23 Jan 23

Green travel – How to take care of the trails

Sam McCrow Australia & NZ Community

Trail maintenance and etiquette are crucial to keeping hiking trails safe and usable, and every hiker can do their part. Here’s our green travel tips for how to help ensure our beautiful trails stay that way.

Only leave footprints

RAW Travel practices ‘leave no trace’ outdoor ethics on all our trips, aiming not only to minimise the environmental impact of our visit but also to leave a positive contribution. You will often see your leader collecting litter left by other walkers. We encourage you to bring a rubbish bag on all your hikes and remove a few pieces of litter as you go. It’ll make a real difference to the local area. Many trails have no bins. Carry all rubbish out and recycle as much of it as you can. Proper disposal of human waste is also important – to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimise the possibility of spreading disease, and maximise the rate of decomposition. Before you travel, check the specific rules for the area you plan to visit.

Clean your gear

While we have a strong ethos of ‘treading lightly’ when out in the bush, it’s all-too-easy to unwittingly spread weeds and diseases that can kill wildlife and destroy wild places. Weeds, pests and diseases are major threats to native plants and animals – and they can hitch a ride on muddy hiking boots. Before you pack, it is vital that you check, clean, disinfect or dry all clothing, boots and equipment, removing all dirt from any previous trips you’ve taken. One of the biggest threats is Phytophthoraa root rot that destroys native plants.

Report trail problems when you find them

If there’s a tree down across a trail, and eroded section, or even damaged signage that is creating navigation issues, the trail overseer or organisation needs to know about it. There’s not endless money in trail maintenance, so individuals hikers are often the eyes and ears of the organisations, who then go out to deal with issues. With so many areas to manage, it could take days or even weeks for trail maintenance organisations to learn about an issue without the help of trail users. Be sure to warn other hikers or trail users you run into. Review signage for who to contact at the trailhead. If there are no signs, search online for the contact information of the trail system, state or national park, forest or wilderness area, or organisation that manages that trail.

Stay on the trail

The most important thing you can do to maintain trails and reduce your environmental impact is to stay on the trail. Going off track can widen or create new paths, unintentionally impacting local ecosystems. Surface vegetation or communities of organisms can be trampled beyond recovery. On single trails, travel in single file in the middle of the track, not on the edges. Yes, there are puddles and holes but if you walk around the edges all you end up with is a larger puddle. Getting wet or muddy is part of the experience. If you’re hiking solo or in a small group, yield to large groups of hikers, even if you technically have the right-of-way. It is easier for a single person to step off the trail, and it also minimises damage to flora and fauna.

  • Check out this video from Parks Victoria about why it’s so important to stay on the track
Respect wildlife

Observe wild animals from a distance. Avoid disturbing them, particularly at sensitive times: mating, nesting and raising young (mostly between spring and early summer). Resist the urge to feed wild animals including birds – human foods damage their health and leave them vulnerable to predators. Walk quietly and do not pursue animals. If you find sick or injured wildlife, notify the relevant wildlife service or a park ranger.

Consider becoming a trail crew volunteer

Maintaining trails takes a lot of time, effort and hard work, and it’s a never ending task. There’s always something that needs to be done. Crews and volunteers work tirelessly to repair and clean up trails (of every size) to ensure they are accessible, safe and enjoyable for hikers. There’s a big gap between the resources that agencies have to maintain trails and what they really need to keep trails up to standard. Volunteer trail maintenance groups are vital for helping to close that gap and keeping paths pristine. Being a volunteer is a great way to conserve our special places, and you’ll learn more about plants and wildlife!

DID YOU KNOW?

At RAW Travel, we are committed to making the world a little better – one walk at a time. We are proud of our reputation as a leader in sustainable travel and recognise our responsibility to continuously improve, pioneer and drive change for a better planet. Every time you take a walk with us, we’ll plant a tree for you! It’s a tree in memory of a sensational, perhaps even life-changing trip. It’s also a tree for a better tomorrow as you are helping to protect our climate and restore Australia’s forests.

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