Leave No Trace

Click to access Leave No Trace (lnt.org)
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts, as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.


On April 26, 2016, the San Juan County Council adopted these 7 principles for the San Juan Islands.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

To stay safe, reduce stress and make the most of your visit:
  • Know the rules, regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, tides, currents, hazards and emergencies.
  • Check weather reports.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high visitor use.
  • Read books and maps, check online and talk to people before you go.
The more you know about the area, the more fun you’ll have!

2. Stick to Trails and Camp Overnight Right

To protect fragile areas such as, rocky outcrops with lichens, moss and plants; shoreline and tide pool areas; and native prairies and respect private property:
  • Walk and ride in the middle of designated trails.
  • Do not create new trails or trample undeveloped areas
  • Camp only in designated campsites.

3. Trash your Trash and Pick Up Poop

Human waste and garbage can be harmful to plants and animals, visitors, and the marine environment.  To protect wildlife, human health and keep water clean:
  • Pack it in, Pack it out. Put litter–even crumbs, peels and cores–in bags and dispose of in garbage cans.
  • Plan ahead and use toilets.
  • If toilets are not available, bury human waste in a small hole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet or 70 big steps from water. Pack out toilet paper in Ziploc bags and dispose of it in a garbage can
  • Use a bag to pack out your pet’s poop to a garbage can.
  • Do not put soap, food, human or pet waste in Salish Sea, lakes or streams.

4. Leave it as you find it

To allow others to enjoy the natural beauty of the San Juan Islands and keep visitors safe:
  • Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others can enjoy them.
  • Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling plants may kill them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native plants and animals.

5. Be Careful with Fire

To keep your fire from harming plants, animals or other visitors:  
  • Use a camp stove for cooking. Stoves are easier to cook on and create less impact than a fire.
  • Use only existing fire rings and keep your fire small. 
  • Burn all wood to ash and be sure the fire is completely out and cold before you leave.
  • Pack out all trash and food. A fire is not a garbage can.
  • Purchase firewood from a local vendor or gather on site if allowed. Bringing firewood from home can harbor tree killing insects and diseases.

6. Keep Wildlife Wild

Stressing or feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. To keep wildlife healthy:
  • Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed or follow them.
  • Learn and follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines for boating around marine mammals.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by securely storing your meals and trash.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Know and follow leash rules and pet prohibitions for the area you are visiting.
  • Give wildlife extra space during sensitive times (e.g., mating, nesting, raising young, or winter).

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

To increase the enjoyment of the outdoors for all visitors: 
  • Keep your pet under control to protect it, other visitors and wildlife.
  • Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Leave generous space between you and other visitors.
  • Avoid making loud noises or yelling. You will also see more wildlife if you are quiet.


Washington Water Trails Association explains the Leave No Trace Seven Principles tailored for paddlers (good advice for all boaters!). This not-for-profit organization protects and promotes public access to Washington waterways, shorelines, and marine trails for human-powered watercraft. They want to inspire current and future generations to enjoy and take a greater role in protecting our water ways, and ensuring public access.