Sometimes in areas with sandy/muddy ground, multiple parallel trails will start to form.

What is the least impactful way to walk a trail like this? Do you stay on whichever trail shows the most recent travel of the deepest or another option?

  • 1
    I assume this is where there is clearly no sign of off-road vehicles causing the double tracks?
    – Aravona
    May 24, 2019 at 8:31
  • @Aravona yes it’s dead wilderness May 24, 2019 at 13:02
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    Interesting question, balance would be needed as does leave-no-trace cover geographical concerns such as soil erosion? Walking the trail more used increases soil erosion but making a second trail makes a case for leave no trace (if there wasn't a trail there maybe shouldn't be one?) +1
    – Aravona
    May 24, 2019 at 13:05
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    If the deepest is not an option I usually choose the MOST damaged alternative. To me it is sort of like choosing campsites that have already developed since it is now a more durable surface.
    – topshot
    May 24, 2019 at 15:34
  • This is an interesting question Charlie. The short answer (thus a comment, at least for now), is that Leave No Trace always prefers using existing trails over making new ones. This covers muddy trails, for which Leave No Trace has specific instructions. So, even if these are caused by weather erosion, the deeper, or what looks like the most traveled, trail, would be the best choice. Hikers should walk single file so as not to widen it, and use the lightest possible foot-wear. May 25, 2019 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


In this specific instance I would follow the deepest (most damaged) trail because it is unlikely to regrow. That gives the other trails a chance to recover.

If the choice is between multiple very lightly traveled trails, I'd advise to take the one showing least damage (or even creating a new one) - again thinking Which one(s) are likely to recover? -> all.

It all depends on the vegetation and environment though, sometimes it's so fragile that not walking there might be best ;-)

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