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Door County Leave No Trace 7 Principles

Headed to Door County to explore the lake, the shoreline, the woods, or the culture? You’ll want to review these timeless tenets of good land stewardship and travel etiquette before venturing out. From being mindful of your personal impact on nature spaces to embracing an overall ethos of “leave it better,” the Door County Leave No Trace 7 Principles should always be on your mind when you explore the outdoors.

These principles provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. For an even more in-depth look at the guidelines, check out our Leave No Trace 7 Principles video series.

Watch Video Series

A couple at the Ice Age Trail trailhead.

1. Know Before You Go

Prepare to be amazed, but not surprised.

When you are prepared with your own resources, you and your group are more likely to have a good time and ensure that Door County’s natural beauty is protected forever.

Make sure to check weather conditions and prepare adequately as conditions can change quickly. Come prepared for your activities and do not push yourself past your experience level. Be careful when taking photographs near bluffs. If you’re going to be in the water, wear a life jacket, learn about riptides, and be sure your emergency contact information is attached to you and your equipment.

Runners and bicyclists should wear reflective clothing and use lights in the dark. Inform someone where you’ll be and when you plan on being back as cell reception is spotty throughout the county and cannot be relied on in an emergency.

Did you know?
Edges of bluffs and rock formations are dangerous and unpredictable due to their composition and the weather they have endured. To be safe, give yourself a suitable buffer from the edges – it keeps you AND the rocks safe.

A woman walking on a boardwalk.

2. Stick To The Trails

Discover something beautiful.

When exploring parks, forests, and lakefront, stick to designated trails. If you wander off the hiking trails, biking trails, or ATV routes you expose yourself to poisonous and harmful weeds, plants, and hazardous conditions. You can help preserve the land by not jumping off any rock formations into the water or while in the woods. These formations have been formed from delicate limestone and/or are part of the Niagara Escarpment which is a rock formation that is over 415 million years old.

Did you know?
The Niagara Escarpment runs more than 650 miles. It was formed approximately 415-430 million years ago, before glaciations, the formation of the Niagara Falls, and the extinction of dinosaurs. Source: Niagara Falls Geological History.

A couple with their baby taking a break on their hike and sitting on a bench.

3. Trash Your Trash

Pack it in, pack it out

We can all do our part to protect wildlife, water sources, and the outdoor experience. Businesses and public areas have garbage and recycling receptacles available for your use. Please recycle whenever possible. If you’re in a park or an area without a receptacle, hang on to your garbage and waste until you can dispose of it properly. Do not leave garbage or pet waste behind.

Did you know?
Bring along a reusable bag that can hold trash and litter until you find a receptacle. #KnowBeforeYouGo

Closeup of a smooth stone beach shoreline.

4. Leave It As You Found It

See it all.

There’s endless natural beauty to appreciate in Door County. While the smooth, water-beaten rocks and vibrant fall leaves might tempt you, we ask that you remember them by responsibly capturing a photo instead. In this way, you are helping to protect all of the peninsula’s amazing natural wonders.

Some of our beaches are protected and have regulations against removal of rocks and stacking or balancing rocks. To further protect our ecosystem and minimize the spread of invasive species, brush off your boots and bike tires before and after a hike or ride. When boating, remember to drain bilge, ballast, wells and buckets before leaving the area and dry all equipment before launching into another body of water.

Did you know?
Invasive Species are plants, animals, and microorganisms that are introduced to a particular area and are capable of causing severe damage in areas outside their normal range. Get more information at

People around a fire pit on the beach.

5. Be Careful With Fire

Make warm memories.

Learn the basics about fire safety and always remember to fully extinguish a fire before leaving. To help stop the spread of emerald ash borer, buy and use firewood sourced within 15 miles. Consider bringing a camping stove to lessen your footprint and be considerate of what you’re burning. Remember, burning trash or leftover food is never in style.

Did you know?
Emerald Ash Borer: A bright metallic-green beetle that is smaller than a dime. It is an invasive, wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees by eating the tissues under the bark. There are between seven to nine billion ash trees in the United States and the emerald ash borer has destroyed nearly 40 million in Michigan alone. Source: Wisconsin DNR and Arbor Day Foundation.

When burning trash, harmful toxins such as lead are being released into the air that you breathe and can ultimately end up in the food you will consume later – or that your kids or grandkids will consume.

A little kid looking into binoculars near the Family Discovery Trail sign.

6. Keep Wildlife Wild

Respect each other-including our wild ones.

Door County’s wildlife is an essential part of the ecosystem. Remember, that when you’re out in nature you’re in their home. To protect yourself and the animals, do not feed any wildlife as it is damaging to their health, alters natural behaviors and exposes them to potential threats. Any snakes you encounter are not harmful and should be left alone. When you’re on the water, be sure to carry your fishing license and know Door County’s regulations. Even if you’re not participating in our hunting seasons, you should be aware of them so you can be seen and stay safely out of harm.

Did you know?
To get more information on the Wisconsin hunting seasons to prepare yourself, visit

Wildlife you may see in Door County: raccoons, turkeys, white-tailed deer, squirrels, etc. To be safe, enjoy all our wildlife from a distance.

A woman walking her dog on a wooded trail.

7. Share Our Trails, Roads and Natural Resources

Live for each moment.

We’re very lucky to call this place our home and we hope that you feel the same sense of pride in our community when you’re visiting. We’re all here to enjoy the peaceful shoreline and beauty of Door County, but we can only do that when we respect one another. Be courteous of others on trails, roads, and the water. Clean up after your pets and know where they’re welcome. Respect our locals by following signs and not trespassing on private property.

Show Door County you care:

Pledge your support.

Partner Resources

The assets in our toolkit are available to those looking to help spread the Care for Door County message and movement. You will find assets meant to be used digitally as well as some that can be printed for your own use.

View the Toolkit