The seven principles of Leave No Trace hiking were created by the Center for Outdoor ethics as a response to the large number of national parks and beautiful natural areas being destroyed by the large numbers of people going out to "enjoy" nature. This center didn't believe that nature needed to be destroyed to enjoy it, and I can't agree more.
By following these seven principles, we can still have an amazing time out hiking and camping, AND we can keep nature alive. Will you join me?
1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
Check the weather, check the rules, and follow them! When you head into the wild, you need to be safe and help keep others safe by doing so. Don't travel alone, and if you must, make sure that you have a set schedule of contact set up with others so that people will know if something has happened to you.
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Only camp on durable surfaces that cannot be affected by your presence. In popular characters, concentrate use on existing trails and campsites. Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent. In pristine areas:
disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
Haul out all of your trash, learn how to use WAG if you must (waste alleviating gel; basically, you need to carry your poo around with you) or learn the proper techniques for disposing of your waste and toilet paper. Your waste, from your body or otherwise, can cause serious damage to the environment if you don't make some adjustments.
4) Leave What You Find
Look at and admire; don't manipulate or keep! We want to enjoy nature, not force it on a course of action that it doesn't intend to be on. When you change existing structures in nature, you are affecting far more aspects of the environment than you realize.
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
Check the rules on fire permits, and to be extra safe, only build fires on existing campfire rings! Don't use wood bigger than your forearm, and don't let the fires just burn out: extinguish them, and extinguish them a second time as well!
6) Respect Wildlife
Two main points. #1: You are not Dr. Doolittle, don't try to be. Don't try to call over, talk to, or feed wild animals: use your zoom lens, and your eyes, and your binoculars and whatever else you need, but don't try to feed or touch them. #2: Learn the rules for food storage for you area. There's a reason animals shouldn't be eating your food, and it's not just to keep you safe. It can really hurt them as well.
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors
In short, this sums up the other six points: this land is for YOU and ME! Take care to keep trails and campgrounds in a good state for not only yourself, but for everyone else who might get to enjoy nature. Step to the downhill side of the trail for upcoming hikers and pack animals, and be consider of the space you are occupying at all times!