Litter on a Popular Hiking Trail in Arizona Leaves Locals Cleaning up the Mess

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jul 04, 2024

A frequent hiker shares their frustration with litter on beautiful hikes in the popular city of Flagstaff, Arizona.

A user on Reddit posted about their experience on a popular messaging board in the hopes that it will encourage more people on trails to dispose of their garbage in a more responsible way.

The Hiking Trail

The trail located on Humphreys Peak has been a popular hiking and mountain biking trail with locals for decades. It’s the highest peak in Arizona and often draws tourists and hikers who want to challenge themselves.

A woman sits with a brown dog at the top of a rocky mountain

Source: @ClaudiaCollins/X

However, some residents think that the proliferation of information on the internet has done more harm than good in their community. As the hike continues to gain popularity on social media apps, more people come to the area and disrespect the environment.

The Message

On the Flagstaff board on Reddit, one user shared their disappointing experience while hiking on the trail in June.

Two empty plastic bottles left behind on the coast

Source: Freepik

They wrote, “I’ve been finding littered energy drinks on all of my Humphrey’s hikes this year, not sure why so much this year. I really don’t think it’s from any locals, but please help and just throw any cans you see into your pack, if youre able, and pitch them in the trailhead dumpster. Sucks cleaning up other’s trash, but it’s better that the mountain stays clean. Take care out there!”

Many People Bring Extra Trash Bags

Many comments shared their frustrations with the original post. Many avid hikers say that they bring extra trash bags to pick up beer cans and cigarette butts left behind by others.

A large pile of bins and black trash bags on the side of a city street

Source: Carl Campbell/Unsplash

One user even shared that sacrificed their backpack to pick up several tin cans filled with tobacco spit.

Many Items Are Easily Recyclable

At the base and along the hike trails are easily accessible trash cans that can be used for waste.

A single pop can sits on a black road

Source: Focus Pictures/Unsplash

Instead, many inconsiderable people choose to throw their litter right into nature even though tin cans can be recycled incredibly easily.

Frustrating Experience For Some

Many users on Reddit agreed that the experience can sometimes feel ruined because responsible hikers need to clean up after others.

A brown sign that reads "Please Take Nothing but Pictures Leave Nothing But Footprints"

Although disheartening, it sets a good example for younger generations to take pride in the environment and clean up whenever possible.


National Parks Have a Hard Time Controlling Visitors

Even though leaving graffiti and littering will get you kicked out of a National Park, many people still do it.

Two women wearing hiking gear using paint rollers to remove scratches off the side of a red rock formation

Source: Arches National Park/Wikipedia Commons

For park services and employees, it can feel disheartening to see society treat the natural world in such a disrespectful way.


Trash Can Harm Wildlife

Litter adds unnecessary trash and debris to the natural environment and can be exponentially harmful to animals in the area.

A turtle swimming in water next to a take out food container

Source: Joshua J. Cotton/Unsplash

Many animals will move closer to populated areas when they become desperate for food. Empty cans and food containers can easily become stuck on animals’ heads, resulting in them starving to death. As well, they can also become tangled in everything from plastic bags to fishing nets.


Garbage Is Deadly for Animals

According to the Fauna & Flora network, litter kills more than 100,000 marine animals every year.

A piece of trash in a bush on a hiking trail with plants and a large rock in the background

Source: @dartmoornpa/X

Bears, deer, snakes, and other land animals are also susceptible to these issues. In some cases, these animals are easier for wildlife rescue organizations to intervene and save.


How To Reduce Plastic Litter

Aside from reducing your plastic consumption by bringing reusable water bottles or glass storage containers, experts recommend bringing plastic bags on trails and encouraging others to clean up after themselves.

An overflowing blue garbage bin at the head of a hiking trail

Source: @PlanetPK_/X

Setting a good example can help others to make the right choice if they think it’s common place.


Holidays Often Being Excess Litter

Every year, holidays like Memorial Day Weekend and the Fourth of July bring excess trash and litter from people camping, hiking, and partying.

A large trash can filled with litter and bottles surrounded with more bags and miscellaneous trash

Source: John Cameron/Unsplash

A large lake in California was trashed over Memorial Day Weekend this year. Hundreds of pounds of trash were dumped directly from houseboats into the lake. Unfortunately, due to the high levels of water, park employees will need to wait until the levels are receded to clean up the mess.


Share Your Thoughts With Other Hikers

Some hikers might be a little misguided about what material can be left behind. For example, many think that it’s all right to leave an apple core or orange rinds behind. However, these materials can also draw wildlife closer to people.

A man wearing a hat and backpack and using hiking poles takes a rest under a tree and looks out over an expanse of grass

Source: Michael Loftus/Unsplash

If you come across a visitor disrespecting the environment in a National Park or on a hiking trail, sometimes it’s best to have a calm conversation to explain why their actions may be misguided.