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16 hours ago
What are rock cairns? In their simplest form, they are stacked rocks with a meaning or purpose. Generally that purpose is for navigation by marking the right way on a not-so-well defined trail.
Similar in look to the rock cairns, is the new modern art and hobby of "rock balancing," where people create abstract towers with rocks. Visitors that build these towers in Zion may not think this hurts the environment, but it can! Moving rocks around exposes the soil to wind and water erosion and takes away shelter for many small animals. Also, rock stacks along trails could be confused as a trail marker and send a hiker in the wrong direction.
These hikers may be at the park to get away from civilization and to connect with nature. When people move rocks to create decorative cairns, they are altering the natural beauty of the park and leaving a mark on the landscape. Like graffiti, artistic expression like this has no place in our national parks. When at Zion, every responsible visitor should be following Leave No Trace principles. This means leaving no sign that a person traveled through the area. That's zero impact!
The National Park Service units receives over 300 million visitors each year! Imagine if every one of those visitors built a rock cairn of their own? The natural and cultural resources that people come to enjoy at these sites would be diminished. So please, leave the rocks where they are and take only pictures in this beautiful national park.
If you want to help protect the park and yourself you can take the Zion National Park Pledge #ZionPledge. By doing this, you can become a steward and show your dedication to this amazing national park.
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Great article, thanks for sharing! I too feel nature should simply be left natural for everyone to enjoy.
So sad. I wish people would just appreciate the natural landscape!
I used to follow these cairns when I hiked out West in Zion, Arches, etc. Yes they were for directions and very discrete and HELPFUL as the trials are long. Too me this is destruction of the environment and the natural beauty of it. The Park Service and some volunteers should dismantle them in the parks and forbid more.
Thank you for the lesson. As a hiker from an young age I always used cairns as guides. It is very frustrating to see them being used as "art" by those not understanding the real purpose. It confuses the trails and can lead you the wrong direction.
Thank you for posting!! I wasn’t aware of the impact of this until some time last year. Sadly, I’ve seen them everywhere, maybe because I’m more aware of it. 😕
Thank you for the information ! I have never been there and I am hoping to visit some time soon. I will not encourage myself or others to do this type of activity that I have seen while hiking around LA too! I would like to share this information if that’s ok with you?
For those that have never traveled that way and will be visiting soon thank you for posting this! We would have never known and a great lesson we can teach our kids before we visit.. we watch YouTube videos all the time and see these rocks stacked and thought it was a thing over there so thank you for the lesson 🙃
Thanks for posting people need to be educated about Cairns . I believe many of the people that do this don’t know better. I only learned a few years back.(although I never had a reason to make one).
We must keep teaching the way to respect the gift of nature to the world.
Thank you for educating people about this. Turtle Bay was proud of it, tried to get more people to do it.
Apparently the visitors are doing such a good job of respecting the parks, you've been reduced to complaining about them piling rocks. I've been to numerous parks and seen hundreds of these things and never once did it bother me. Not my thing; I've never left one myself.
Please consider putting signage about this at major trailheads in the main canyon (similar to not feeding the wildlife). So many people are just completely clueless that this is a bad thing.
We knocked over many of these while we hiked in Sedona and Zion. Rock cairns are not art, folks; they're habitat destruction.
I have made 8 trips to the different N.P out west. Never have i ever thought about leaving anything behind. But now when i travel my camera is ready to take a photo of anyone altering the scenery. I will not hesitate to post that photo and show it to a park ranger.
Thanks for posting this. Hoping people pay attention and follow LNT. When I see rock cairns where there should be none, I knock it down. When I see some people building these, I say something.
About as senseless as carving on a beech tree, LNT!
It breaks my heart every single time I read one of your posts bringing awareness to behaviors that should be COMMON SENSE. What is wrong with people? Can’t they see that a place like Zion - actually all of our national parks - is sacred? Garbage, loud music, graffiti, feeding animals, walking off-path, random cairns. There are not enough rangers to police this as the crowds grow. Those of us that care need to speak up and protect these places for future generations before they are irreversibly ruined!
People can be so inconsiderate! They don't think about how their actions affect the creatures that call Zion home! Ask yourself.... how would you feel if a stranger came to your home and started moving things around? We go to Zion to see natural beauty not YOUR ability to stack rocks!
As a hiker and backpacker of remote areas of wilderness and parks, thank you! Cairns are legitimate means to mark obscure trails. By placing one unauthorized, you risk placing an individual at risk of injury or worse. As much as I’d like to think those type of individual do not make it to remote areas, they do. I frequent the continental divide (certain sections) and have unfortunately seen some misplaced cairns by thru-hikers. Some, that if the hiker is not familiar, leads them into dangerous terrain. Your desire to create a cairn does not override the safety of a hiker or backpacker that uses them for navigation. Pure selfishness and ignorance.
Great post and great explanation of the reasons why this is discouraged (and should be prohibited). I've hiked in many places over slickrock where the cairns were our only navigation markers. Pointing out that this is a type of graffiti may help get the point across.
I wish the no trace would be enforced at the beaches here in Ca with all the people who keep building with driftwood, it looks junky and I came to enjoy nature in its natural state Please everyone just leave everything as is
Those stacks are such an eyesore!! I knocked down every one of them I found at the Balanced Rock parking lot in Arches several years ago. The last time I was on top of Angel's Landing people had built them. Ruins the natural experience!
Thanks for posting this along with the photo that shows just how messy and cluttered they make the park look
true nature lovers don't disturb the environment... thank you for trying to educate. Like most things, respect and love for the land starts at home
Thank you for informing folks that they ate damaging the environment.
I've encountered hundreds of these, but for the most part they tend to be along well established trails and dirt roads that have already been severely impacted by human activity anyway. Recording these so that the Park Maintenance crew could come and demolish them was part of my job when I worked for the Park Service, but I personally found nothing wrong with recreational stacks of rocks other than having to record them was a pain. To say that moving rocks would lead to increased erosion, more than the erosion caused by the very road or trail that they are next to, is just plain ignorant. Nothing causes more erosion in a National Park than a dirt road or trail. To say that you are taking away homes of animals by moving rocks is also pretty lame. Animals don't hang out next to roads or trails. Taking them from streams causes damage, but the whole reason rocks are round in streams is because the water moves them all the time. I guarantee you that people hiking in the stream bed causes more damage than people stacking a few of the rocks. And the idea that a cairn might lead you the wrong way, you really shouldn't be hiking on such ephemeral trails without a good compass, map, and GPS. What it really comes down to is that people want to experience nature as if nobody else had ever been there but them. They don't want to be reminded that big Parks are just Disneyland for the outdoors, but that is exactly what it is. Parks pay big money to people like me to keep a park from looking trashed by all the millions of people who visit our National Park system.
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