The best way to start: travel mindfully on public land and really get to know and love it, says Shandi Kano, a film producer working with Visit Utah and on the Zion National Park Forever Project to spread this message. Here’s how you can help leave the places you visit even better than you found them.
Be Present and Engaged with Nature
Step one, says Kano, is unplugging while outside. “Listen to the sounds around you, breathe in the new smells, notice the little plants and the big ones, get curious about the textures and colors of the sandstone. Pay attention to the light and learn from the things you’re experiencing.” The more connected you are to the land, the more easily you’ll organically find ways to protect it.
Respect the Restrictions and Have a Quarantine Plan
Many small communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and don’t have the medical resources to devote to large numbers of travelers. Do your part by reading up on Utah’s restrictions before your trip, limiting your exposure before and during travel, getting tested before arrival, and having a quarantine plan in place in case you get sick or exposed. Central to a quarantine plan is food: consider stocking up on a two-week supply of nonperishables, which you can donate to a local food pantry like the Utah Food Bank’s St. George location if you don’t end up needing it.
Leave No Trace
If you’re new to traveling in the backcountry, you’ll want to get familiar with the Leave No Trace philosophy. “It’s incredibly important to pick up your trash and your human waste,” says Kano. “The desert environment does not decompose orange peels and apple cores, etc., because there is not enough moisture and humidity.” If you’re unsure about trail etiquette, just pop into the nearest outdoor gear shop, like Moab’s beloved Gearheads. More likely than not, the folks there’ll be happy to steer you in the right direction.
Volunteer for a Trail Restoration or Cleanup Project
An easy way to leave trails better than you found them is to pack in a trash bag and a pair of gloves and pack out any trash you find along the way. But if you have more time to give and want to get involved in a bigger effort, Kano suggests checking out local conservation organizations like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which organizes frequent community stewardship events on public lands like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Always Stay on the Trail
Even if you’re not an influencer, you exert an influence. Set an example for your friends and family by staying on the trail, even when it means giving up on an incredible photo opportunity. Southern Utah is more fragile than you might think, especially where the ground is covered by a thin crust of bacteria that protect the landscape from erosion and die when trampled. The best way to preserve the nature around you is to stay on-trail, waltzing right through muddy puddles if need be.
Looking for more adventure intel? Head over to Beyond the Parks, our interactive and in-depth guide to getting off the beaten path in southern Utah.
The wild canyons and mountains of southern Utah have been around for over 2.6 billion years, and we want to protect them for a few billion more. Do your part by following our Forever Mighty travel ethic.