Leave No Trace

Person pointing to a wooden tripod with cairn information sign
Cairn and Leave No Trace information seen along hiking trails

Photo by Will Newton, Friends of Acadia, NPS

What is Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace is about attitude and ethics. It's about taking personal responsibility to respect and care for our limited wildland resources and the experiences of other outdoor enthusiasts. Low-impact skills and knowledge are also an important part of Leave No Trace, but without the right attitude and ethic, they are useless. You must commit yourself to apply them, to practice good stewardship.

Leave No Trace extends the National Park Service mission to you and challenges you to "…conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Leave No Trace is also a universal education message and a national program led by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and adopted by the four federal land management agencies and many state and municipal agencies and private nonprofit organizations.

Person talking to two children near a portal information station
Summit Steward talking with two children on Gorham Mountain Trail

Photo by Friends of Acadia

Why Practice Leave No Trace?

At 3.5 million visits a year, Acadia is one of the top 10 most-visited national parks in the United States. More than 750,000 people visit Cadillac Mountain every year, resulting in significant resource damage over time. Without Leave No Trace and be mindful of what you do on your visit, areas of the park will continue to experience adverse effects.

Acadia National Park is committed to promoting Leave No Trace and encouraging visitors to minimize their impact during their visit. The park has received recognition as a Gold Standard Site for its work in visitor education and resource monitoring from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

The Summit Stewards, a program funded through Friends of Acadia, educate visitors on Leave No Trace and park information at summits, along trails, and in frequently visited areas.


The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace provide a framework of minimum impact practices for anyone to understand and implement when visiting the outdoors. Learn about each one and how to apply them during your visit to Acadia - and beyond.

  • Be prepared! Remember food and water, and clothes to protect you from cold, heat and rain.
  • Use maps to plan where you’re going. Check them along the way so you’ll stay on course and won’t get lost.
  • Remember to bring a leash for your pet and plastic bags to pick up your pet’s waste.
  • Learn about the areas you plan to visit. Know where you need a reservation, check the park website, and talk to people before you go. The more you know, the more fun you’ll have.
  • Hike on designated trails to protect trailside plants.
  • Keep bikes off the hiking trails. Choose carriage roads or designated bike paths.
  • Do not step on flowers and plants. Once damaged, they may not grow back.
  • Respect private property by staying on designated trails.
  • Camp only in designated campgrounds. No backcountry, "out-of-bounds" camping, or overnight parking is allowed.
  • Pack it in, Pack it out. Put litter, even crumbs, peels and cores, in garbage bags and carry it home. Do not rely on park trash cans as some trailheads and parking lots don’t have any.
  • Check maps to know where restrooms or vault toilets are before hiking. If not available, bury human waste in a small hole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet or 70 big steps from water. Those conditions can be difficult to find in the park due to thin soils and public water supply.
  • Use a plastic bag to pack out your pet’s poop to a garbage can.
  • Keep water clean, as many lakes and ponds are public water supply for local communities. Do not swim in these areas and respect posted signage.
  • Leave plants, rocks, cairns, and historical items as you find them so others can enjoy them. Do not alter the landscape.
  • Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking, peeling, parking, or stepping on plants may kill them.
  • Campfires are only allowed in certain designated campgrounds. Check regulations and amenities at individual sites. Use only existing fire rings to protect the ground from heat. Keep your fire small.
  • Remember, a campfire isn’t a garbage can. Pack out all trash and food.
  • Firewood should be bought from a local vendor. Don’t bring firewood from farther than 50 miles away – it can harbor tree killing insects and diseases. Many states regulate the movement of untreated firewood.
  • Burn all wood to ash and be sure the fire is completely out and cold before you leave.
  • When in doubt, use a camp stove for cooking. Stoves are easier to cook on and create less impact than a fire.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed, or follow them.
  • Human food is unhealthy for all wildlife and feeding them starts bad habits.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by securely storing your meals and trash in hard sided containers or locked in your car. Not all campgrounds have food storage.
  • Be considerate when passing others on the hiking trails and carriage roads. Respect speed limits for bicycles.
  • Federal law requires that all pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.. This helps protect your pet, other visitors, and wildlife.
  • Listen to nature. Avoid making loud noises, yelling, or playing amplified music – including bird calls. You will see more wildlife if you are quiet.
  • Remember to have fun but be respectful of other visitors. Everyone enjoys the outdoors differently.
Three people hike along a coastal trail
Traveling on durable surfaces, like designated trails and granite, helps to protect fragile vegetation.

Photo by Ashley L. Conti, Friends of Acadia, NPS


More About Leave No Trace

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    Last updated: September 8, 2022

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    PO Box 177
    Bar Harbor, ME 04609


    207 288-3338

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