10 Ways To Be A Respectful & Sustainable Hiker

Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass

Visiting Aspen Snowmass in the summer can’t help but ignite your adventurous spirit. As you sample some of the wonderful hiking trails in the surrounding wilderness, it’s good to keep in mind that you are both a visitor and a caretaker. Not only are you sharing our precious federal land with other humans, you are sharing it with many other species.

“Spending time in nature is good for our physical and mental health, but we can’t do it at the expense of other living things we are sharing the community with,” said Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). His organization's mission is to educate locals and visitors about environmental responsibility. Throughout the summer, ACES leads nature hikes on top of both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass.

Here are some tips on how to be respectful and sustainable on the trails.
Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass

1. Stay on the Trail

Mountain vegetation is unique and fragile due to the high elevation, short growing season, and extremes in weather. By staying on the designated trails you protect what takes so long to mature. As tempting as it may be, don’t cut the switchbacks and trample the flora that needs to survive.


Uphill hikers have the right away, so as you are headed back down from a hike and come upon heavy breathing uphill traffic, step aside. Horses also have the right of way – move calmly off the trail to prevent spooking the horse and causing an injury.

3. Let Faster Hikers Pass

If faster hikers approach, let them pass. They may be hiking a longer distance requiring a faster pace. If you are the speedier one, announce yourself early and do it in a way that doesn’t frighten the hiker ahead.


Never litter. Even those biodegradables are a no-no. Orange peels, apple cores, and pistachio shells stay around for a very long time. Remember: “Leave no trace.”

5. Don’T Pick The Wildflowers

Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass

Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass

Leave the wildflowers for others to enjoy. Some are protected by law, others will not reproduce if picked. They look better in nature anyway.

6. When Mother Nature Calls

Should Mother Nature call on you and you need to step off the trail, be sure to move to a spot 200 feet from a lake or creek. We need to protect the wild water, too.

7. Leash Your Dog

Dogs running free can frighten people, horses, and wildlife. The law requires dogs to be leashed within wilderness areas. Be sure to carry out those doggie poop bags, as well!


Feeding animals in the wild “people” food can cause them serious health problems. What’s more, it makes wild animals lose their natural fear of people. Feeding can make large, potentially dangerous animals become too comfortable around humans. Once animals learn they can panhandle for food, they can become a nuisance or a safety risk.
Responsible Hiking, Environmental Friendly Tips from Aspen Snowmass


You will see more mammals and birds in their natural habitats with lowered voices, whispers, and silence. A hushed voice is just more befitting of the natural environment and enables others to enjoy it, as well.


Be cordial to your fellow hikers and smile at them as you pass by. After all, mountain exploration is exhilarating and you are sharing this beautiful experience!

Published June 2018

About The Author

Susan Linden, writer


Susan Linden has been wordsmithing as an advertising copywriter, feature writer, and storyteller since her college days. She left the whirlwind corporate world to live in the mountains and spends as much time as she can hiking, biking, and skiing in them. Working, playing, and raising a family in the Roaring Fork Valley for the last 29 years gives Susan a unique insider’s perspective to share.

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