Hikers in Yosemite National Park are increasingly heeding the parks policy advocating for the dismantling of cairns (artificial rock formations) dotting the trails in the area.
While many park goers believe these artificial constructions to be harmless works of art or useful directional aids for hikers, Yosemite officials are adamant that they disrupt the serenity of the natural surrounding and destroy habitats of small insects, reptiles, and microorganisms.
Yosemite has a Leave No Trace policy and deliberately making manmade structures in the park (albeit out of natural materals) is a big time no no. If you’re in Yosemite and you see a stack of rocks, feel free to push it over and do your part in keeping the park cairn free.
Should you knock this over??
Why did Wilderness Restoration Rangers dismantle this rock cairn? According to Leave No Trace ethics when we recreate in wilderness spaces, our goal is to leave no signs of our impact on the land and respect other creatures living in it. Unfortunately, this dramatically oversized cairn is a mark of human impact and is distracting in a wilderness setting. Building rock cairns also disturbs small insects, reptiles, and microorganisms that call the underside home!
When used appropriately, rock cairns are great for navigation, safety, and delineating a new or hard-to-follow trail. In general, rock cairns should only be constructed by rangers and trail workers. Please dismantle and refrain from building rock cairns when you visit Yosemite. Check local recommendations when you visit other places.