Looking to get outside this Spring Break? Brush up on the dos and don’ts of hiking.

Tess Booth

Tess Booth, Reporter

Open spaces have never been so popular. After being bottled up in our homes for many stressful months, one day restrictions were suddenly lifted and we poured out along any piece of land we could find. Nature healed us. We used its trails to exercise, its fresh air to breathe, and its neverending landscapes to flee from the prison of our homes for just a couple of hours. We re-energized and reconnected with our long-lost sanity; however, while we began to heal, nature began to suffer. Although our local trails have provided many people with comfort, the recent influx of locals and tourists have threatened the stability of Laguna Beach’s open spaces. Trails have been beaten down, mistreated, and burdened as a result of our enjoyment. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can coexist with nature. It is crucial to be well-versed in the proper hiking etiquette so that townies can protect their home and tourists can respect the land.


The Do’s: 

Respect wildlife: When we go for a hike, we are foreigners in someone else’s territory. It is vital that we respect the local trails and wildlife. This is not our home. Over the years, the Laguna Beach wildlife has experienced very dramatic events. This includes the construction of the Toll Road that cuts through the Laguna Canyon, and recently, the high influx of tourists looking to enjoy our local hiking trails. 

Stay on the trail: The local governments established trails for many different reasons. One of the biggest reasons is for your safety. Certain areas may be dangerous without the luxury of a paved trail. Other areas may be home to wildlife that are intended to be protected. Enlarging trails and making new ones puts you and local wildlife in danger. 

Pick up your trash: Nature is a gift for us to enjoy, not to abuse. Leave the trail the way you found it. This means leading by example, picking up your trash, and collecting your belongings before you leave. Our trails are home to thousands of other species trying to enjoy and thrive in their habitat. Plastics bottles and disposable trash have already entered the food chain and disrupted ecosystems throughout the world. Do what you can, and please remember to pick up your trash. While you’re at it, consider picking up and disposing of anything others before you have carelessly left in nature.

Leave your pets at home: Unfortunately, our beloved pets will have to miss out on all of the fun. Just like your average dog barks at an intruder, local wildlife reacts in a similar way. Domesticated animals, although they make terrific pets, scare away wildlife, leave unfamiliar scents, and ultimately upset the stability of Southern California’s fragile ecosystem, especially in Laguna Beach. Luckily, we do have a wonderful dog park where our pets can bark as loud as their canine vocal chords will permit.  


The Don’ts:

Don’t feed or approach wildlife: Although it may be fun to feed the squirrels, please fight the urge. Feeding animals not only introduces potentially harmful food to their diets, but it also encourages wildlife to grow accustomed to humans. We want wildlife to stay wild. When animals become more comfortable around humans, they are more at risk to exploitation and may lose their animalistic instincts that allow them to survive. 

Don’t start a fire: While pitching a tent and starting a bonfire may seem like a camping tradition, Laguna Beach wilderness parks do not allow fire of any kind for any reason. It is no secret that California is vulnerable to forest fires. Laguna has had its fair share of fires and works tirelessly along with the Laguna Beach Fire Department to prevent fires; however, Aliso Creek and Crystal Cove have fire pits and make a great place to roast marshmallows and camp out. 

Don’t ride recklessly: Laguna Beach’s unique terrain attracts mountain bikers from across the state; however, reckless riding harms trails and can be extremely dangerous to other hikers. In a day and age where e-bikers roam the streets of Laguna, it is crucial to know which trails allow electric-bikes and which trails prohibit them. Also, all bikes should have a warning bell used to tell hikers to watch out. There have been close calls for many hikers out there, but it only takes one ring to keep people safe. Finally, avoid biking after recent rainfall. Riding in mud puts riders and other hikers in danger because it is very easy to lose control. Ride responsibly. 

Don’t forget to learn about organizations that preserve local land: Laguna Beach is home to numerous organizations and environmental activists who are dedicated to protecting our open spaces from development and exploitation. There are always opportunities to get involved, make a change, and learn more about Laguna Beach’s open spaces. Here are some of the leading organizations that have kept our precious lands healthy and protected. 

Laguna Beach Canyon Foundation

Laguna Beach Greenbelt

Save Aliso Creek

California Department of Parks and Recreation