Leave No Trace
The Maine Appalachian Trail Club uses the Leave No Trace (LNT), a national educational wilderness program designed to mitigate natural resource concerns through voluntary compliance. At the heart of LNT are seven principals for reducing damage caused by outdoor activities, particularly non-motorized recreation. LNT concepts can be applied anywhere, in remote wilderness, city parks, and in any recreational endeavor.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Check the The Official Appalachian Trail Guide to Maine for maps and guidance on trails, campsites, etc.
- If travelling into Baxter State Park review their strict guidelines and regulations in advance on their website, www.baxterstatepark.org.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, emergencies and cold temperatures to prevent impacts from searches, rescues and fires.
- Do not attempt to ford the dangerous Kennebec River. Take the free canoe ferry service. Groups need to register in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Groups, please register your hiking trip at this link and we will contact you if overcrowding is an issue.
- Travel in groups of 10 or fewer and if you are in a group of more than 5 carry tents and leave shelters for individuals.
- If you are planning a northbound “thru-hike” avoid starting on March 1, March 15, the first day of Spring or April 1.
- Pack a lightweight trowel or wide tent stake for digging a hole to bury human waste.
- Pack a piece of screening to filter food scraps from your dishwater and pack scraps out.
- Pack a waterproof bag and 50 ft. of rope to hang food, trash & scented items or carry a bear resistant food container.
- Repackage food in a re-sealable bag to minimize waste.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Stay in the middle of the hardened trail, avoid expanding the footpath and never take shortcut switchbacks.
- Take breaks off-trail on durable surfaces such as rocks or grass.
- Concentrate activities – like cooking, tenting and socializing – to areas where vegetation is absent and the already impacted areas of campsites.
- If tree branches block the trail, move them off if possible, rather than going around and creating new trails.
- Wear gaiters and waterproof boots so you may walk through puddles instead of walking around them which expands the trail.
- Protect alpine plants. The A.T. passes over breathtaking summits in Maine, including Katahdin, Saddleback and Bigelow which provide habitat for true, arctic tundra alpine plant species and communities. Hiker impacts from visitors accidently stepping on rare alpine plants are a big concern. When in alpine areas make sure to stay on durable surfaces (the trail, rocks, snow) and never camp or build fires.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack-in in, Pack-it Out! Don’t bury, burn and litter food or trash. Keep your trash bag handy so that you can pick-up litter left by others.
- Use designated toilets (privies) at campsites which have been located at a safe distance from the water source. Pack out TP from trail side pee stops or use natural materials. Do not add trash to privies. If there is no privy, dispose of human waste in a “cat hole” 6-8 inches deep, 4-6 inches wide and at least 200 feet from campsites, water sources and well away from trails. Add dirt to the hole and leave your stick in the hole. Do not hide your waste under a rock which slows decomposition.
- Carry out hygiene articles and non-biodegradable wipes.
- Wash dishes, bodies and clothing 200 ft. from water sources, use biodegradable soap sparingly. Scrub off sunscreen and bug repellent at a distance before going for a swim to avoid polluting water.
4. Leave What You Find
- Leave plants, cultural artifacts and other natural objects where you found them for others to enjoy.
- Do not “tag” shelters, signs or trees with graffiti or carvings. Rather leave your mark in trail registers.
- Do not build structures of dig trenches around tents.
- Protect live trees. Do not cut branches from live trees (green wood burns poorly) or hammer nails into trees.
- Consider using rubber tips on the bottom of your trekking poles to avoid marks on rocks and leaving holes in soil.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species by checking and removing seeds from your boots, clothing and gear.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Build fires only at designated campsites. Bring portable stoves for cooking. At the following campsites fires are illegal: Avery Memorial, Horns Pond, Cranberry Stream and Moose Falls in the Bigelow Preserve.
- Use only dead, downed, small pieces of wood no larger than the diameter of your wrist that can be broken with your hands. Gather wood over a wide area from your campsite.
- Avoid burning trash including foil, plastic, glass, cans (these create noxious fumes) and food scraps. Partially burned food attracts wildlife and is unsightly.
- Where campfires are permitted burn all wood to white ash. Leave the fire ring clean by removing trash left from others and scattering unused wood, coals and ashes 200 ft. from campsites after the fire is cold and completely extinguished.
6. Respect Wildlife
- Observe wildlife from a distance so that animals are not scared or forced to flee. Quick movements and loud noises are stressful. Keep dogs on a short leash. Be especially careful during sensitive time for wildlife, such as mating, nesting, raising young and during the winter.
- If you find a sick, injured or seemingly abandoned animal do not touch, feed or pick it up. It possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases. Human contact is stressful to the animal and it may bite or scratch. A young animal touched or moved by humans may cause its parents to abandon it. If you are concerned about a wild animal notify a game warden.
- Bears inhabit or travel through nearly every part of the A.T., including Maine. Even access to small amounts of food acclimates bears to people. When that happens they often have to be killed to protect human safety. Clean-up and pack-out all food scraps. Secure your food, trash and scented items in a waterproof “bear bag”, hung twelve ft. from the ground and 6 six ft. from a limb or trunk. Scented items include: soap, sunscreen, insect repellent, water purification chemicals, toothpaste, etc. You can also use bear resistant food containers
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Limit group size to 10 including leaders. Small groups safeguard the spirit of wildness and lessens impact to the natural environment.
- Shelter space is available on a first come first served basis. Limit of stay is generally two nights.
- Shelters should not be used for sleeping by groups. Rather, groups should bring tents and camp at designated tent-sites.
- Let nature’s sounds prevail. Respect others by keeping voices and noise to a minimum. Do not use cell phones or audio equipment within sound of other hikers and turn ringers off.
- Keep your dog leashed and under control at all times. Dogs are prohibited in Baxter State Park. Ask permission of other hikers before bringing your dog into a shelter or better yet, tent with your dog. Keep your dog away from drinking water sources and bury dog waste as you would your own.
Today, use of designated wilderness areas has increased from 4 million people in 1964, to 7 million people in 1974, to 15 million in 1984, 21 million in 1994 and nearly 30 million users in 2000. That’s a 750% increase in 39 years! As cities grow and populations encroach upon wildlands and recreation areas we must do more than just pick up the litter and extinguish campfires. We must learn how to maintain the integrity and character of the outdoors for all living things.
Environmental problems on the AT in Maine, parallel natural resource concerns in the backcountry throughout the nation. Heavier “traffic” from a burgeoning demand accounts for the following problems: damage to the footpath and erosion, bootleg camping causing sprawling, destructive impact on habitats, destruction of rare alpine plants on summits, water pollution from human waste, and the loss of a wilderness experience. LNT principals are universal; however, the AT in Maine is a specific place. We have established guidelines relevant to the unique needs of the AT in Maine.
Few things in this world are black and white. Paul Petzol said it best, “Rules are for fools!” Situation and judgment dictate actions. A knowledgeable person will make choices that will be best for the Trail environment. With this in mind, we offer these pages to explain in detail and explore best practices for living lightly on the AT in Maine.