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Yosemite Park Rangers Allow Hikers to Destroy These if Found

Source: SFGATE

Cairns are small piles of rocks that are placed in a particular order to help guide hikers in national parks. Some national parks are, however, asking visitors to be cautious, saying they need to know what cairns are, what they need to do when they see a cairn on their hiking trail, and if building cairns is okay.

Even though cairns are used as markers to help outline new or difficult trails, not every park uses them. As stated by the National Park Services, a few parks like Hawaii Volcanoes, Acadia, and El Malpais make use of cairns that are carefully created and conserved by park rangers to keep hikers on the right path.

Other parks, like Capitol Reef National Park, do not make use of rock piles. However, some visitors create these piles and confuse other hikers who think they should follow the cairn-made path. So the best thing intending hikers can do is to find out about the park they wish to go to and discover their rules about cairns. 

For parks like Yosemite National Park, where cairns are ruled out, visitors have been advised not to build and to knock down any unauthorized one they see. A post on Facebook by rangers at the park urged visitors not to create and to take down visitor-created cairns.

Some hikers or visitors erect very tall cairns in a natural setting, and it has some effects. The cairns, which are just basically piles of stones, can injure hikers or wildlife when they topple over.

National Park Services, in one of their posts, pointed out that dramatically oversized rock piles are marks of human activity, and in a wilderness setting, it can be distracting. The stacked rocks can disturb small reptiles and other organisms that live beneath rocks.

Prohibited cairns also disobey the “Leave No Trace” ethics. The soil can become prone to erosion, disturbed vegetation, and weak micro-ecosystems if surrounding rocks are removed. 

Also, the authorized stone piles were carefully created to help hikers with their directions, but if they are tampered with, it can cause other hikers to get lost. Differentiating between the approved cairns and piles of rock that should be knocked down can be challenging, but here are a few tips for safe navigation:

  • Find out if the park you want to visit uses Cairns.
  • Do not create your own rock pile, and do not touch existing ones; leave them how you met them.
  • Obey the “Leave No Trace” rule.
  • If you get confused about the trail, ask a park ranger for advice.

These few guide tips can help all visitors and hikers enjoy the various national parks and leave them in their beautiful and untouched state, just as it was before they visited.


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