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"Leave No Trace" when hiking and camping is ignored by many

Last week, my hiking partner Karen and her husband backpacked to upper and lower Cougar Lakes near Mt. Rainer National Park for three days. They camped at around 6,300' elevation.

"Near the lakes, the woods were full of human poop and toilet paper," Karen said in disgust. "It stank of human feces. Why didn't people at least bury it?"

"A man on an all-terrain vehicle roared by going as fast as he could," she said. "On the trail were horseback riders, hikers, children and mountain bikers. Later an ambulance was at the trail head. The emergency responder said it was a fatal ATV accident. It must have been him."

Four drunk men camped at Upper Cougar Lake. "They kept us awake past 2 a.m. with their yelling and howling," Karen said. "I got no sleep."

This weekend a woman was airlifted from the Enchantment Mountains (8,000 to 9,000 feet) because she was severely dehydrated. There is lots of water up there. She must have forgotten to bring a water purifier.

"If this trend continues, I don't want to be in this world anymore," Karen said darkly.

Two things are happening:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best and worst in people. Desperate to get outside, people are crowding parks and trails and trashing the ecosystem with a selfish, rude "Get out of my way!" attitude.

  2. Instead of learning from hiking books what to bring, leave no trace, and hiking etiquette, people use smartphones to Google "the best day hikes in Washington State." They take off without adequate preparation, safety equipment or understanding of trail etiquette.

In Wenatchee, gravel Horse Lake Road leading to Sage Hills Trails is slippery with dog poop after snow melts. Dog owners- including Karen- don't pick up their dog's poop when hiking. If one person does this, it's no big deal. When hundreds of people leave dog poop behind, it creates a disgusting, stinky mess that pollutes waterways.

Leave nothing but footprints. Be considerate of others.




  1. Upper Cougar Lake

  2. Extremely rare Star flower only grows in Mt. Rainier National Park.

  3. Round Mountain was visible from the lakes.

  4. My bookshelf of hiking guides.

  5. The fabled Enchantment Mountains feature dozens of high alpine lakes.

LiterateHiker 9 Aug 16

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Am very well familiar with the concept. This county was the first in the nation to adopt this philosophy. Being an active volunteer for the BLM/National Monument we emphasize leave-no-trace whenever we can.


The littering and dog fouling is a universal problem unfortunately! I don’t think dogs should be taken on mountain climbs in the first place....I saw an item where a dog had to be rescued from a mountain in Utah In 2019...brought down on a stretcher because it was too exhausted to move any further. It was a 190 lb Mastiff pup! Madness in my opinion. The beaches, country parks and other beauty spots are all being ruined by overuse at present, especially by day trippers from cities who have been confined to their homes for months, and just want to get out into the wider spaces. This is understandable, but is a recipe for spreading the virus as well as trashing the very beauty spots they want to enjoy, Taking their rubbish home with them would seem such a reasonable thing to ask of them!


Even inexperienced hiker me has heard of "leave nothing, take only memories."


Teddy Roosevelt is spinning in his grave


Just to make sure, I don't go camping and my hiking is limited to about 20 yards from the parking lot.

Sounds a bit like me!


All beautiful photos, I find the Enchantment Mountain photo especially nice. I went to Hetch Hetchy last Saturday for a short hike. It was quite crowded but not littered with trash. Years ago i would go there with my family and most of the time you would only see two or three people all day. I have a couple of photos but they keep loading upside down...


We've been having the same problem here. Ever since things shut down, it's been a mob scene in my quiet little lakeside community. Locals have been videoing boatloads of drunks dumping trash overboard and turning the videos over to the sheriff, who appears to be doing nothing.


Sadly, this type of degradation is spreading far and wide as people with no background in responsible outdoors behavior, and apparently lacking in basic civility or consideration for others, are flocking to trails and parks because the types of recreation they are used to are closed because of the pandemic.


Welcome to the planet of the apes.
I remember the early 1960's before Lady Bird Johnson said Hey! this is an embarrassment clean this place up. No laws against littering and trash piles three feet deep all along rural roads.
We can fix this if we have the will.


Welcome to the world of Homo Sapiens. From what I've experienced, just business as usual for most of humankind.


I know a group that races the mountain roads and they maintain a strict take it in, take it out rule. They remove, literally, tons of other people's trash yearly.

As stated elsewhere, littering is becoming more common all over. People no longer hold themselves to ANY responsibility. Lack of responsibility is growing in all faucets of society.


It isn't just the hiking trails that the population is trashing . I still see where people come from fast food places , eating their unhealthy meals , and dump their trash by the road , as soon as the food is gone . There's no reason they can't carry it with them until they reach a trash container .


I pick up litter everywhere I go, including trash tossed out of cars.

Clean up litter while hiking except dog poop bags. I eat with my hands.

A great annoyance of mine too...I have to pick litter out of my hedge every day...chucked from passing cars after eating fast food from outlets in town...I’m five miles away from town in the middle of the country!

@StarvingArtist Yes...during lockdown the littering problem since opening up it’s on the increase again.


Sad story. Beautiful photos.


The aussie bushwalkers bible. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.


I was a Boy Scout, one of the unmolested ones. For some reason I absorbed all the camping and hiking lore. We were always expected to leave the campsite and trails in better condition than we found them.


Very good points made


Humans can be very disgusting animals when it comes to the enviroment,it is all about themselves and do not give a dam about anyone else


It does no good to get angry over it but it's durned difficult not to. This was the one rule I hammered into my Girl Scout Troop's skulls. I always started with proper set up so it was easy to leave this way. This is what comes of not teaching environment importance and allowing ignorance to prevail.

I was a girl guide...same ethics!

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