Leave No Trace Field Report: Minimize Campfire Impacts

In my Leave No Trace Field Reports I share real life examples of why the Leave No Trace principles are so important. All too often when out on wilderness adventures there are signs of human impact, some worse than others. As a Leave No Trace Master Educator I am committed to helping educate others and sharing my experiences.

On a recent trip in the Sierra I was dismayed and saddened by some obvious campfire impact at our campsite. These pictures were taken in Big Pine Creek North Fork between First and Second lake. The rocks in the picture show signs of fire scars.

When heading to the John Muir Wilderness there are at least 3 reasons you should have no excuse to “not know the rules”

  1. When you pick up your permit the rangers tell you the no-fire rules
  2. Official posted messages at the trailhead remind you that there are no fires
  3. On the trail at 10,000’ there are usually  “No Fires” signs posted

Whenever considering a campfire, or any use of fire including stoves, in the backcountry you should always check the current fire rules and regulations. "Know before you go!" Even if you are not planning on having a campfire, you may need a permit for any open flame. If you are not sure whether or not you need one, better to be safe than sorry. If you live in California you can get your campfire permit here.

If fires are allowed, please use the following tips from Leave No Trace for Principle 5:

Minimize Campfire Impacts

    Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.

    Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.

    Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.

    Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

More great ideas on how to lesson your campfire impact can be found here.

The more we know the more we can do to prevent more wildfires. Watch this video to learn more about wildfires.