If you’re on social media in any capacity you’ve probably seen some epic photos of beautiful places…places you want to go because you saw them on Instagram or Facebook. Perfect, now you have one more ‘to visit’ place on your list + add to the geo-tag when you return.
However, you’re not the only one thinking this + the massive influx of people onto the already popular trails have led to some not-so-great consequences. First off, there are a ka-trillion photos of the same area flooding Instagram feed. But, more seriously, this increased traffic is leading to trail erosion, littering problems + broken rules [both written + unwritten]. This is a problem.
That said, I’m not here to talk about problems — there are a whole bundle of articles out there addressing the problem. Instead, let’s take a positive spin on this + talk about the good that we can do on this topic.
How can we reduce our social media impact on the great outdoors?
Rather than simply using your social platforms as a way to share photos, use them as a way to share how you have gone outside + used the trails responsibly…therefore giving you access to amazing views + the subsequent photos. One way to do this is to ensure you’re sharing photos that *are* following all of the Leave No Trace Principles.
Of course, these photos will be hard to obtain since you are definitely following all the Leave No Trace Principles. Right? Right! If you’re not going beyond ‘closed for restoration’ signs + you’re not wandering off trail + you’re not leaving behind trash then it’ll be very hard to accidentally share a photo showing that. So, share your heart out…showing the world how awesome it is to be outside + using trails responsibly.
How can we protect the trails from hordes of selfie sticks?
First off, note that I said ‘selfie sticks’, not ‘selfie takers’ because I am completely fine with the takers of selfies. It’s the mentality that usually comes with a posse of selfie sticks that causes problems on the trails. There are some areas that have blown up on social media which has led to a lot of negative impact in real life.
Take Hanging Lake, a popular + beautiful short hike just off the interstate in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This lake is gorgeous + requires only 1-2 hours on a well marked trail to visit, not to mention the fact it is quite literally directly off the interstate. This has lead to an influx of thousands of newcomers. Great, more people outside, right? Well, sort of.
Unfortunately, a lot of these people have arrived without being properly prepared or properly informed. The trail does not allow dogs; however many people don’t know this before they arrive so when faced with leaving their dog in a hot car or breaking the trail rules they opt to break the trail rules. The lake itself has a log reaching out into it that has a “closed” sign on it; however if you climb out onto that log you get epic photos which many people do assuming they won’t do much damage. This has become an ongoing problem where the local authorities are struggling to find a solution that keeps everyone at least somewhat happy. Ultimately, this influx of people who are NOT using the trail responsible is leading to a regulated limitation on the people who will have access to this trail in the future. That’s not cool.
This is an example where we, as trail users, need to work to encourage the new trail users to come prepared to be responsible. One way to do this is to avoid geo-tagging your photos from this location or to ensure you include captions outlining the rules of the trail in areas like this.
By no means am I suggesting that you should not go or that you should not share the photos — just adventure with the trails longevity in mind + share your experiences with a bit of education on the side.
How can we help new trail users get familiar with Leave No Trace Principles + other ‘regulations’ that keep our trails lovely + accessible to us?
So far we’ve talked a lot about being responsible trail users…if you’re curiously reading about something like this you are probably already there or at least on the right track. Yay, thank you!
It is the people who have not yet thought about the long term impact of their adventures or the purpose for the written + unwritten rules of the trails. This is where we all need to come together to share the knowledge. Many [all?!] of us have made mistakes that put us in violation of trail rules or Leave No Trace Principles at one time or another. I’m not here to point fingers. Instead, I’d like to take those mistakes + turn them into tips, tricks + solutions for the new round of trail users hitting the wilderness.
Can you help me do that?
Share a story of how you have made a mistake in the wilderness that has led to a larger-than-planned impact on the world around you…then tell us how you plan to avoid this in the future.
Not sure what story to share? Check out the Seven Principles of LNT to jog your memory.