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Principles of Leave No Trace

Your guide to protecting New Hampshire's great outdoors.

The New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism Development has parternered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to promote sustainable tourism practices and provide visitors and residents with the proper knowledge to protect New Hampshire's spectacular natural landsapes and destinations. Please take a moment to review the principles below to help us protect the great outdoors.

Three kayakers headed down a river

Principle 1: Know Before You Go
There are many different ways to experience New Hampshire’s outdoors. No matter which way you choose, learn about where you’re going ahead of time to ensure a safe and successful adventure. A little pre-planning before you leave home can go a long way to having a more enjoyable experience once you get here.
  • Learn about the areas you plan to visit. Do your research. Whether online, talking to people who know the area, or reading various publications, the more you know before you go, the more fun you’ll have. Be sure your information is up to date; sometimes things change day-to-day.
  • Have a Plan B ready.  In the event you encounter crowded parking lots, trails and potential closures you have a back-up plan ready to go.
  • Please don’t park on the side of the road. Not only is it illegal, it’s not safe. Trailhead parking lots offer a durable surface for cars and those pulling trailers and a safe place for your group to meet up.
  • Check weather conditions. Bring enough food and water for your journey and clothes to protect you from cold, heat, rain, and snow.
  • Be informed about your activity. Whether it’s hiking, riding ATVs, snowmobiling, camping, or an activity on the water, being informed will help you choose the right option for you, and minimize your impacts to the outdoors at the same time.
  • Care for your four-legged friends. Know your pet’s limits and your destination’s pet policies. When in doubt, leave them at home.

Principle 2: Stick to Trails & Camp Overnight Right
Sometimes the path well-traveled is the best path to follow. Prevent injury and reduce damage to plants, trails, and the landscape by sticking to marked paths and campsites.
  • Walk and ride on designated trails whenever possible. Trails are made of durable surfaces that help protect trailside plants, prevent erosion, minimize polluting water sources, and help protect you from venturing off into unknown areas with the potential for hazards you might not be aware of.
  • Meet vehicle requirements. State rules and regulations may prohibit the use of certain types of motorized vehicles on designated trails. Be sure your vehicle meets width and weight requirements for the type of motorized trail. New Hampshire Fish and Game is a great resource for OHRV’s and snowmobiles.
  • Find durable surfaces or pull-offs to stop and take breaks. Allowing trail users, non-motorized or motorized users, to use the trail to pass you encourages others to stay on the trail and reduces conflict between user groups.
  • Respect private property. Please hike or ride on designated trails only. If you’re recreating on the waters please be sure to access the water via public boat launches.

Overnight Camping:

  • Plan ahead for your overnight camping experience. Make sure you’ve made all necessary reservations ahead of time.
  • Camp only on existing or designated campsites. A designated campsite is intentionally set aside by land managers to avoid damaging vegetation or polluting water sources. Campsites may also include amenities like a tent pad, picnic table, metal fire ring, and parking areas for vehicles. There are some regulations in New Hampshire that allow people to camp only in designated areas if camping on state owned land. 

Principle 3: Trash Your Trash
New Hampshire is known for its natural beauty — wide open spaces, an abundant array of wildlife, and crystal-clear waters. But trash and litter can spoil even the most beautiful areas. Whether you’re out for a short walk or weeklong trek, be prepared to carry out what you carry in.
  • Pack it in, pack it out ...all the way out. Take trash and litter back home with you. Most recreation access points don’t have trash receptacles. Even leaving your trash on top of or next to an overflowing garbage receptacle can still cause contamination and negatively impact wildlife and other trail users.
  • Consider going the extra mile. Want to be a good Samaritan? Pack out trash and litter you come across, even if it isn’t yours. Not only are you reducing impact, but you’re also modeling a great New Hampshire outdoor ethic.
  • Use bathrooms or outhouses when available. If not available, bury human waste, including toilet paper, in a small hole six to eight inches deep and 200 feet or 70 big steps from water. If you can’t bury it, carry it out as you’d do for your pet.
  • Pack out your pet’s poop. Pet waste contains harmful pathogens that’ll contaminate water sources and get others sick.
  • Use a plastic bag to pick up pet waste and carry it to the nearest garbage bin.
  • Keep water sources clean. Don’t put any type of soap, food, human or pet waste in lakes or streams.

Principle 4: Leave It As You Find it
  • Leave the outside, outside. Leave plants, rocks, and historical items as you find them so others can enjoy them, too. New Hampshire state law prohibits the removal, damage, defacing, disturbing or altering of any structure, plant, marine or freshwater aquatic life with the exception of lawful fishing on state owned properties.
  • Avoid damaging living trees and plants. Carving, hacking, or peeling plants may kill them.
  • Rinse, drain, and dry your boat, trailer, and all water recreation gear after every use. Do your part to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive aquatic species.

Principle 5: Be Careful With Fire
Telling spooky stories and singing songs around a campfire are treasured traditions in New Hampshire. Help us keep them alive for years to come by preventing wildfires and stopping the spread of invasive bug species
  • Use local firewood. Don’t bring firewood from home — it can harbor tree-killing insects like the emerald ash borer, spotted wing drosophila, and brown marmorated stink bug. Help keep New Hampshire forests healthy and buy firewood from where you will be burning it.
  • Check campfire guidelines. If you want to have a campfire, be sure it’s permitted and safe in the area you’re visiting. Check New Hampshire Division of Forest and Lands for information about regulations, current fire dangers and potential bans.  
  • Use a camp stove to cook. Stoves are easier to cook on, more fuel efficient, and create less of a potential wildfire impact than a campfire.
  • Use existing fire rings correctly. Fire rings help minimize potential wildfire impacts and protect surrounding vegetation from heat.
  • A campfire is not a garbage can. Pack out all trash and food scraps and carry it home.
  • Extinguish fires completely. Burn all wood to ash, drown the site with water, stir it and be sure the fire is cold to the touch at the end of the day and before you leave.

Principle 6: Keep Wildlife Wild
Black bears, moose, and wild turkeys are just some of the animals you may encounter while enjoying New Hampshire’s outdoors. Here’s how you can respect our wildlife and stay safe.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Big or small, if you cause animals to move, then you’re too close. Remember, never approach or follow them.
  • Human food is unhealthy for all wildlife. Feeding wildlife can cause serious, lasting impacts to both the animal and the next humans it may encounter.
  • Store your stuff securely. Follow local guidelines for how to properly store your food away and keep your trash safe to help keep wildlife away.

Principle 7: Share the Outdoors
Everyone deserves to have a great time outside. Be sure the fun you’re having doesn’t bother anyone else and remember that not everyone is aware of the Leave No Trace Principles before discovering New Hampshire.
  • Be friendly to others you encounter outdoors. Friendly attitudes will help to reduce conflicts between user groups.  
  • Be kind to one another when passing. Give right of way to others who may be traveling uphill. Motorized recreationists should always give the right of way to other users.
  • Motorized recreationists, let’s do our part! Reduce your speed or stop and turn off your engine if passing non-motorized users. This helps reduce dust in the air, keeps horses from being spooked, and lets everyone enjoy a peaceful outdoor experience.
  • Recreate during the week if you can. For some, the weekends are the only opportunity they may have to spend time outdoors. If your schedule is flexible, consider recreating during other times.
  • Keep your pet under control. It helps to protect it, other visitors, and wildlife.
  • Be aware of your use of technology on the trail. Some people seek the outdoors for the quiet sounds of nature or wildlife viewing. Bring headphones to enjoy music on the trail, avoid using speakerphone, and check rules and regulations before using a drone.
  • Please hashtag responsibly. Social media can be a great way to encourage others to practice Leave No Trace when they visit New Hampshire. If you take photos of responsible outdoor recreation, feel free to tag us.
©Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics