Leave No Trace

Join the Leave No Trace Master Educator Course here.

There are seven principles of the Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. Here are some tips to ensure the seven principles are met while on your trek.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare – Knowing the rules and regulations outlined in this two-part guide is a good start to being prepared for your trek. Each night as you are waiting for the water to boil for dinner, it is a good idea to start looking over the map for the next day’s hike. Look for which trails to take, elevation gain, water availability, which camps you will pass through, etc. to get a clear picture of what the day should look like. Proper preparation will allow your crew to get to camp quickly while optimizing your time and program opportunities along the way.
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces – Philmont practices concentrated impact camping and has roughly 340 miles of maintained trails, 35 staffed camps, and 78 trail (unstaffed) camps. Hiking and camping on our established trails and campsites (except where they do not exist in the Valle Vidal of the Carson National Forest) allows us to preserve the 99% of land we do not impact. Please follow switchbacks and avoid creating social trails through meadows or riparian areas.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly – Every staff camp other than Black Mountain and Crooked Creek accepts compacted trash. They also collect plastic meal bags, paperboard, and aluminum cans for recycling. Liquid food waste should be poured down the sump and solid food waste should be packed out as trash. Human waste is concentrated into pit style latrines.
  • Leave What You Find – You will see many neat items on your trek, ranging from elk sheds to wildflowers and artifacts. Look at these items and leave them for other crews to enjoy. Anything made by humans that is over 50 years old is considered an artifact and should be left undisturbed. Report anything noteworthy to the next staffed camp you hike through and give them the UTM coordinates so that we may look at it for further investigation.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts – As mentioned in part one of this guide, campfires should be kept small. Sticks used as fuel should be no wider than your wrist and no longer than your forearm. Always keep a full pot of water near the fire ring when a campfire is burning. Stir up the coals with a stick and pour water over the coals to ensure the fire is “out cold” before going to bed. When campfires are allowed at Philmont it is important to dispose of the ashes properly. In the morning as you are ready to leave your campsite, pack the ashes into an empty meal bag and hike them 30 minutes outside of camp then rainbow the ashes 100 ft. off the trail. This keeps our campsites clean and ready to use for the next crew.
  • Respect Wildlife – Philmont’s fauna is varied and includes black bears, mule deer, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, hawks, elk, falcons, cutthroat trout, chipmunks, hummingbirds, raccoons, bighorn sheep, and porcupines just to name a few. We need to respect these animals by never approaching, throwing rocks, or feeding them. Simply give them distance and let them go about their way. Always hang your smellables up in the bear bags and never leave smellables unattended. Remember, it is common for the quietest crews to see the most wildlife.
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors – With 4,500 people in Philmont’s backcountry at any one time, it is very important to remain respectful towards those around you. This includes not yelling or singing loud songs along the trail or in camp, not writing graffiti, not talking on the cell phone on the summit of mountains, etc. Additionally, highlighter colored shirts are frowned upon in the backcountry setting, the bright colors are an eye sore and distraction against the beautiful scenery you will encounter.


About Philmont Scout Ranch

Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America's premier High Adventure™ base, challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 214 square miles of rugged northern New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country.