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Olympic Peninsula, Wa

The Olympic National Park is Becoming Trashy

“Leave only Footprints, take only pictures”



We have all seen the signs around natural areas telling us to be respectful of the environment. Signs are constantly telling us to pick up our trash, pack in and out all garbage and to stay on designated trail areas, but it appears as if fewer and fewer people are following these signs.


Over the past three years, the guides of Exotic Hikes have been carrying extra garbage sacks with them during tours and exploration hikes, in hopes to help clean the trails of trash we find along the way. When we first started this, we would find a few wrappers here and there and maybe an occasional banana peel along the trails.


Sadly, over the past 6 months of hiking, we have found ourselves carrying full garbage bags of trash from nearly every trail in the Olympic National Park.

– On one trip to Flapjack Lakes in the Olympic National Park, we filled three five-gallon garbage sacks full of trash from the campsites alone. Shockingly, the only people who were camping up there the days before we arrived were a group of Boy Scouts from the Puget Sound Region. We reported them to the Rangers, showed them our trash and they were as horrified as we were. This is unacceptable.

– Just last week we ventured up to Wagonwheel Lake in the Staircase region of the Olympic National Park and found enough trash on the trail to fill a full garbage bag. That was just in the first half-mile of the trail. Seriously, in 2,000 feet of hiking we filled an entire bag of garbage from lazy hikers. 


From orange peels and Gatorade bottles to used condoms and dehydrated food containers, we have been taking the trash off of the trails of the Olympic Peninsula. While the majority of hikers pack in and out your trash, we all need to make sure that EVERYONE is a good steward of the land.




5 Steps to Leaving Only Foot Prints


Hold Hikers Accountable


If you see a hiker litter, call them out for doing so. Hikers that trash nature are not welcome and should be ashamed of their irresponsible actions. Our favorite approach is to be completely passive aggressive about the whole thing by giving them a trash bag.  



Always carry Blue Bags


Nothing is worse than hiking and stepping in human feces. Dog feces is bad to, but people crap is always worse. While most trails require blue bags for human waste, few people actually carry one with them or know the rules of pooping in the woods.  If you don’t have a blue bag, find a site that is 200 feet away from the trail, water source and campsite. Dig a hole 6 inches in the ground and use that hole. Afterwards, cover the hole with dirt and stir dirt and poo together to speed up the process of decomposition.



Carry Extra Garbage Bags


Many hikers I know never carry a trash bag for day hikes. That is just lazy, as a trash bag is super compact and extremely light. By carrying garb age bags, you are ensuring that all of your trash is in one area, as well as being able to take off any other trash you find on your hike.



Triple Check your Area


If you stop to eat, open your pack or take in the sights of the trail, check your area numerous times before you leave. Don’t just check for your trash that you might have accidentally dropped. Look for anything, large or small that doesn’t belong in the area. The smallest piece of plastic can kill an animal, so pick it all up!



If you Brought it on the Trail, Take it Off the Trail

Orange peels, apple cores and banana peels are NOT natural to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. While these are “natural”, they do NOT belong in the bushes or on the trails. Don’t be lazy and assume that something will decompose quickly. Pack it in, pack it out and be a good hiker and nature lover.


An Orange Peel along the Wagonwheel Lake Trail

An Orange Peel along the Wagonwheel Lake Trail


We apologize for being so agitated by this issue. We just love nature and want it to be as pristine as possible for everyone. We don’t want to have even more limitations on who can enjoy nature, so help us clean up the trails and keep the beauty of the region beautiful for future generations.



Do you have a trash experience while hiking?

How do you deal with garbage when you see it on the trails?

One Response so far.

  1. Everything's Gone Green says:

    I have just moved to the Olympic Peninsula. It immediately struck me here, that there is not adequate trash service for visitors and guests to the Peninsula. This is saying a lot, coming from a person who moved from the American South, where recycling is still mainly considered Communis’ activity.

    But it is glaringly clear that there are nowhere near enough public recycling receptacles and trash bins.
    Visitors to the area have very few choices in places to recycle and to deposit waste. This may well contribute to the amount of waste left on trails. Not an excuse, but worth considering.

    I notice the National Parks do have SMALL waste bins and recycling bins, as do some of the city parks, but all seem to be marked with dire warnings about “COMMERCIAL USE ONLY” and “NO HOUSEHOLD WASTE”.

    Worse, when I do online searches for recycle sites where a person could take recycling or trash, there seem to be absolutely NONE. Nowhere to deliver recovered recyclables. Nowhere for RVers to deposit “household” waste. Nowhere for full-time tenters to deposit waste. This seems like a huge and glaring problem to me. Surely it has to contribute to the waste showing up along trails.

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