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Keep on track

Image When travelling through the bush, walk in the middle of formed tracks, this will stop new tracks forming and existing tracks from widening. 

If you need to walk were there is no track, fan out so that no one else follows you.

Never build cairns, tape trees, or blaze trails.





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When on a track

  • Walk in a single file
  • Keep groups small (between 4 and 6)
  • Stay in the middle of the track
  • Walk through puddles and over obstacles
  • When resting
    •       Stop on hardy surfaces
    •       Move off to the side so others can pass easily on track
  • Do not cut corners or take short cuts

If off track


  • Ensure that it is ok with park officers (some areas it is not permitted)
  • Fan out, so that no one follows you.
  • Keep groups small (between 4 and 6)
  • Use the hardiest and most durable surface
  • Avoid fragile plants
  • Wear soft shoes where possible
  • Avoid scuffing and running


There are a few very specific environments where the above guidelines will cause more harm.  So if a park official, or signs tell you other things then follow them.  But please remember these are rare so if in doubt ask a park official or follow the principles above.


Pre trip planning

Pre planning is the key to many of the minimal impact techniques.  Please consider the following points when planning, packing for and speaking to people about your trip.

  • Plan routes around existing tracks.
  • Keep your group small (less than 6 depending on environment)
  • Speak with park officials when planning to go off track to get advice for the specific area.
  • Speak to each member and ensure they understand and are committed to these principles
  • Ensure you carry quality maps and navigation equipment and know how to use them.
  • Pack and wear soft shoes where possible
  • Ensure responsible people know your travel plans and that you carry emergency communication equipment to minimise the search part of a possible search and rescue.
  • Ensure shoes and equipment are cleaned between trips and environments to avoid carrying disease and seeds to new areas.


The Rational

By walking on well defined tracks the evidence you leave is so minimal only a well trained tracker can tell someone have been through recently.  By spreading out when off track each plant and area of ground is only stepped on once, giving it a much better chance to spring back up.  Repeated bashings of a plant will result in the plant dying or at least taking longer to recover.

On track

It is believed that one well formed narrow track in the right location has less impact to the environment and visitors experience then many less well formed tracks that zigzag through the bush.  Therefore parks management staff plan tracks over terrain in a way to minimise the chance of erosion and impact on flora and fauna, whilst maximising visitors ability to safely access areas of interest.

Walking through puddles of mud means that you end up with muddy boots and a deeper puddle, but the track does not get any wider.  Your boots and the puddle will dry up soon, but wide tracks stay wide for many years.  In some areas tracks have become very wide from people avoiding puddles.  And yes just one person walking around the edge does make a big difference.  Sometimes park mangers will build small bridges or duck boards to make travelling through muddy areas better for your socks.

If safe it is better to climb over or remove obstacles from tracks (such as fallen branches) than to walk around them.  If you can't remove them safely, notify park operators and they will organise it.  Walking around obstacles will widen the track or create a new track.

On tracks where people are likely to come along during a rest break, rest off to the side of the track so that groups do not widen the track by walking around you.  It is best to rest on a rock or log or other hard surface to minimise the damage to plants.  If it is a quiet track then best to either find a durable surface or rest on the track, but stand up and let other pass if they do come through.


Taking short cuts creates new tracks, and they generally end up point straight down a steep hill.  When you take these short cuts you damage the plants that hold soil in place, and next time it rains soil is washed down the hill, and in a over time we end up with an eroded gully.  Take the time, it is much safer and better for the environment to walk the extra few meters.

Off Track

These off track principles apply when in a campsite and you are finding a place to toilet, collect water or fire wood, as well as when you are travelling from point a to b.

The reason to fan out when off track is to minimise the risk of forming a track or scar on the land.  When you walk in a line the same plants and ground get stamped on repeatedly in a short time frame meaning that you are much more likely to kill or cause severe damage that may not be obvious immediately but may take many years to recover.  If you do form a path then others are more likely to follow and make the problem worse.  So fan out, look for durable surfaces to walk on, and make sure that nobody follows you.

Do check with the park rangers when planning a trip through an area with no established tracks.  In some areas visitors are not permitted to head off track, this is to protect environments that are so fragile and slow to recover that one foot print may take decades to disappear.  So please take “keep to the track” signs seriously.

Ensure that you are paying close attention to your navigation.  Needing to backtrack or conduct a search, not only has an impact on moral, but a very significant impact on the environment when you are off track.

Wearing soft shoes whilst walking carefully can help minimise the damage you do to plants.  Big and heavy boots may be required sometimes, but do take their toll.  Soft shoes have a two way effect, one is that they are softer so that they are more likely to mould to the shape of the plant you step on then to cut or crush the plant.  The softer shoes also give better sensation to your feet so that you can feel damage that you may be causing and avoid it.


Have your say


Add NewSearch
Zach - I Need a Reference! | 2012-05-13 12:58:39
Hey, just a word of advice, i could not find the year the website was created so i could not reference this properly.

maybe you should do it for other people like me?

thanks, Zach
admin - re: I Need a Reference! Super Administrator | 2012-05-15 06:54:16
Zach wrote:
Hey, just a word of advice, i could not find the year the website was created so i could not reference this properly.

maybe you should do it for other people like me?

thanks, Zach

Thanks Zach
Fair point, Since most content is quiet dynamic I have not used dates, but your point still stands. I think most referencing systems allow you to use date of access.
Matt :)
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