(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

Spring season is just around the corner! With the influx of visitors to Moab, there is always a substantial increase in the impact we have on the surrounding desert. If you’re new to the area, or even if you’ve been coming here for years, you may not know the very specific guidelines for taking care of this delicate and beautiful desert we all love. 

So here’s a resource that should be easy for you to reference and easy for you to understand if you’re trying to follow Leave No Trace Principles while recreating in Moab. 


(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

The first thing to know is that you should base all recreation in wilderness areas around the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. You can follow the link to get more details on each one, however here is a short recap of what they are. 

  1. Plan Ahead & Prepare
  2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly 
  4. Leave What You Find 
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts 
  6. Respect Wildlife 
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Let’s go through these, shall we? 

Plan Ahead & Prepare


This means everything from figuring out where it is safe to camp, how you’re going to get water, what trails you will be hiking on, to how you will use the bathroom! (hint: you will be packing it out)

Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces




(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

In Moab, there are extremely delicate soil crusts all throughout the sandy desert landscape. Whether you are driving, hiking, biking, camping, or letting your dog run around, please take into consideration the surfaces you are on! A single step off trail can ruin decades of growth for these biological soil crusts. Biological soil crusts are essential to the continued plant growth in this desert and they also help reduce erosion. It is crucial that we let them flourish and leave them alone. When recreating in the Moab area please travel and camp on durable and designated surfaces! 


Dispose of Waste Properly 

Most people understand that packing out your trash is extremely important. If you are one of those folks who bring a trash bag with you when you are out on a hike, bless you! Keeping the desert clean of trash is just one of the many ways we can support a healthy ecosystem in the desert. However, proper disposal of human waste is a whole separate issue. In many wilderness areas, it might be acceptable to dig cat holes to dispose of human waste, but not in Moab! According to Utah Ordinance 604, it is illegal to bury human waste anywhere within Grand County. The desert cannot decompose human waste in the same way that lush and forested areas can. Human waste presents a significant risk to the plants and animals that live in the Utah desert, so please pack it out! (This also includes your dog’s poop!) Before you head out to the desert to recreate, please purchase a few wag bags or other waste disposal systems. 



Leave What You Find


Moab and the surrounding areas are homes to many unique archeological sites. You might find artifacts while you are hiking or exploring the beautiful sandstone landscape. If you do, please leave them where you find them! This includes rock art sites, where you can see pictographs and other art left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans. Please don’t touch the rock art sites for any reason, the oil from your hands can permanently alter the rock and ruin these cultural sites. 


Minimize Campfire Impacts

In all State and National Parks, it is only legal to have a campfire in an established campfire ring. Keep fires within these established rings and enjoy! If you’re camping on BLM or Forest Service Land, please keep all fires within existing fire rings. Additionally, don’t shovel leftover fire ashes behind the nearest tree in camp! If you are river rafting, you must use a fire pan. 



Respect Wildlife 

Although wildlife sightings in and around the Moab area are rarer than in other places, please remember to respect the animals that live out here. You may encounter rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widows. Make sure you keep your distance! Other animals to respect are the Bighorn Sheep (take photos and be very quiet as sightings are rare) and raptors such as eagles and falcons. Many areas are closed to recreation activities when raptors are nesting among them in the spring. Additionally, please encourage your kids to leave lizards and other small reptiles alone! If a lizard expends the energy to run away from a child, it won’t always have an opportunity to replenish the water it lost and can perish in the oppressive desert heat. 



Be Considerate of Other Visitors


(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

Finally, stay conscious of other visitors when recreating around Moab. This means if you’re playing music, try to only listen using headphones. Make sure your dog is on a leash whenever strangers are present (and in some places at all times) to avoid loud barking interactions. And remember that we all enjoy our public lands! Be receptive to encouragement on how you can better protect our natural environments, and be friendly and accommodating when camping or interacting with strangers. 

Read on for specific LNT practices in regards to individual sports. 


(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

  • In the springtime, the Bureau of Land Management closes many climbing areas to protect nesting raptors. Please double-check the closures before you climb! 
  • The use of chalk in climbing areas is very common. However, it can leave unsightly marks on the wall. Please brush your chalk off climbing holds and tick marks when you’re finished with your route. 
  • Do not climb wet sandstone! Climbing on wet sandstone can damage the rock by breaking holds. If it has just rained please wait for 36 hours before climbing. 

Mountain Biking 

(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

  • Don’t mountain bike after it rains! Biking on wet trails can create grooves in the trail and alter the experience for everyone else. You can check local Facebook pages like the Moab Trail Mix, for updates on what trails are open or closed.  

Social Media 

  • With social media playing such an important role in the exposure of natural places, we encourage everyone to be mindful of the places they are tagging. Think about your actions in these places, are they harmful or do they promote the protection of these lands? Please visit the Leave No Trace website for complete guidelines on how to use social media responsibly. 

Moab Gear Trader Policy

Finally, our store policy is that if there are no facilities to handle the impacts of humans, such as pit toilets, established trails, and parking lots, then we do not encourage the use of these spaces. When it comes to camping in Moab, there is no free camping within the city limits. If you are looking for dispersed camping you will have to drive outside of the city limits significantly. Please do not create new campsites, or enlarge current sites. Never make new fire rings and always keep fires small and within existing fire rings. 

With all this in mind, we understand that no one is perfect. Please continue to learn, and grow, and do your very best to keep Moab, and the surrounding desert landscape protected from overuse! If you see someone making a common mistake, please correct them gently. We all make mistakes and the only thing we can do is try to do better next time. 

(Photo Credit: Kaya Lindsay

Happy Spring season everyone. We are looking forward to recreating with you very soon!