Leave No Trace - Plan Ahead and Prepare - Part I

You're getting ready for a great adventure outside. It's going to be a perfect day to hit the trail!

But wait - how well do you know the area you are heading to? Are you aware of the expected terrain, the weather forecast, and any special rules or regulations? 

A dirt path surrounded by wildflowers with trees and a mountain in the distance

The first principle of Leave No Trace is Plan Ahead and Prepare. This is the cornerstone of the Leave No Trace ethics and the key to a safe and successful outdoor adventure. 

We will be exploring this key principle throughout the month. The first and most important focus area is establishing a trip plan.


Trip Planning

A good trip plan helps ensure the safety of your group, minimizes unexpected impacts to wilderness resources, and prepares you to comfortably handle the expected challenges of your destination. (and the unexpected too!) 

Key items to consider for every trip plan are as follows:

  1. Goals: What are the goals for the day? Are you set on reaching a specific destination or training goal? Or are you heading out simply to have a good time outdoors?
  2. Map & Terrain: Do you have an updated map of the area? Are you comfortable with anticipating the terrain you will be traveling through? Are there any special terrain features or challenges that you need to anticipate? (Ex. creek crossings, rough trail, full sun exposure, etc.)
  3. Rules and Regulations: Are there any special rules and regulations for the area? Are special hiking and/or parking permits required? Are dogs allowed? What are the leash laws? 
  4. Weather Forecast: What is the weather expected to be during your trip? How has it been for the past few days? How might that change expected trail conditions? 
  5. Recent Trip Reports: Has anyone been to the area recently? Is there helpful information in recent trip reports
  6. Clothing & Gear: Do you have the appropriate clothing and gear for the expected terrain and conditions? How about everyone else in your group? 
  7. Group Size & Skills: Does everyone in your group have the skills and fitness level to meet your trip goals? Will everyone be able to comfortably and enjoyably reach your selected destination? Do you need to change your plans in any way? 
  8. Emergency Plan: How prepared are you to handle an emergency? How remote is the area? Who else back at home has your trip plan, details, and expected return time?

The information gathered by the questions above will allow you to create a trip plan for your adventure. Your trip plan should include your expected destination(s), expected start and end times, group information, and any expected concerns. This trip plan should be shared with your group and at least one trusted person back at home.

The Cascade Mountain Adventures team encourages you to use this checklist to confirm your plans, goals, and preparedness for every outdoor adventure. Time spent planning, preparing, and reviewing your trip plans will result in safer and more successful adventures outside. 

We will be reviewing additional aspects of 'Plan and Prepare' throughout the month. A smart approach to this key concept can make all the difference for you, your group, and our shared wilderness resources. 

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