Appalachian Mountain Club

Low-Impact Guidelines


  • Carry in; carry out.
  • Leave only footprints; take only pictures.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • In popular areas, concentrate use on existing trails and campsites. In pristine areas, disperse use.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Don’t alter a site.
  • Know and respect the use restrictions of the area where you are traveling.

Trip Preparation

  • Use food containers that double as trash containers.
  • Take trash bags and pick up refuse, yours and that of others.
  • Limit groups size in general, to 10 in wilderness areas.


  • Stay on the trail; do not cut across or create switchbacks.
  • Where possible, walk in mud rather than widen the trail.
  • Leave the trail to defecate, step off the trail to urinate.
  • If you leave a trail, avoid damage to plant life and unstable ground.
  • When bushwhacking, spread out, do not walk in the footprints of others.


  • In wilderness areas or away from established campsites:
  • Camp out of sight of trails, streams and lakes.
  • Choose sites free of ground plants.
  • Do not dig ditches around tents or otherwise alter the site.
  • Use backpack stoves to cook and heat water and candle lanterns for light. No fires.
  • When leaving, return the site to an apparently unused condition by sweeping the site with dead branches and covering marks from tents and other activities with brush.

In established campsites:

  • Use backpack stoves to cook and heat water.
  • Do not expand established campsites by spreading out.
  • When leaving, check the site for refuse or lost items.
  • Keep fires small.
  • Use existing fire rings; do not scorch rocks.
  • If there are no fire rings, build fires on mineral soil, not organic soil.
  • Burn wood from downed, dead trees. Standing dead trees have a major role in forest ecology.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash. Make sure your fire is out. Pick unburned trash from ashes.


  • Carry water away from water sources to bathe and wash dishes. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Clean up spilled foods.
  • Put food in a bear bag to protect against rodents and bears.
  • Use a cat hole to defecate, away from water sources.
  • Pack out all garbage and trash, including used toilet paper and hygiene products.


  • Downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers.
  • Keep dogs on leashes; bury their waste.


  • Respect the privacy of other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Use clothing and equipment that blends into the environment.
  • Avoid any interaction with wildlife, especially intentionally or accidentally feeding them.
  • Do not collect plants, animals, or human artifacts.