Enjoy Nature and Leave No Trace - Carolina Country

Enjoy Nature and Leave No Trace

Help preserve natural areas for future generations

By Renee C. Gannon

Enjoy Nature and Leave No Trace

Photo courtesy of VisitNC.com

I spent my childhood playing in the private woods abutting my backyard, trudging along winding paths worn into the red clay by neighborhood kids that came before me. I continue hitting the trails today, both on land and water.

Over the years, I learned to respect my surroundings, to preserve it for the next round of explorers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has witnessed a major increase in folks headed outdoors, escaping to destress and rediscover the wonders of nature. The outdoor recreation industry is a big economic driver across all the state’s 100 counties, bringing in more than $28 billion annually, according to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Stewardship of the state’s natural wonders will also ensure the future for ageless places that define who we are, arouse our awe and make us humble.

With increased visitation, the state’s natural areas also sustained an uptick of abuse — overcrowding, trash, and user-created paths off designated trails that left tree roots and plants vulnerable to damage — to name a few.

To educate and preserve the state’s natural resources for everyone, Visit North Carolina and the NC Outdoor Recreation Industry partnered with the national Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics on a stewardship campaign, Leave No Trace.

“[The Leave No Trace stewardship program] enlarges the substantial economic activity generated by travelers and North Carolina’s outdoor recreation industry,” says Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “Stewardship of the state’s natural wonders will also ensure the future for ageless places that define who we are, arouse our awe and make us humble.”

Before you step out onto a path or into a kayak, learn what you can do to lessen your impact for yourself and other wanderers along the trail.

Remember, even if you find that perfect heart-shaped rock, instead of picking it up, snap a photo; that rock has a purpose in nature’s ecosystem and a picture lasts longer and is lighter than a rock in your pocket.


The Leave No Trace program consists of seven principles to help you enjoy your time in nature while preserving its beauty for others. Visit lnt.org and visitnc.com for more about each principle.

1Plan ahead and prepare
Before you travel, learn about your destination, its regulations and safety matters. Pack food, water and the proper clothes to protect you from the elements.

2Stick to trails and overnight right
Keep to designated trails and durable surfaces to protect trailside plants. Camp at existing or designated sites.

3Trash your trash
Pack it in, pack it out. Place all trash in garbage bags and carry it home. If adventuring with pets, plan to pack out their waste as well.

4Leave it as you find it
Snap a picture instead of picking flowers, gathering shells and collecting pinecones. Leave rocks as you find them to protect sensitive habitats and prevent erosion.

5Be careful with fire
If you choose to have a fire, check on regulations, secure a permit if needed and keep the fire small. Burn all wood to ash. Before leaving, check that the fire is completely out and ashes are cold.

6Keep wildlife wild
All wildlife should be treated with respect. Observe creatures from a distance. Refrain from feeding wild animals, and store food and garbage securely when camping.

7Be considerate of others and share the outdoors
Respect others so that North Carolina’s natural spaces will be welcoming and relaxing for all. Be mindful of your noise level and considerate when passing others on the trail.

About the Author

Renee C. Gannon is the senior associate editor of Carolina Country.

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