Yosemite National Park Wants You to Knock Over Rock Cairns

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Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.

You may have encountered these tall rock structures when hiking in the United States or Canada. Hikers build them to create a visual marker to find their way back or to mark a distance on the trail.

However, the rangers in Yosemite National Park are not too happy with these rock structures and want your help to destroy them.


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Recently, National Park News (@nationalparknews) posted a video that garnered a lot of backlash. While the video instructs people in Yosemite National Park to knock over any rock cairns they come across, some people in the comments were not too happy. 

Yosemite Park rangers say that the rock statues go against their “leave no trace” policy that all hikers should follow when visiting a natural environment. 

Hikers and commenters on the post seemed concerned that kicking over the cairns would potentially remove a lost hikers marker. However, these concerns may be unfounded, as the cairns usually appear on well marked and heavily trafficked trails. 

Rock Cairn
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Any change from humans can alter how the environment and ecosystem work together to function correctly. So, although the cairns may be fun to build or join in on, they can have negative consequences on the surrounding flora and fauna.

Rock cairns have been known to wreak havoc on streams and rivers where salmon go to lay their eggs. Moving around rocks in a fish breeding ground can decimate a single species.

However, park rangers across the U.S. do not necessarily agree with Yosemite National Park.

The park rangers in Arches National Park in Utah say that the cairns you see along the hiking paths are necessary in the rocky desert to assist with navigation.

Arches National Park 1
Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Often, in the desert, the terrain can look shockingly similar for miles; having rock cairns act as visual markers and guides can be extremely helpful for lost hikers.

However, the park rangers in Arches National Park also ask that you follow the “leave no trace” policy. Refrain from constructing any new cairns, moving around rocks, or kicking over the cairns you might see along the trail.

If you are concerned about some cairns that look out of place, report them to the park rangers so that a professional can assess if they should stay.

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