7 Ways to Leave No Trace While Exploring State Parks

By: Thomas Cummings, SCA Interpretative Ranger for Umbagog Lake State Park

Exploring New Hampshire’s State Parks is a great way to spend a summer. From lounging on the beach to hiking up mountains, there is bound to be something to do for everyone. With more people going outside and recreating in the parks it is important to keep in mind the impact one has on their surroundings. Here is a list of seven ways you can minimize your impact on natural resources so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.

1. Do your research

Spontaneous outings do have their place, in being grand adventures with no set plan. However, to get the most out of a visit to a state park it helps to have some information prior to getting in your car. For example, by reading up on the New Hampshire State Parks Blog you may learn of a hidden gem at a park that is over looked by most visitors. You could also talk with Park Staff or SCA Interpretative Rangers who are happy to teach about the use of natural resources.

Meet the 9 Interpretative Rangers who can help answer questions you may have about different parks so you can have the best experience possible.

2. Stay on trail

Trails are put in place to give explorers, like yourself, a designated area to focus your impact. Hiking off trail does have an impact, by means of trampling vegetation and disturbing wildlife. Hiking on trail gives wildlife space to stay wild while also protecting delicate vegetation that may have otherwise been stepped on.

Franconia Notch State Park Interpreters Sarah (left) and Eilis (right) staying on trail as they hike in Bear Brook State Park.

3. Carry in, carry out

New Hampshire State Parks are shared spaces of wilderness that everyone can enjoy. That being said, be sure to bring home anything you brought to the park. For example, if you brought a snack in a wrapper, take your trash with you. By simply throwing it on the ground it can be harmful to wildlife, while also taking away the beauty of the park.

Monadnock State Park Interpreter Nell picking up litter as she hikes in Bear Brook State Park.

4. Leave what you find

While you venture into different parks you may run across things that spark your curiosity or may leave you in a sense of awe. Be sure to leave that thing where you found it so others can share that same “Wow” moment you were able to have. A great alternative to taking something home is to just take a picture instead.

SCA interpreters taking the time to complete some rubbings of the grave stones rather than taking the grave stones home with them.

5. Use designated fire rings

Campfires are core part of many peoples experience(s) of camping. However, fires can leave a huge impact on the environment if they are not taken care of properly. By using designated fire rings, put in place by park staff, you can enjoy the flames while having a focused impact. This allows the surrounding environment to be affected as little as possible by your actions.

White Lake and Ellacoya State Parks Interpreter Matt using a designated fire ring at his campsite at Bear Brook State Park.

6. Give wildlife space

New Hampshire is home to an assortment of wildlife that people, for the most part, would like to see. As exciting as it may be to see these animals and plants it is important to give them the space they need. Keep in mind the park you’re exploring is their home. So be sure to respectful, because your actions might lead to exciting discoveries.

Can you see the snapping turtle I was able to spot while exploring in Bear Brook State Park? Being respectful of his space, this photo was taken at distance.

7. Share your experiences

The great outdoors is a place where anyone, and everyone is welcome. We may have different backgrounds, or comfort levels in the outdoors but we can all learn from each other. Simply by talking to a passing hiker, you may leave the trail with more knowledge than when you first started on your hike.

SCA Interpreters enjoying a camping trip together at Bear Brook State Park.

These seven tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the wilderness responsibly. If you’d like more information about other ways you can recreate responsibly, swing by any number of programs put on by the Student Conservation Association’s Interpretative Rangers this summer!

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Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

One thought on “7 Ways to Leave No Trace While Exploring State Parks

  1. I always enjoy your NH State Park blog. However, your “Leave No Trace” post has one problem spot. #4 Leave What you Find shows people doing gravestone rubbings. This is not regarded as responsible practice any longer. Historic gravestones can be loose and fragile, some even de-laminating. Any human contact, especially applying pressure while trying to transfer the inscription could cause the stone to fall and possibly break. Taking a photo is a much safer alternative and captures a better image.

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