How to

Leave The Trail

Better Than

You Found It

Have you ever heard the saying, how to leave the trail better than you found it?

It’s like Leave No Trace but with some extra effort from you to make the trail even better.

You can do a couple of things to leave the trail better than you found it.

And it doesn’t take much effort, either. You can do it as you hike. If you turn it into a ritual you do every time you hike, you’ll make the trail better for you and everyone else.


Leave the Trail Better than You Found It: Pick Up Litter

If you see litter on the trail, pick it up and take it out of the forest on your way out.

I like to carry a couple of plastic grocery bags with me for this sort of thing. You could even carry a trash bag with you if you want to do some serious cleanup.

You can’t get everything. That’s totally understandable. Tires and old appliances usually stay put, but beer cans and soda bottles are something you can easily get out of the woods.

Just think how much better the trail will look.


Leave the Trail Better than You Found It: Natural Debris

If natural debris covers the trail’s path, many users are keen to build new trails around the debris.

This mainly occurs on horse trails and trails being used by ATVs.

Creating a new trail around the debris damages the ecosystem and can cause erosion. In addition, it can cause problems for everyone who uses the trail in the future.

If the natural debris is minimal enough, you could take a folding saw and cut it away (small branches and trees) or drag it off the trail if possible.

Don’t do anything to hurt yourself, and don’t feel like you have to chop up an entire fallen tree. In most cases, you can report the debris to the public land manager or an organization that helps maintain the trail, and they will get rid of the big stuff.


Leave the Trail Better than You Found It: Respect Nature

In the end, it’s up to you to respect nature.

Carving on trees or rocks isn’t respecting nature. Spray painting graffiti on trees and rocks isn’t respecting nature. Likewise, building cairns, forts, and structures in the forest isn’t respecting nature.

If you don’t respect nature, you ruin it for others. You might even ruin it for yourself if land managers decide to quit funding an area due to damage.

Don’t ruin nature for yourself or others.

Respect it. Let nature be nature.

It’s the last thing humans don’t have to ruin because it’s usually gone forever when it’s gone.


See how easy it is the leave the trail better than you found it? If you’re ready to take on this task, I applaud you. I try to do it every time I hike. It feels great, too. If you enjoyed this article and want to see more, subscribe to my free monthly newsletter.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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