8 Ways to Recreate Responsibly in the Mountains
May 25, 2023
If you love recreating in Mammoth Lakes, then learning how to take care of the mountains and forests you adventure in is part of being a responsible visitor. Think of it like giving Mother Nature a BIG hug by thinking about these responsible travel guidelines before you set out on a hike or backpacking trip in the mountains in and around Mammoth Lakes.
Know Before You Go
Just like when you’re planning for a road trip to Mammoth Lakes, your outdoor adventures, however big or small, require a bit of planning. Here’s a list of things to think about before you head out:
- Research permitting and regulations. For Mammoth Lakes, that usually means checking the U.S. Forest Service website or the Mammoth Lakes Trail System website.
- Have a backup plan in case the trail you want to explore is too crowded or out of permits.
- Know current weather conditions.
- Learn the seven principles of Leave No Trace and be prepared to follow them.
- Know your limits. Make sure you know how long and strenuous of an adventure you want to sign up for so you are prepared.
- Let someone know where you’ll be headed and for how long before you head out.
Plan Ahead & Pack with Care
Planning ahead and packing with care means you’ll never find yourself out after dark without a headlamp or off the trail without a map to get you back on route. Some other items responsible adventurers always have with them include plenty of food and water (a water filtration system is a great way to make sure you don’t run out of water), a first-aid kit, extra clothes and gear for bad weather and supplies for using the bathroom responsibly on the trail.
Pack It In, Pack It Out
Speaking of packing, whatever you bring with you into the wilderness must come out of the wilderness with you.
A good rule of thumb is that if it isn’t a natural part of the environment (think: trash, food waste, dog poop, etc.) then it needs to get packed out. So when you’re planning ahead, tuck an extra bag for trash into your backpack (bonus points if the bag is reusable!) so you can be prepared to take everything that you bring with you home with you.
But Leave Nature Behind
To keep these places as beautiful as they were when we arrived, always leave nature as you found it. Picking up just one rock or just one pinecone may feel like it’s not a big deal. But if everyone who hiked in the Mammoth Lakes area did the same, then the areas we recreate in would be unrecognizable years from now.
Stay on the Trail & Tread Lightly
Walking off-trail and cutting switchbacks can erode topsoil and make the land more prone to slides or rockfall. It also disturbs delicate alpine plant life. If you do need to step off the trail to use the bathroom or to set up camp, make sure you are treading lightly on areas that can handle the impact of your boots, such as stable rocky areas or places where plants are not growing.
Plants aren’t the only part of nature that deserves respect. The wildlife that calls the Eastern Sierra home, including deer, birds, trout, rodents and, of course, bears, deserve to be treated with respect as well.
Give animals plenty of space (at least 50 feet) and never feed wildlife. Relying on human food be dangerous for animals because they may have trouble surviving on their own or become too comfortable around humans and find themselves in a situation that is unsafe for both animals and humans.
Respect Other Recreators, Too
Wilderness areas are meant to be places of respite where visitors can enjoy quiet time in nature. And part of taking care of mother nature is making sure these wild spaces stay wild for everyone to enjoy.
Being respectful of others can be as simple as yielding to uphill hikers. Or it could mean knowing rules about motorized vehicles (including drones) and only engaging in those activities in designated spaces.
Take Responsibility for Your Safety
Whether you’re on the trail with a group or by yourself, you can only count on those with you or yourself to stay safe. Prioritizing your own safety is part of responsible recreation because it means you won’t be taxing on local search and rescue resources.
Yes, accidents happen in the wilderness, but it’s your responsibility to mitigate risk. Plan ahead, stay within your skill set and be willing to abort your plans in the face of inclement weather, illness or the possibility of injury. And whatever you do, don’t “do it for the ‘gram” at the expense of putting yourself, others or mother nature in harm’s way.
Your first step toward more sustainable recreation can be as simple as reading and signing the Mammoth Lakes Promise to commit to keeping Mammoth Lakes beautiful.