Four easy ways you can “Leave No Trace” in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The first day of spring is upon us! While all the seasons are delightful in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, spring is especially enchanting, and we are sure to see more CVNP lovers out and about.

As the non-profit friends group for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, part of the Conservancy’s mission is to ensure the park’s preservation. So, as you venture out into our beautiful national park this season (and any season), we’d like to remind you of easy ways you can help keep CVNP beautiful for all to enjoy.

These “Leave No Trace” principles come from our friends at the National Park Service. Happy trails!

1. Plan and prepare your trip

Jerry Jelinek
Photo: Jerry Jelinek

If you don’t prepare and do some research before your trip to CVNP, you’re more likely to run into problems. Research your destination before you head out and explore the trails. To help you out, you can browse through our list of trails to learn more about them, download maps, and plan your next adventure. Trails are categorized as family friendly, intermediate, or challenging. And don’t forget to stop by our new Boston Mill Visitor Center!

Planning ahead helps ensure the safety of groups and individuals, prepares you to minimize resource damage, and contributes to accomplishing trip goals safely and enjoyably. Here are some ways you can prepare and plan your trip to CVNP:

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a CVNP map and compass or GPS to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

2. Stay on designated hiking trails

Photo: NPS Ted Toth

When traveling in the outdoors, it’s important to move through these natural areas in a way that avoids damage to the land or waterways. Hiking off trail allows for sensitive ground vegetation and communities of organisms to be trampled beyond recovery. Please help us protect CVNP wildlife and keep our park beautiful by not straying off of designated trails.  

3. Dispose of waste properly

From candy wrappers to rinse water, consider the impacts that waste leaves behind. To protect people, wildlife, and water, please dispose of your waste properly.


  • Plan meals to avoid generating messy, smelly garbage. It is critical to wildlife that we pack out kitchen waste, such as bacon grease and leftovers. Don’t count on a fire to dispose of it. Garbage that is half-burned or buried will still attract animals and make a site unattractive to other visitors.
  • Overlooked trash is litter, and litter is not only ugly — it can also be deadly. Plastic bags, fishing line and other trash can be harmful to our environment when not properly disposed of.
  • Carry plastic bags to haul your trash (and maybe someone else’s). Before moving on from a camp or resting place, search the area for micro-trash such as bits of food and trash, including organic litter like orange peels or pistachio shells. Invite the kids in your group to make a game out of scavenging for human sign.

4. Leave what you find and respect wildlife

Photo: DJ Reiser

You may have heard the adage “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” – remember this short but sweet saying while on your CVNP adventures.

  • Respect wildlife by observing from a distance. Do not handle any wildlife, specifically reptiles, birds, inured animals, or infant animals.
  • Do not feed any animals. Our CVNP wildlife friends will thank you for not damaging their health, altering their natural behaviors, and exposing them to predators and other dangers.
  • Preserve the past by examining, but not touching. Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.  

Thank you for helping us preserve and protect the park that we love.

Curious about other ways you can help keep CVNP beautiful? Check out our upcoming volunteer events, or find out how you can become a Conservancy member.