Have you ever heard of the Leave No Trace organization? If you have – wonderful! You might not have ever thought about how it’s related to your elopement. And if you haven’t, don’t worry – you’ll be getting all the details today!! Because I’m talking about something I am super passionate about: how to leave no trace with your adventure elopement.
First, let’s get into what it even means to “Leave No Trace” & why it’s important!
Leave No Trace is an organization dedicated to minimizing the impact of humans on the great outdoors, by giving us simple steps to follow & informing us of what we need to keep in mind.
According to the organization’s website, “the organization accomplishes its mission by providing innovative education, skills and research to help people care for the outdoors.” Basically – how can we protect the land we visit so that we leave it beautiful for everyone else??
Think about it: if you visit a stunning spot at a natural park, and you decide to go off the trail, somewhere you’re not supposed to. You might get an even *better* view and you may not see any immediate consequence. But if everyone who saw you go off the trail, follows in your steps (literally), the consequences will build over time. Every shoe that walks that spot from now on will have a small hand in destroying that land.
What about if you leave a piece of trash on a trail? Sure, it may not affect you or your experience on that trail. But that piece of trash could be eaten by an animal, or contribute to corroding that section of the land. Everything we do outdoors affects nature in some way, and our goal should be to minimize that impact as much as possible.
Are you starting to see why the Leave No Trace organization is connected to your elopement?!
In order to make it as *simple* and as easy as possible for us, the LNT organization has created what they call the “7 Leave No Trace Principles.” This framework is in place to help us understand how to minimize our impact every time we visit the outdoors. Let’s get into what they are!!
**all the information below is taken & paraphrased from the LNT website, which I highly suggest you check out!**
The first principle of leaving no trace is to plan ahead and prepare as best as possible. This is because poor planning can lead to last-minute decisions that haven’t been thought through! For example, if you expect to go on one trail, and that trail ends up being closed off, you might impulsively decide to walk around an area that doesn’t have a trail, because you came all that way to see those views, right?
Planning ahead ensures that you stay safe and that you know what you’re doing ahead of time & can avoid having to do any unnecessary damage to the land. It’s important to consider things such as weather, terrain, appropriate equipment/clothing, and transportation.
This one relates to your elopement in a HUGE way: please please stay on trails!!
Traveling off-trail can lead to a lot of unnecessary damage to the land, so it’s incredibly important to follow trails no matter where you’re at. The trails are there for a reason! Having lots of people go off-trail can cause trampling and can weaken the durability of the land below.
Same goes for camping – if you’re going to be setting up a campsite, please do so on an actual campground, not in the middle of land that you could be damaging with your equipment!
This should be an obvious one: throw away your trash!! Littering affects the land, water, wildlife, and people around you. Just simply don’t do it!
Find a nearby trash can, or bring a bag that you designate to be the trash bag. Easy as that!
I know it can be fun to take rocks/plants/leaves/etc. from places to keep as memories, but please avoid it at all costs! Removing objects and pieces of land can alter the land in negative ways, and can damage live trees & plants.
Fact that a lot of people may not know: the “overuse of fires and increasing demand for firewood” (taken from the LNT website) causes the natural appearance of wooded areas to degrade! If you build a fire, consider if it’s necessary, the fire danger, and whether or not the alpine growing conditions can keep pace with the necessary demand for firewood. And clean up *everything*!
If you’re able to, opt for a portable stove instead, as they operate in any weather and are much better for leaving no trace!
Another one that should be obvious: be respectful to wildlife! Don’t disturb them just for fun or for a photo. This can scare wildlife and cause stress, especially loud noises, and fast movements.
Finally, be considerate & respectful of other visitors! It’s likely you’re not the only person in that beautiful place you’re visiting, so be courteous of those around you so that everyone can enjoy their experience.
Now, let’s talk about how you can Leave No Trace with your outdoor elopement! I will help you out with this and make sure we follow the 7 principles AND celebrate in the best way possible out in nature!
A huge way you can help keep land beautiful (especially national parks) is to get the appropriate permits and passes. You can look up the park you’re eloping at on the National Park Service’s website, and find permit details super easily.
This ensures that your visit is accounted for, that parks don’t get overcrowded, and that the money you pay can be used to improve & maintain the beauty of the park!
You usually need to get an entrance permit in addition to a Special Use Permit for your wedding/elopement.
You’ll likely also need to pay a parking fee to enter a national park for your elopement, so please pay that – again, this helps parks maintain the land! State parks may charge entrance fees as well.
It’s important to pick your locations ahead of time so that you can plan ahead + prepare (sound familiar from above?). Find a few different locations for your elopement so that in case one is closed or not accessible, we already have other options that are on trails & follow park rules.
If you’ll be having any sort of decor (ONLY if it is allowed!!), bring bags with you to put it in once you’re done! Designate a certain bag as a trash bag, and make sure you have room to pack in, pack out. This means that whatever you bring with you, you’ll also bring out of the park!
If we’re hiking or walking to get to our location, be super-mindful of where you walk. Watch for where trails are and what areas are allowed & off-limits. It’s easy to accidentally go off-trail when you’re excited, or to want to go off-trail for a certain view – it’s not worth it! I promise we’ll be able to find a designated area with just as beautiful of a view!
One reason a lot of areas of national parks are off-limits for weddings/elopements is that people haven’t followed the rules in the past. When you get your Special Use Permit, you’ll find out what is & isn’t allowed at your ceremony location, and it’s important to follow that. There will be things prohibited like confetti and large arbors, for obvious reasons – we don’t want to litter confetti or damage the land with an arbor! The rules are in place for a reason!
We’ll be sure to avoid off-trail areas for all of your photos! I know it can be tempting to go into that pretty field of wildflowers, but it’s not worth it to destroy the plants and vegetation. We’ll find areas that are within limits & that are on trails, and we’ll be able to get epic photos still!
Self-explanatory! If you’re bringing along your doggo(s), clean up after them and keep the waste on you until you can find a trash can.
If you’re having any guests along, inform them of the importance of leaving no trace ahead of time! They may be ready to visit the park & hike with you, and not have any idea how big of an impact they can have on the land. It’s important that everybody at the party is mindful of the LNT principles the whole time.
Finally, consider the visitors and animals around you! Don’t play any loud music during your ceremony or make super loud noises – this is disrespectful to other visitors, and can be stressful to wildlife. Even though your elopement is all about YOU, it’s likely you won’t be the only ones in the area!
I hope this helped you get a better understanding of just how BIG our impact is on the outdoors, and why it’s so important to keep it to a minimum!
For more helpful elopement resources like this one, head to my blog here!