Leave No Trace ‘Hot Spots’ for 2022 and Where to Camp Instead

Apr 6, 2022 | Boondocking, Conservation, News

Leave No Trace ‘Hot Spots’ for 2022 and Where to Camp Instead

By Sara Sheehy

For the past 11 years, Leave No Trace (LNT), a non-profit whose “7 Principles” framework is considered the standard for responsible recreation, has published a list of “Hot Spot” locations—beautiful destinations that are negatively impacted by high visitation. These sites deal with challenges like trail erosion, wildlife disturbances, excessive trash, and damage to the ecosystem. Leave No Trace provides resources to these locations with targeted, on-the-ground educational programs and site-specific recommendations for the community.

This summer, consider giving the Leave No Trace Hot Spots some breathing room by enjoying these nearby and just as spectacular destinations.

1. Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

Located in Monongahela National Forest, Dolly Sods Wilderness experienced a marked increase in visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic, due in part to its drivable distance from cities like Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Richmond, Virginia. As a result, forest managers are struggling with vegetation damage, camping-related impacts, and user conflicts. 

Campground loop covered in fallen leaves
Grandview Sandbar Campground in New River Gorge National Park. | Photo by: Wandering Pulse

Where to Go Instead

Check out the newest U.S. national park, New River Gorge, instead. There’s a little something for everyone in this 70,000-acre national park, including paddling, rock climbing, historical sites, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. Camping options include Grandview Sandbar Campground and War Ridge Campground.

2. Summersville Lake, West Virginia

The shores of West Virginia’s largest lake are popular, and even more so over the last few years. Visitors come to boat, hunt, bike, and swim, but increasingly leave behind unwelcome reminders of their presence in the form of litter, eroded trails, off-trail travel, theft, and vandalism.

Where to Go Instead

Escape the crowds with a trip to quiet Sleepy Creek Lake. Paddle the lake’s calm waters while casting a line for trophy bass, or just soak in the landscape. Stay at the Sleepy Creek Primitive Campsites right on the lakeshore or enjoy partial hookups at nearby Lazy A Campground.

3. Line Creek Nature Area, Georgia

This popular, 70-acre preserve outside of Atlanta offers city dwellers the chance to experience nature without traveling too far from home. Over the past few years, impacts on this gorgeous waterfront park have increased, including vandalism, theft, water pollution, and litter. 

Motorhome parked at campsite overlooking a lake
Stone Mountain Park Campground in Georgia. | Photo by: Campendium

Where to Go Instead

Just north of Atlanta is the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a large natural area that features hiking trails, boating on the Chattahoochee River, and opportunities for fishing. There’s no on-site camping; however, nearby options include Atlanta-Marietta RV Resort and Stone Mountain Park Campground.

4. Bourn Pond in the Lye Brook Wilderness, Vermont

Bourn Pond, located in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest is a popular hiking, camping, and fishing destination. Though accessible only by trail, Bourne Pond is suffering from the impacts of litter, campfires, and damaged vegetation.

Where to Go Instead

Enjoy sandy beaches and nearby trails along the shores of Lake Dunmore. Hike to the Falls of Lana or rent a boat to paddle or motor on this 985-acre lake. For camping, check out Branbury State Park or Waterhouses: Lodging, Campground & Marina.

5. Three Sisters Trail and Waterfall, California

Recreation destinations close to major cities are often the most impacted, and such is the case with Three Sisters Trail and Waterfall near San Diego. This beautiful hike is a local favorite, but its rising popularity brings trail crowding, improper disposal of pet and human waste, and litter.

Pools at the foot of a waterfall
Los Peñasquitos Falls near San Diego. | Photo: Sanna Boman

Where to Go Instead

The Los Peñasquitos Creek Trail is a 6-mile round trip hike near San Diego that leads to cascading Los Peñasquitos Falls. Camp nearby at the Del Mar Fairgrounds or Surf & Turf RV Park

6. Steelhead Beach Regional Park, California

California’s Russian River is a playground for outdoor lovers. Located just outside of Santa Rosa, Steelhead Beach Regional Park is a popular summer destination for beachgoers, tubers, swimmers, and families. All of that summer fun often leads to a mess left behind for park managers, including human waste and overflowing garbage.

Where to Go Instead

Spread out at Sonoma Coast State Park, which borders the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy boating, hiking, bird watching, picnicking, and more at this coastal park that features sandy beaches at the base of rugged cliffs. Stunning Wright’s Beach Campground is located within the park, and Casini Ranch Family Campground is located nearby. 

7. Mossy Cave, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

The hike to Mossy Cave in Bryce Canyon National Park has become a social media sensation, leading to increased visitation and issues with trail erosion, littering, and off-trail hiking. 

Trailer parked in dispersed camping site
Tom’s Best Spring Dispersed Camping in Dixie National Forest. | Photo by: mstaudi

Where to Go Instead

There are plenty of places to see within Bryce Canyon National Park, so take the time to find off-the-beaten-path spots, or ask a park ranger. For a bit of solitude, check out the Fairyland Loop Trail and Tower Bridge. Camping options include North Campground and Tom’s Best Spring Dispersed Camping.

8. Diana’s Bath, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Just outside of popular North Conway lies Diana’s Baths, a scenic cascade of pools and waterfalls on crystal-clear Lucy Brook. The pretty hike to the Baths is less than a mile long, making this a well-loved spot for families. As the number of visitors increases, so do the impacts of dog and human waste, litter, and trail damage.

Where to Go Instead

Crawford Notch doesn’t have all the amenities of North Conway, but it also lacks the crowds. Hike the Zealand Trail along the gentle water of the Zealand River—there are plenty of spots to hop in and get wet if the day gets warm. Camp at Sugarloaf 2 Campground or Ammonoosuc Campground

9. Bridger Wilderness, Wyoming

The Wind River Mountains and Bridger Wilderness are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with alpine lakes, stunning mountain valleys, and the wilderness that Wyoming offers. The Bridger Wilderness has grown in popularity over the years, resulting in increased impacts across the area. 

Related Campendium and the Camping Community Fund Vault Toilets in Bridger-Teton National Forest

Trailer in front of national forest sign
Middle Fork Campground in Bighorn National Forest. | Photo by: mrsjpvan2

Where to Go Instead

The Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming offers a bit of everything—alpine meadows, deep valleys, jagged peaks, and miles of trails. Make a home base at Middle Fork Campground or Deer Park RV Park & Campground and explore this forest’s 1 million acres of beauty. 

As you plan your next camping trip, take a moment to familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace’s 7 Principles for low-impact recreation. You can also learn more about Leave No Trace training and courses, upcoming events, and Hot Spots.