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Seven Rules of Etiquette for National Parks Visitors

Tips keep visitors, wildlife and wilderness safe

The well-known adage "take only photos, leave only footprints, kill only time" appropriately sums up the rules to live by when visiting your favorite national park or monument this summer.

Whether you're hiking, picnicking, camping, rock climbing, or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors while visiting a national park, each of us share the responsibility of keeping the wilderness and wildlife clean, safe and unblemished for enjoyment today and generations to come.

Here are seven ways to ensure you do your part.

1. Visitors Centers are a good place to start any trip into a national park or monument for the latest information on safety hazards, seasonal closures, weather and wildlife notices. Also, be sure to check with park rangers about fire, camping and pet restrictions.

2. Respect the wildlife by observing from a distance and avoiding those that are mating, nesting and raising young. Control your pets, or leave them at home. Never feed the wildlife, as this damages their health and natural behaviors.

3. Leave what you find: don't pick flowers or collect rocks and plants. Preserve the past by looking with your eyes and not with your hands. Don't touch historical structures or cultural artifacts.

4. Travel through and camp on durable and designated surfaces, use existing trails, campsites and fire pits. Good campsites are found, not made, so altering a site is not necessary. In pristine and remote areas, protect fragile riparian locales by dispersing use, so as to not create new trails and campsites.

5. Dispose of waste properly by following the practice of "pack it in/pack it out." Wash and waste at least 200 feet from campsites, trails and natural water sources (lakes, streams, etc.).

6. Minimize campfire impacts by using established fire rings and keeping fires small. Completely put out fires before you leave. Use a lightweight camp stove for cooking and candle or lantern for light.

7. Always obey posted signs/rules—they are there for the protection of both you and the wilderness.

Finally, be prepared and plan ahead. Pack enough water and food for the length of your stay. Check the forecast and bring weather-appropriate attire. In areas where conditions can change quickly, light layers are a good idea.