Tips To Leave No Trace in the New River Gorge

When you’re exploring the vast mountain wilderness in the New River Gorge, help us respect and preserve its natural wonder.
New River Gorge, WV, trailUse trail and camping techniques like Leave No Trace, which gives these 7 guidelines for responsible outdoor exploration:

1. Plan & Prepare

Read up on the New River Gorge’s policies and regulations before you go to make sure you will be complying with the local guidelines. Be sure you pack only what you will use, and that your equipment will also have a limited impact on the environment. You can repackage your food to minimize waste, and plan your cooking to be efficient.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Choose on of the campsites in the gorge that’s already established instead of creating one, which will disrupt the plants and natural features of that space. Think similarly about being on the trail: for popular areas, stay on the trail to keep the impact to the walking route and avoid disturbing the surrounding wilderness. But on the more tucked-away trails, try to spread out some to avoid trekking through the same area and concentrating the damage on your path.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

Whatever you bring into the gorge, you also need to take out. That doesn’t just mean packing up your trash to dispose of after the trip. It also means picking up any food scraps. Animals might eat what you leave behind, which can be extremely unhealthy and even deadly for them.
You should also consider your waste when you have to use the restroom. If established restrooms are available, those are the best option. Otherwise, bury human waste in a 6-8 inch hole, making sure you are at least 200 feet from a water source to minimize the risk of contaminating the water, and from any trails or attractions so the scents don’t discourage wildlife. Don’t bury your toiletries, though. Pack them in a bag to dispose of outside of the park

4. Leave What You Find

All of it! No rocks, no plants, nothing should leave the park with you. Picking some plants can damage them for years to come, so leave them as they are so they are just as stunning on your next visit. Everything that’s part of the New River Gorge environment is important to us, from the organic to the historic relics. Not only should you not take it, you should leave it undisturbed as you appreciate it.
In similar fashion, don’t leave anything in the gorge that wasn’t there.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

If you’re staying in one of the Gorge’s rustic campsites or cabins, and want to build a fire, choose a spot with a designated fire pit or ring. Fire can be really damaging, so try not to burn new areas. Cooking stoves and lanterns are great fire alternatives.
If you must, keep the flames small and contained. Use sticks you can break with your hands instead of cutting trees. Let all the singed objects sizzle to ash, and once it has cooled, spread it around.

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s always amazing to spot an animal strolling through the New River Gorge, but watch wildlife from a distance. Chasing after them or getting too close can scare them. For some animals, shock can be hazardous and even deadly.
Don’t feed animals. Their natural diet is what’s safest and healthiest for them. There are plenty of misconceptions about what animals eat, and feeding them something wrong can seriously harm them. Keep your food items secure when you aren’t eating so no foraging creatures can get into them.
Pets can also be harmful to wildlife, and vice versa, so keep your pets leashed and supervised at all times.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

This gorgeous park is to share! Keep in mind that other visitors are there to enjoy the gorge, too. Stay quiet so they can hear the sounds of the forest. Camp far away from trails and other attractions so that you don’t obstruct the scenic views.
What’s your tip to Leave No Trace?
The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: