at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Park goers should prepare themselves for a freight–er.. fright! on the Spookomotive Ride, leaving the station hourly this Saturday and Sunday, the 29th and 30th, from noon to 4 p.m. The 45-minute, 6-mile (round-trip) train ride is $15 for adults, $8 for young people aged 2-17, and free for children two years old and younger. A mad scientist will be on board to startle and delight passengers, as well as to field questions regarding how to reanimate sewn-together people, or use lightning as a renewable energy source for your own secret laboratories!

The theme for the weekend is Witches & Wizards, but if you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal your zombie train conductor costume with all its bells and whistles (overalls are back in a big way this fall, after all), the CSRM would probably be it. There’s trick-or-treating at the museum on Saturday, Oct. 29th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with plenty of sweets and knowledge to be had for magic folk and ghost engineers alike.

Chugging right along…

[Image: hiddensandiego.net]

Once called Día de los Muertos, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is a pre-Columbian tradition which has its roots in central and southern Mexico. Today, the macabre-yet-bright skeletal imagery and the spirit of venerating deceased loved ones marks a holiday celebrated across cultures here in the United States. [Image: hiddensandiego.net]

If you can’t make the Halloween events at the CSRM and find yourself in southern California, you can check out the Día de los Muertos celebrations at Old Town San Diego SHP. On November 1st and 2nd, there will be historical and modern altars set up around the park to commemorate the inhabitants of Old Town. Visitors can take an altar tour to learn about this tradition, and themselves contribute to the “Tributes & Sentiments” chalk graveyard to remember their own loved ones.

Wicked Woods in New York

A halloween hallow?

Serene or sinister? The more you know, the more your answer will crystalize. [Image: www.pinterest.com]

In keeping with the haunted themes of the season, Green Lakes State Park in Central New York is welcoming one and all to their event, Wicked Woods. On October 29th, from 4 to 8 p.m., admission to the park is free. There will be beachside mini-golf and costumed trick-or-treating, a haunted trail, crafts, a photo booth, and a large bonfire to cap it all off. You can learn more about the event here. As an added bonus, you can work some feel good magic into your eerie festivities by bringing along a non-perishable food item to donate to the local food bank.

Owl-O-Ween in Tennessee

Owls have long been as much a part of Halloween imagery as pumpkins, ghosts or witches. It’s possible this is because of their domination of the nocturnal world, which they survey with their piercing eyes and well-informed demeanor. If you’ve ever taken a break from personifying these mighty nighttime hunters and wondered about the distant hollow hoots one occasionally hears on dusky hikes, Owl-O-Ween at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tennessee is just the ticket. For $3 per individual, or $5 per family, hikers can explore nature after sundown, while learning about the Barred Owl and its unique night-song from a knowledgeable ranger! October 29th, 7:30-8:30 p.m., guests are encouraged to make a reservation by calling 615-885-2422 or visiting the Long Hunter State Park website, here.

 

Uh oh...

This would look a whole lot more terrifying if you were a field mouse… [Image: www.birdwatchingdaily.com]

Whether you’re looking to take on Halloween fully costumed, or simply enjoy the smells of autumn, there is an inexpensive or free way to satisfy your Halloween cravings at a state park near you. There’s no time like the present to download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and explore what’s going on!

California’s Most Beautiful State Reserves

California is home to some of the most iconic national parks in the United States. Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, and Death Valley are only a few of the more prominent parks of the state. Hailing thousands of visitors not only from the country but even internationally, it has made a name out of stunning geographical features and activities for outdoor enthusiasts. These parks have since heralded visitors due to their monumental beauty and careful preservation efforts.

But aside from its more acclaimed national parks, California also hosts some of the most breathtaking natural state reserves in the nation. Natural state reserves are dedicated preservation areas typically with historical, geological, or cultural significance to the state or country. Even when flanked with the impressive national and state parks in the state, these reserves can more than hold their own. Check out some of the most beautiful state reserves in California below!

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Ever wanted to feel like you’re being transported to another world entirely? If so, that’s just what you’ll experience when you visit Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.

Mono Lake Tufa SNR [Image url: http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/514/images/P0074810_Sunset.jpg]

Mono Lake Tufa SNR is dazzling in the early sunset. Towers of tufas are seen adorning the scenery while gorgeous colors can be seen reflecting in the surrounding waters. [Image: http://www.parks.ca.gov/]

Mono Lake Tufa is a state natural reservation located in eastern California. While this seemingly out-of-this-world natural reserve is relatively near its more iconic cousin, the grand Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake can nevertheless hold its own candle. Surrounded by towering tufas—columns of calcium carbonate formed in carbonate-rich saltwater lakes—Mono Lake provides a dreamy sight for every visitor to marvel at.

The reserve’s preservation committee typically holds tours every weekend throughout the winter months for those interested in visiting this breathtaking place. Check their calendar of events for more information as inclement weather can effect the routine tour schedules. The best time to visit? Sunset. The clear waters and panoramic background paint a palate of dazzling brilliance over the scenery.

For adventure enthusiasts, you’ll find that the Mono Lake has quite an ecosystem. Multiple avian species like the mountain quail, calliope hummingbird, and American wigeon have been sighted in the vicinity. Canada geese, mallards, and other ducks are also frequent visitors during migration periods.

Canada Goose in Mono Lake

Canada geese can be seen flocking in Mono Lake during their migration months. [Image: http://static-myyosemitepark.s3.amazonaws.com/]

Hiking, photography, swimming, and boating are only a few of the activities offered in this area. For those that want to spend a night within its majestic grounds, be sure to read up on the rules and regulations regarding camping permits.

Mono Lake Tufa at night

Tufa can be seen standing regally against a backdrop of the Milky Way at night. During the spring and summer months, a stunning view of the stars make quite a memorable camping environment. [Image: http://goldpaintphotography.com/]

For more information regarding Mono Lake, please visit their park website.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

With views sweeping over deep blue ocean, impressive rocky montages, noble trees, and crashing ocean foam, Point Lobos is a picturesque paradise located in the central coast of Monterey County. Flanked by rolling meadows of green, a thriving ecosystem, and ethereal scenery, this natural reserve is an ideal place to simply get lost in nature’s astounding beauty.

Point Lobos China Cove

One of Point Lobos’ celebrated sights is China Cove. It is a popular tourist sight due to its crystal clear waters along the shorelines. [Image: http://www.montereybayinsider.com/]

The reserve hosts an outdoor program for children and families, tours, diving excursions, hiking, and easy access to adventures all amidst its tranquil atmosphere. Volunteers are available throughout the area to provide information regarding the rich history of Point Lobos.

A section of Point Lobos where waves can be seen crashing in the inland shores. [Image: http://icons.wunderground.com/data/wximagenew/j/jimkv/460-800.jpg]

A section of Point Lobos where waves can be seen crashing on the inland shores. [Image: http://icons.wunderground.com/

If you intend to visit Point Lobos, layers of clothing are suggested due to the distance between the waters. The chilly ocean breeze is quick and eager to drive the heat away from your body, so it is best to bring extra clothing. Other suggested items include a camera to remember the stunning views with, as well as sunscreen and water.

Take a peek at the Point Lobos page for more information.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

On the southern side of California, between La Jolla and Del Mar and north of San Diego, lies Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This state reserve is one of the last two abodes of the rarest pine treePinus torreyana.

Pinus torreyana

One of the rarest pine trees in the nation—Pinus torreyana—can only be found thriving in two locations: Torrey Pines SNR and in Santa Rosa, California. [Image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/]

Torrey Pines is considered a fragile ecosystem. Rigorous preservation efforts have been expended to conserve this natural habitat. It is a popular place of refuge to a large waterfowl population as well as the mule and black-tailed deer. As it is an undeveloped area, it is privy to erosion. An example of this can seen through the Broken Hill, a huge, rugged geological wonder overlooking the ocean.

Broken Hill

Broken Hill provides an ideal place to hike for outdoor enthusiasts. Its impressive location offers an outstanding view of the ocean and lower La Jolla. [Image: http://media.sdreader.com/]

Crags of rock interlock to create a geologic sight prime for sightseeing within the park. For adventurers, Torrey Pines is a small trip to the wildness away from urban life. Its sensitive ecosystem that’s being carefully reserved features cliffs and ravines overlooking the seas. Activities available within the park include swimming at the beach, hiking, interpretive programs, and wildlife watching.

Torrey Pines overlooking the sea

Torrey Pines towering over the sea. It is easy to see how it stirs wanderlust among adventurers. [Image: http://s3-media2.fl.yelpcdn.com/]

It is highly encouraged to check with Torrey Pines SNR website regarding the rules and regulations applicable within the area. As it is a natural area, regulations are carefully placed to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to its ecological system.

California is one of the most urbanized cities in the United States, so state natural reserves are carefully cherished and taken care of to preserve the natural beauty that’s in danger of ever-expanding civilization. It is a great place to relax, think, and be away from the hustle and bustle of the city as well as get in touch with nature and its profound views.

If you’re thinking of visiting one of these SNR’s, let us help you! Our California State Parks app contains the most updated information for this park and can be found in the Apple and Google Play stores. Download now, and take advantage of the warm winter days this December to observe nature at its best in one of these parks!

Autumn and Accessible Trails

Autumn lends itself to outdoor adventure across much of the United States. The leaves are aflame, the air has become tinged with earthiness and the scent of woodsmoke, the mosquito population has dwindled, and it’s finally cool enough to be out and about in the middle of the day. In fact, with sweaters donned and knitted caps freshly retrieved from storage, it simply feels fantastic to be outside. With this in mind, coupled with the spirit of the 25th year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, now seems like the perfect time to highlight some trails that are accessible to nature lovers who happen to use wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment. These trails were chosen for their paved or highly compacted surfaces.

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes—Mullan, ID

view of lake surrounded by trees at the accessible Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

One of the many lovely vistas offered along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
[Image: http://taimages.railstotrails.org]

This 72-mile trail is paved for its entirety, offering 20 developed trailheads and 17 wayside stations for rest, rehydration, or a scenic picnic between Mullan and Plummer, ID. The trail is accessible for persons who use wheelchairs as well as runners, cyclists, in-line skaters, and even the occasional moose.

Call (208) 682-3814 for more information.

Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail—Gardners, PA

The Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail is two paved miles along some of Pennsylvania’s Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The park is notable for being the approximate middle point of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Travelers will enjoy proximity to two lakes, the Michaux State Forest, and all the charms and wiles that make the Appalachian Trail one of America’s most beloved outdoor destinations. If you are looking to combine a jaunt into nature and some family-oriented fun, the park’s 7th Annual Fall Furnace Festival is on Saturday, October 17th and Sunday, October 18th.

Call (717) 486-7174 for more information. 

Paseo del Bosque Trail—Albuquerque, NM

Paseo del Bosque Trail is a 16-mile paved, rather level pathway through Rio Grande Valley State Park in the heart of Albuquerque. The trail offers a unique and brilliant Southwestern beauty with a dash of autumn color in the leaves of the numerous cottonwoods that line the Rio Grande River. But visitors should seize this opportunity soon—predictions are that the peak color changes are already taking hold!

Call (505) 452-5200 for more information.

Bearskin State Park Trail—Minocqua, WI

Flat and accessible.

Some autumn foliage on Bearskin Trail. [Image: http://www.erikgrinde.com]

Bearskin State Park Trail boasts the best of Wisconsin’s Northwoods and journeys through an area with one of the densest concentration of lakes in the world. The trail runs for 18 miles on a fine, hard, compacted granite that should prove a winning surface for people operating a wheelchair. An encounter with this trail is a delight for outdoor enthusiasts year-round.

Call (715) 536-8773 for more information.

While these are just a few examples, it holds that diversity and mindful inclusion are what make America such a wonderful place to live, work, and play. Our state parks reflect that wonder naturally, especially as we continue to grow toward better inclusion for people of all abilities. For more information on state parks near you, check out our Pocket Ranger® apps, or for wheelchair- and otherwise ADA-accessible trails and parks, please explore the following resources:

A List of Wheelchair-Accessible Trails by State

Information on ADA-Accessibility and Trails

Fees, permits, and reservations may apply. Visitors should check with their local park or trail organizers to be sure of a pathway’s accessibility before embarking.

Related articles

Make Your Own Trails with the Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition

Any of our Pocket Ranger® apps can help you find adventure, but you’ll need a rugged rig to get you there. Named Motor Trend’s 2015 Truck of the Year®, we nominate Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition as that perfect ride to get you from humble abode into the great outdoors.

Chevy Colorado Z71 - Trail Boss Edition [Image: www.chevrolet.com]

Image: www.chevrolet.com

Reach any trailhead with the Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition. This midsize pick-up comfortably handles the toughest trails thanks to its rugged durability, powerfully efficient 3.6L V6 engine, and Z71 Off-Road Package. No matter the weather, the trail-ready Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac® all-terrain tires keep you moving in all conditions. Best of all that Z71 Off-Road Package guarantees a smooth ride.

Chevy Colorado Z71 - Trail Boss Edition [Image: www.chevrolet.com]

Image: www.chevrolet.com

Got gear? Whether you’re a hiker, kayaker, hunter or angler, with the Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition there are storage options galore for all of your outdoor gear. GearOn™ moveable cargo tie-down rings and GearOn™ cargo divider in the bed give you many ways to secure your gear. Inside the cab, the large center console provides easy storage options for your gadgets and a nonskid space for charging devices. Armed with rear vision camera, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and OnStar Advisor, this truck pulls its weight when it comes to you and your family’s safety. Composed of high strength materials and reinforced safety cage, the Chevy Colorado Z71 series frame actually minimizes damage in the event of a collision.

Chevy Colorado Z71 - Trail Boss Edition [Image: www.chevrolet.com]

Image: www.chevrolet.com

Take the internet into the wilderness with you! Turn your Chevy Colorado Z71 into a hot spot with 4G LTE high-speed Wi-Fi connection powered by OnStar. Forgot to download a Pocket Ranger® app before you left the house? Download apps, surf the web, and stream video and music with the cab’s powerful connection that can serve up to seven devices. Four USB ports found in the cabin’s console add to ease of use. The truck’s cabin is also equipped with a top-notch Bose® sound system. Queue up the perfect soundtrack for those nights spent star-gazing from the truck bed.

Driving along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway is a favorite during peak fall foliage season. [Image: www.motorhomeroadtrip.com]

Driving along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway is a favorite during peak fall foliage season. [Image: www.motorhomeroadtrip.com]

Download the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for New Hampshire State Parks and cruise the scenic Kancamagus Highway. While most will be stuck looking at the White Mountains from the hardtop of “the Kanc,” with your Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition, you can access numerous trailheads. We recommend hiking Mount Chocorua, a steep climb with commanding views of the Presidential Mountains. Don’t want to leave your Chevy behind? Put the Chevy Colorado Z71 to the test by summiting Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast!

Alpine Lakes Wilderness [Image: www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/alpine-lakes-wilderness]

Alpine Lakes Wilderness [Image: www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/alpine-lakes-wilderness]

Or get lost in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington. Less than 50 miles from Seattle, you can rely on your Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition to easily transition you from hip, urban sprawl to austere, alpine wilderness. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area is home to the glacier-carved North Cascades and part of the legendary Pacific Crest Trail. Some of the best rock-climbing opportunities in the country can be found at Cashmere Crags. Or load up the kayak or canoe and spend the day on one of the 700 mountain lakes and ponds within the area. Download the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for Washington State Parks for advanced GPS mapping capabilities that will help you navigate your adventure.

National Trails Day Events 2015

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day arrives June 6, 2015, spreading across the country. Discover the many state parks offering free outdoor events. From birding festival to evening hikes, there’s something for everyone at the state parks this summer!

Falls-to-Hotham-Alpine-Crossing-1

 Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, Maine

Join the Aroostook Birders bird watching club and the Friends of the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge for an unforgettable birding festival. The Northern Maine Bird Festival is a free-admission event, running from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. It will feature guided bird walks, netting/banding demonstrations, educational displays, activities for kids, plus a special live-birds “Owls of Maine” for all ages. The first “early-bird” hike goes out at 6 a.m, which includes a visit to woodland, wetland and grassland habitats to see flycatchers, warblers, and the uncommon Lincoln’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper. An ecology professor will be on board to show the branding of songbirds. Also outdoor stations will be set up for children to build a bird house, construct a feeder, and learn about birds through other fun activities. Birders of all skill levels are welcomed.

More info: 207-540-3079, steve_agius@fws.gov

State Park Ranger with a group of park visitors,

Image: www.nps.gov

Cheraw State Park, South Carolina

The best way to learn about your state park is with the help of a park ranger. Celebrate National Trails Day with the Hike with a Ranger event in the rolling landscape of the Sand Hills region of South Carolina through a 2.5 mile loop and the 4.5 mile Turkey Oak Trail. As you hike along, you’ll get a peek at some of the most common South Carolina wildlife, such as deer, turkey, native squirrels, snakes and the endangered red cockaded woodpecker. Visitors will be able to pass an active colony of red cockaded woodpeckers. After the nature walks, hikers can stick around to use the day area found along the banks of the 360-acre Lake Juniper. Be sure to carry water, comfy shoes, binoculars and bug spray.

More info: 843-537-9656, caughman@scprt.com

Hikers walking at night.

Image: www.blog.eurekatent.com

High Knob Lake, Virginia

We know it’s not Halloween, but exploring the woods at night is thrilling any time of the year. Join the Clinch Coalition, an organization that helps protect and preserve forest, wildlife and watersheds to celebrate National Trails Day with an Overnight Excursion. Experience Virginia’s premier hiking trails: Chief Benge Scout Trail and the Little Stony Falls National Recreation Trail, spanning 19 miles. The hike begins at  High Knob Lake, situated at an elevation of 4,000 feet over sea level, then down the mountain to the Hanging Rock Recreation Area.

More info: 423-948-5538, clinchcoalition@gmail.com

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Help keep your state park clean by volunteering to pick up trash while hiking along the trails in Palo Duro Canyon State Park‘s Clean Up Your Park Trails Day. Choose the trail you want to hike and head to the park between 8:30 and10:00 a.m for a free entry. The Entrance Office will be providing trash bags. Visitors will be informed of the collection site the day of the event.

More info: 806 488 2227 x226, bernice.blasingame@tpwd.texas.gov

A group of volunteers cleaning up their park.

Image: www.beltlineorg.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com

 Prairie State Park, Missouri

Discover wildlife while hiking. Come out to Prairie State Park to see bison and their lovely new calves. The guided hike will take take place June 6th at 10am, taking visitors for a two mile hike over uneven terrain. Be sure to stay hydrated with water and snacks, also bring insect repellent, a hat, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes. Since you can’t get too close to the bison, a pair of binoculars will come in handy for any wildlife you encounter.

Register: 417-843-6711  Additional Info: 800-334-6946

There are plenty more National Trails Day events to get excited about, even a photo contest!

Discover trails, wildlife and outdoors activities with the Pocket Ranger® State Parks Apps and the National Park Passport Guide App.

The Nitty Gritty About Survival Kits

Survival kit essentials and backpack [Image: thenexttrailhead.com/post/45569963707/diy-first-aid-wilderness-survival-kit]

Image: thenexttrailhead.com/post/45569963707/diy-first-aid-wilderness-survival-kit

Heading into the great outdoors? In addition to your first aid kit, don’t forget to pack a survival kit! While everyone has preferences of what they like to include in their personal survival kit, here’s a list of our 11 must-haves.

1. Lighter

A small plastic lighter can make all the difference in an emergency. Also consider packing a magnesium starter or a book of matches as back-up.

2. Cell Phone

Cell phones are practically mandatory survival items these days. Just don’t forget to bring a charger. For more remote locations, a satellite phone may be necessary.

3. Iodine Tablets

In addition to bringing enough water, fill a small pill bottle with iodine tablets. Iodine tablets are perfect for survival kits because they are way easier to pack than a water filter. These tablets don’t add the best taste to water, but they will get you through those areas where drinking water isn’t readily available.

Two hikers on the trail in the evening [Image: Image: outdoorgearmadness.com/petzl-myo-rxp-review]

Image: outdoorgearmadness.com/petzl-myo-rxp-review

4. Flashlight

What you thought was a day hike turns into an overnight affair. That’s when you’re really going to need your flashlight and/or headlamp. Just don’t forget to pack extra batteries!

5. Knife

A pocket knife is good. A multi-tool knife is great.

6. Tinder

Whether you bring along some homemade fire starter or a vial of emergency tinder tablets, dry kindling will be a godsend when you’re looking to start a fire.

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you'll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image:  www.exposureguide.com/outdoor-photography-tips.htm]

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you’ll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image: www.exposureguide.com/outdoor-photography-tips.htm]

7. Energy Bar

Stash an energy bar or two into your survival kit. When the going gets rough, an energy bar will feel like a feast.

8. Compass & Maps

Even the best technology can fail, which is why bringing along a compass and map is so essential. Before hitting the trail, be sure that you are packing the most up-to-date map!

9. Waterproof Shell

Even if the forecast says sunny, pack a light, waterproof outer shell. This shell should also act as a windbreaker.

After a day like this, you'll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image: treelinebackpacker.com/2014/08/09/backpacking-in-the-rain]

After a day like this, you’ll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image: treelinebackpacker.com/2014/08/09/backpacking-in-the-rain]

10. Water Bottle

If you’ve got the space, bring an extra water bottle. You never know when you’ll need an extra container.

11. Extra Hiking Socks

Knowing you’ve packed a pair of dry hiking socks may be the ticket to getting you through those downtrodden moments on the trail. Thick socks can also double as mittens.

Many of these items and more can be found within our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store! Or take our 2-minute Pocket Ranger® Survey and you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

Leave No Trace

How do you keep the wilderness wild when millions of outdoor enthusiasts visit state and national parks each year? The Center for Outdoor Ethics created a solution to this problem with their national educational program, Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace program promotes and inspires good ethical practice when in the backcountry. By following these guidelines, you ensure a gratifying and lasting outdoor experience for all.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Like any trip, planning before you arrive at your destination is key.

  • Acquaint yourself with park regulations. You can easily access this information through any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather and emergencies. Pack a first aid kit and a survival kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, multi-tool pocket knife, maps, lighter, fire starters, and iodine tablets.
  • Respect the physical limits of your hiking group by planning a trip that’s compatible with the group’s skill level.
Backpacker in sunlit field [Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com]

Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com

  • Careful meal planning and packaging is so important when out in the backcountry. Pack only the food you need to minimize waste while you’re out on the trail.
  • Try to visit the outdoors in small groups. This is especially applicable to backpacking trips. If you are a larger group heading into the wilderness, break off into smaller groups to reduce impact on the environment. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use on the trail.
  • Refrain from marking your trail with paint, cairns or flagging, and instead use a map, compass or your Pocket Ranger® app. In addition to a compass feature, the Pocket Ranger® apps offer users advanced GPS features that can even be used offline!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Trampling down an area’s vegetation can result in some undesirable results, such as barren areas and soil erosion. Help preserve the environment by following these tips:

  • In wilderness areas of high use, stick to established trails and campsites. Established campsites can come in a few different forms, such as raised wooden platforms, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow. Walk single-file on trails and try to stick to the center of these trails. This prevents the trail from further eroding the surrounding landscape.
Hikers on a trail in the woods [Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles]

Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles

  • However, when camping and hiking through pristine or fragile environments, the opposite is true. Avoid making established trails or campsites by dispersing your impact on the environment. Do not camp or travel in places where impacts are just beginning to show.
  • Whether in high use or low use areas, always make sure to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This protects the waterbody and riparian areas (the land near a waterbody) from damage and contamination.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This principle could be the golden rule of the backcountry: Whatever you pack in, you must pack out! This includes all trash, leftover food, toilet paper (both used and unused), and hygiene products.

  • Before leaving a campsite or rest area, check around for any trash or spilled food you may have missed.
  • Solid human waste should be deposited in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep. These catholes must be at least 200 feet from water, campsite and trails. After use, cover and disguise catholes.
Always clean up after yourself when outdoors. [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

Always clean up after yourself! [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

  • Got dishes? Need a shower? To clean either yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lake, and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap. When finished cleaning or bathing, do not dump this dirty water back into the stream or lake! Doing so would contaminate the natural water source. Instead, strain and then scatter the water at least 200 feet (or 80 to 100 strides) from its source.

4. Leave What You Find

Look, but don’t touch! Preserve the past by leaving natural and historic structures and artifacts as they are. This ensures that other visitors to the area will have the same sense of discovery.

  • Leave rocks, plants, feathers and other natural objects just as you find them.
  • Don’t transport non-native species with you! Non-native species frequently become invasive. These invasive species can critically damage the ecosystem.
  • A good campsite is found, not made. Do not dig trenches or build structures, such as lean-tos, tables or chairs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While many believe that a roaring campfire is essential to a great camping trip, fire is not always permitted in backcountry area. Before lighting a fire, always check with park regulations.

  • If fires are allowed, use only established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Keep your campfire small and manageable.
  • Hold off on the huge logs! The Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends using sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Can you spot the two campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

Can you spot the campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

  • Burn all the wood and coals in your campfire to ash and put out the fire completely. Then scatter the cool ashes.
  • As for cooking outdoors, use a lightweight camp stove. A lightweight camp stove (rather than a bulky camp stove) will also be a blessing for your back!

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s certainly exhilarating to come across wildlife when outdoors. For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, follow these guidelines for wildlife sightings:

  • Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never approach or follow wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife! Feeding wildlife can make wild animals dependent on humans, creating opportunities for potentially dangerous encounters.
Black bear takes over picnic at campsite [Image: http://forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

Don’t let your favorite breakfast cereal become theirs. [Image: forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food rations and securely.
  • If you bring pets with you, make sure you have control of them at all times. In many places, leashes are required.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

While you may head into the backcountry to be alone in the great outdoors, chances are you may come across a few other outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Respect other visitors to the area. Be courteous and yield to other hikers on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from the trails and other visitors. Avoid making loud noises or speaking in loud voices when in the backcountry. Keeping your voice low not only helps others enjoy their time in the wilderness, but also increases your chances of seeing wildlife.
  • If you encounter pack stock in the backcountry, step to the downhill side of the trail.

Any adventure in the outdoors is going to require some quality gear. By taking the Pocket Ranger® State Park Visitor Survey you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!