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The Importance of Leave No Trace

A small pile of garbage sits on a rock near an otherwise pristine stream and waterfall.
Trash left by a pristine waterfall in Glacier National Park.

With Colorado Mountain School Guide Rainbow Weinstock

Trash left by a pristine waterfall in Glacier National Park.

Unfortunately, we have all likely experienced a favorite place becoming littered with trash, or trampled over by people wandering off-trail or not camping in a designated campground. This past summer one of our guides returned to a favorite campsite with some friends in the Rocky Mountains to discover trash everywhere. And we mean everywhere. They even found an abandoned saucepan! The saucepan was picked clean by critters–another downside of littering.

As lovers of the outdoors, we need to do better! Not only for other outdoor recreators but in order to protect the land we play on. Leave No Trace, commonly referred to as LNT, is a practice followed by people who recreate in the outdoors and protect our natural spaces. LNT stems from seven main principles that were put together in order to keep our wild spaces, clean, pristine, and generally wild.


The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors


Colorado Mountain School guide Rainbow Weinstock (AMGA Rock Guide, Apprentice Alpine Guide) is an expert when it comes to LNT practices. “We have an ever-increasing number of climbers, skiers and other outdoor recreationists in Colorado and beyond. With that ever-increasing number of users, we should be ever vigilant to minimize our impact on our precious lands and operating areas.”

AMGA Rock Guide Rainbow Weinstock enjoying the great outdoors while guiding his clients on the Flatirons high above Boulder.

Rainbow gained his LNT Master certification during his training to work in outdoor education in 2001. “I took my 35-day NOLS Instructor Course and LNT was infused within it. I presented information to peers and created an action plan for how to spread LNT principles to students.” Today he is able to lead Leave No Trace courses, and teach two-day LNT trainer courses to the Colorado Mountain School staff several times a year. As guides, “we can be role models and educators to our clients and the general public when at play and at work in the field.”

Rainbow left us with a list of some easy ways to practice LNT principles. It’s important to “be considerate of other users, especially with regards to music. Respect regulations and closures. Park and camp in designated areas. Dispose of human waste properly, which commonly means bring a wagbag. Stay on trails whenever possible. Respect wildlife, sensitive plants, soils, and cultural resources. Pack out all trash, crash pads, and gear, learn the local ethics for the places you climb and ski (and enjoy the outdoors).”

Rainbow leading a two-day LNT Trainer courses to CMS guides who can pass down their knowledge to our students and clients.

If we want to continue enjoying the wild spaces we hold so close to our hearts, It’s crucial that we look after them in every way possible. Following LNT practices is a simple yet effective way to do just that. So before you head out on your next adventure, make sure to keep the seven principles in mind and encourage others to do so too.

Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.

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