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Leave No Trace on the Olympic Peninsula

The southern shore of Lake Crescent where highway 101 runs with Storm King mountain in the distant on a calm day with a reflective surface of the lake

Leave No Trace in Olympic National Park 

National Parks in the United States offer some of the last great tracts of wilderness and solitude making them popular vacation destinations. Olympic National Park protects ninety five percent of its close to a million acres as Wilderness. Olympic Peninsula Wilderness includes old-growth coniferous forest, wild rivers, alpine peaks, subalpine meadows, dwindling glaciers, and a rocky shoreline dotted with beaches. 

How can I make sure my children's children enjoy this beautiful place?

Olympic National Park was almost named Elk Park as one of its primary functions in establishment (1938) was to protect Roosevelt Elk and their habitat. The National Park Service has been tasked with preservation of the natural and cultural resources of much of interior and the coastline of the Olympic Peninsula.  Read more about how you can protect an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site and conserve a great vacation site for future generations.

Olympic National Park for your great (x3) grandchildren:

The idea of preserving healthy ecosystems for future generations, in many ways is synonymous to the idea of conservation, and is central to the mission of the National Park Service (NPS). For example, Elwha River Restoration in Olympic National Park is one of the largest conservation projects in the world. 

Supporting Natural Resources and Sustainable Development Models

Historically, abundant natural resources such as shellfish, marine mammals, salmon, and cedar resulted in the Pacific Northwest being inhabited since time immemorial. You will not want to miss visiting, learning about, and supporting our first nations to better understand sustainability and conservation of this special place. Please consider learning about and supporting the Jamestown Tribe in Sequim - Dungeness River Nature Center watershed and cultural exhibit, the Lower Elwha Tribe in Port Angeles - Carnegie Museum, The Quileute Tribe in La Push - Quileute Oceanside Resort, and the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay - Makah Museum.

Climate Change and Visitor Vehicle Travel in Olympic National Park

The National Park Service is working on a climate change response program.  According to NPS data from 2007, visitor vehicle travel within Olympic National Park boundaries produced over 62 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from all human sources within the park. 

Although leave no trace principles have historically ignored conservation of fossil fuels, research shows greenhouse gas emissions are one of our greatest impacts on ecosystems worldwide and in Olympic National Park.  For example, climate change from greenhouse gas emissions is causing species extinctions.

Shared Transit to Olympic National Park

Consider visiting Olympic National Park without a car, especially if you are a single traveler.  There is an abundance of Port Angeles things to do without a car. Shared transit and exercise in the form of walking or biking encourage leave no trace as well as healthier lifestyles. Shuttle, bus, and ferry options to Port Angeles and Olympic National Park also enhance community by allowing diverse people to connect with each other.

Food storage and disposal

Seemingly harmless biodegradable food debris like peanuts can alter human and wildlife relations. Specifically, access to human food can lead to changes in Olympic National Park wildlife behavior that can detract from the wilderness experience for future visitors. For example, Black Bears can become dangerous to humans if they become accustomed to human food; therefore, proper food storage and disposal is an important consideration to leave no trace in Olympic National Park. 

April 2015 Closure:  A bearly competent backpacker might have intentionally fed a bear in Enchanted Valley, shutting down the area for at least a month...grrrr.

Toilets or lack of them

Most trailheads have pit or vault toilets and Olympic National Park visitor centers and campgrounds often have flush toilets. Only human waste and toilet paper should be deposited in toilets. Other materials, such as tissues (brand name "Kleenex"), tampons, pads, and disposable diapers, should be disposed of in trash cans.

Bring your own toilet paper and trowel for long hikes to ensure you can follow leave no trace when hiking in Olympic National Park.  If you are far from a toilet and nature calls, in order to leave no trace, you should dig a shallow pit away from water, and completely bury human waste. If you only have to urinate, you do not have to dig a pit, but you should find a location off-trail and away from water.

Please consider not bringing disposable items when visiting Olympic National Park that could get left behind like food wrappers, disposable cups, hand-warmers, and tissues.  Any trash or debris that does enter into public spaces should be packed out in order to leave no trace in Olympic National Park. 

Leave no trace in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Salish Sea

Rocky shores that are commonly explored by visitors looking for Olympic National Park tidepools are fragile ecosystems; in fact, all living creatures must compete for space and avoid drying out during a low tide.  Many stationary tidepool animals might live on a particular spot on a rock for their entire adult lives.  Therefore, please follow these instructions to leave no trace in tidepools both in Olympic National Park and anywhere in the Salish Sea (including the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound). 

Call people to you

Avoid moving living creatures from where you found them and never collect them. If you want to show something to other people, call the people to you rather than carry something to the people. Even shells that you think are OK for collecting, might have been turned into homes for other living creatures.   

Leave life attached

Don't pry tidepool animals off of rocks as this will likely make them vulnerable to predators and it is not easy for them to reattach. Only pick up tidepool animals that are not attached to anything (it is OK to pick up something when it is in sand). This is especially important for threatened sea stars (starfish) due to sea star wasting disease.

Do not collect animals in a bucket or use them for bait

Many tidepool animals are prey to larger animals and in competition with similarly-sized animals. The territories of tidepool animals might consist of the rock in the tidepool where you found an animal and this is its home. Please leave all animals in the exact same place where you found them (unless they have been displaced from their home by a predator or waves).

Wet your hands before touching tidepool animals and give the gift of water

When tidepool animals are exposed to air or dry hands, they can dry out.  All tidepool animals and seaweed are in danger of drying out (dessicating) during a low tide. If you want to help leave no trace in the tidepool, then give them a gift of water to help them stay moist.

Don't wear waders or walk on seaweed

Do not wear waders as this can result in serious destruction to tidepool creatures and their habitat. Stepping on mats of seaweed can damage the soft-tissue tidepool animals hiding underneath - when possible, avoid stepping on seaweed to help leave no trace in the tidepools.

Please leave infants and dogs on the beach

There are many jagged surfaces on a rocky shore that can hurt an infant or damage the pads of your dog's foot. Dogs might not enjoy tidepooling and infants might not remember the experience. Each trip by a human onto a rocky shore means the possible loss of life to tidepool creatures; there is just no way to avoid stepping on all the small creatures and seaweed. Both dogs and children under the age of 6 seem to prefer playing on a sandy beach to tidepooling so please keep this in mind when making your plans in and around Olympic National Park.

Look under rocks by lifting them

The habitat on the top of the rocks is different than the bottom, so different tidepool animals live on the top and bottom of the rocks. If you are going to look at the tidepool animals under a rock and want to leave no trace, pick it up, and then return it to the same spot when you are done. 

Do not Roll Rocks

Keep the top of the rock up, and the bottom down. Rolling rocks can damage the tidepool animals that live under the rock, and it is easy to forget to return the rock to its previous position. The shore crabs are not bigger under bigger rocks so looking under smaller rocks will give you the same experience.