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Acadia discouraging cairn builders

Acadia National Park is discouraging visitors from building rock cairns. Rock cairns are piles of stones made by people. The purpose of cairns varies by location, but in Acadia N.P. they are used to mark trails above treeline. Unauthorized building of cairns can be confusing for hikers, and also detracts from the natural randomness of nature. Acadia is strongly promoting the “Leave No Trace” message with all it’s various meaning related to fragile plants, animals, visitor trash and even rocks.

No cairn building!
No cairn building!

On my recent visit to Acadia, I saw people at Wonderland collecting rocks and building cairns like the one in the photograph. These people were enjoying the landscape and channeling their appreciation and love for the environment in a way that not harmful, but was it non-destructive? This is open for debate, but the park is promoting a Leave No Trace approach for visitors.

For example,

  • Stay on the path, don’t walk on the plants.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and pick up after your pet.
  • Pack your trash out, or place it in designated receptacles.

And now,

  • Leave the rocks where and how you found them.

With something like 3 million visitors annually, even a small percentage of the visitors disregarding the Leave No Trace concept can have a huge impact on the environment the rest of us experience when they leave.

Certainly, if we all leave the landscape as we found it, it will be that much better for it.

For more information, see this National Park Service PDF or the Leave No Trace website.

Eric Holsinger
an outdoorsy husband/father living in Southern Maine. Eric began sharing his outdoor interests in the late 1990's and founded in 2001. Eric is also an amateur photographer. His photography can be found at

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