Wilderness Trip Planning

Please use the seven Leave No Trace Priniples to plan your wilderness trip.

Plan ahead and prepare: planning tips

  • Select a destination or route that match the skills and abilities of your group. Consider the time of year, how many days you have, distances and elevation changes, trail conditions, and difficulty of stream crossings.

  • Forest Service interactive visitor map , wilderness connect on-line maps, or front desk staff at Ranger Districts or the Supervisors Office can help with trip planning.

  • Paper wilderness map sources include:  MyTopoU.S. Geological Survey Store and Klamath National Forest offices.  Guidebooks and maps are also available at retail backpacking stores.  

  • Schedule your trip, if possible, to avoid the higher number of visitors on weekends or holidays.

  • Limit your group size to no more than 15 persons in the Marble Mountain, Russian and Siskiyou Wildernesses, and 10 persons in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

  • Know the wilderness regulations and special concerns for the area you plan to visit.

  • Visit the Forest’s Alerts and Notices page to learn if there are wildfires or trail closures in the area you plan to visit.

Plan ahead and prepare: preparations

  • Carry appropriate food, clothing, equipment, and water for the time of year you plan to visit. Ensure you have the 10 essentials for backpacking

  • Decide which method of food storage you will use to prevent bears or other animals from obtaining your food.Repackage food prior to your trip to minimize garbage you will have to pack out.

    • A Bear canister is your best option and we strongly encourage their use in Wilderness.

    • counterbalance is your next best option with black bears.  Take the time to set it up correctly.

  • Clean and test your water filtration system and consider bringing a backup method (iodine tablets) in case your primary system fails on your trip.

  • Bring a paper map and compass and know how to use them. Do not rely strictly on phone apps or a GPS unit for location and route finding.

  • Clean your boots, clothing and equipment to prevent the spread of Noxious Weeds in wilderness, which can cause significant ecological impacts.
  • Check the weather in advance and when you begin your trip, and learn how to interpret weather in the backcountry.

  • Give your trip plans to someone at home: names of people in your group, car make and license number, trip start date, planned itinerary and end date.

  • Do not count on having cellphone reception to make a call for assistance.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces

  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail to avoid trampling vegetation, even when it is wet or muddy.

  • Please don’t shortcut switchbacks because it can harm plants and cause soil erosion.

  • Never blaze trees, use marking paint, build rock cairns or use flagging.

  • If traveling a cross-country route, disperse your group to minimize impacts to vegetation. Avoid cross-country travel through wet meadows.

  • Good campsites are found, not made. When you arrive at your destination, drop your pack and search for an existing campsite on bare ground whose size is suitable for your group.

  • Try to pick a spot that is out of sight of trails or other camps.

  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 100 feet from water where terrain permits.

  • Please camp at least 100 feet from historic structures or cultural sites.

  • Avoid camping within the area in which a dead tree may fall or camping under overhanging dead branches.

  • Do not build campsite "improvements" such as rock walls, furniture or drainage trenches.

Dispose of waste properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.

  • Deposit solid human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet (count out 70 paces) from water, campsites or trails.

  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products (bring extra plastic bags).

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after you poop and before you eat or prepare food.  Most illnesses contracted while in the wilderness are attributable to poor hygiene practices.

  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet (count out 70 paces) away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater well away from sleeping areas.

Leave what you find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.

  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.

  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • A valid California Campfire Permit is required to use a camp stove, barbecue or have a campfire in the wilderness.

  • In some lake basins most of the suitable wood for campfires has been used. You create the least impact if you use a camp stove for cooking and forego a fire.

  • Use an existing fire ring. Please do not enlarge or build new fire rings.

  • Use only dead and down wood that is small enough to break by hand.

  • Never chop or saw on standing trees, snags or even down logs that are larger in diameter than your arm – they are often home for wildlife).

  • Do not burn plastic trash because it emits toxic fumes or aluminum foil because it does not burn completely.

  • Burn all wood and coals to ash. Put out campfires completely by drowning with water, stirring until all heat is gone, then scattering the cold ashes.

Respect wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.

  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators.

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food and trash securely.

  • Control pets at all times or leave them at home.

  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be considerate of other visitors

  • Avoid camping within sight or sound of other groups if possible.

  • Adhere to the 100-foot camping setback from lakes where terrain permits.

  • Keep your dog either on a leash or under direct voice control at all times.

  • Yield to other users on the trail.

  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering horses and pack stock. Stand quietly and speak to riders and horses in a quiet, calm voice to avoid accidents.

  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.

  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises. Use headphones or earbuds if you listen to music.

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