And, we’re back! As promised, this is the second installment of “9 Things You Need to Know about Pictures in National Parks.” If you missed the first post, be sure to check it out. Both are full of excellent information and tips about using our National Parks to the fullest, and the importance of keeping our wild spaces wild

Why am I talking about this?

I have a deep love for the outdoors, for how they rejuvenate and refresh us. As well as, for all I’ve learned in the quiet of the wilderness. I want to care for our environment, not only for myself but for generations to come. The rise and expansion of social media has brought an influx of people interested in the outdoors only for the fodder it can provide for their feeds. That irritates me.

Get outside. Enjoy the outdoors. Really, I’m all for it. But, if your main motivation is getting that picture, your entire reason for being there is misguided.

Now, before you think, “But Laura, people don’t really think like that.” Oh, but they do. I see and hear it every time I drive through the mountains and see someone stopped in an unsafe spot, climbing in their Nike Frees or ballet flats with a friend behind or below to capture ‘that shot.’ And, I frequently see it via social feeds when images are posted that clearly violate park boundaries, rules, or when you could only secure a particular view by going off the trail.

So here’s the deal – what we do outside matters. What you do simply in the name of remembering the moment and/or to have that like-worthy post for your feed matters.

Keep Our Wild Spaces Wild

You might think that Leave No Trace (LNT) is just that ridiculous thing those hippies cooked up to drive everyone else crazy and that no one really cares about it or actually follows it. It’s okay – I hate to admit it, but I used to think like that, too. In reality, LNT was created to protect and keep our wild spaces wild so we can continue to enjoy and learn from them.

When person after person ignores park rules, goes off trail, leaves trash, feeds the wildlife, the impact is profound. To borrow from “9 Things You Need to Know about Pictures in National Parks,” think about if 4.4 million people did the same thing you’re doing. (4.4 million people visited Rocky Mountain National Park in 2017.) Compounded 4.4 million times, your action makes a dynamic difference in the health of the environment and in your ability to enjoy that space again.

Don’t Do it For the Gram

I am certainly not advocating that you shouldn’t take a picture at all while you’re enjoying the wilderness. And, I’m not advocating that you absolutely shouldn’t share said picture. I am telling you, however, that in capturing that image, you cannot violate park rules, walk where you’re told not to or do anything that will cause lasting damage.

Think before you post. Here’s why.

As told by Outside Magazine, Horseshoe Bend used to be a relatively quiet trail known only to locals. That is until person after person began geotagging their images on social media. In 2018, over a million people are expected to visit the landmark, prompting a need for fences, railings and increased National Park Ranger presence. And, that’s not to mention the erosion and damage to the natural landscape of the area. The bottom line? Don’t do it for the gram. You can share that picture, but don’t share that location.

To better understand what I’m talking about, check out Outside Magazine – The New Rules of Leave No Trace, Westword – Issues at Rocky Mountain National ParkLeave No Trace Guidelines, and Leave No Trace Social Media Guidelines.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this. Our wild spaces, our national parks, even the park down the street from your house are not for you. They are for all of us. If this trend of degradation in our wild spaces continues, they won’t be around to show your kids and grandkids. And no, that’s not extreme or overreacting. Walking off trail in the alpine tundra kills whatever you step on. And, those plants take years to regrow – if they ever do.

Be respectful. Don’t walk or climb where you’re told not to, and don’t tag the location of that image. Learn how to keep our wild spaces wild, and kindly educate others. These wild spaces aren’t yours, they aren’t about you, they’re ours. Keep our wild spaces wild.

Keep Our Wild Spaces Wild: A Few More Things You Need to Know About Pictures in Our National Parks