California State Parks, Anza-Borrego Foundation Launch New Leave No Trace Initiative for Upcoming Desert Season


Danny McCamish I State Parks Senior Environmental Scientists I (760) 767-4037

Bri Fordem I Anza-Borrego Foundation Executive Director I (760) 465-2601

Alisa Walsh I Leave No Trace Development and Communications Manager I (303) 442-8222

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Anza-Borrego) and the Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF) are excited to announce a new partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for the upcoming 2020/2021 desert season. This new partnership and the Leave No Trace Initiative will encourage and educate new and returning visitors to Anza-Borrego to care for the local desert and public lands through the “Seven Principles of Leave No Trace”, available in English and Spanish. The initiative also reminds the public on their role to slow the spread of COVID-19. With many activities limited during the pandemic, outdoor public spaces have been essential to many Californians. As a result, California State Parks and partners are expecting high visitation and increased use with the beginning of the desert season this month through March/April of next year.

“Through the Leave No Trace Initiative, staff and partners are not just educating visitors about the park rules but showing them how they can be applied to protect the park’s resources for current and future generations,” said Acting District Superintendent Ray Lennox. “With COVID-19 still affecting California’s communities, it is important that we also remind visitors of the important role they have in the outdoors to slow the spread of the virus. Thanks to the Anza-Borrego Foundation for leading this effort and for their support in working with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to adapt the Seven Principles at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.”

Below are some important COVID-19 guidelines for people considering a trip to Anza-Borrego and other desert public outdoor spaces:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home. Do not travel if you are sick or if someone in your household has had COVID-19 in the last two weeks.
  • Plan Ahead: Prior to leaving home, check the webpage of the your local outdoor destination to find out if it is open, if parking is available, if there are camping opportunities and what new visitor guidelines are in effect.
  • Stay Safer at 6 Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Group gatherings and parties are not allowed. Visitors are being asked to leave if there are too many people to allow for the required physical distance.
  • Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain physical distancing of six feet or more. For details, please visit
  • Stay Clean: Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash. Restrooms will be temporarily closed in order to keep up with cleaning schedules.

The Leave No Trace Initiative will help provide different options around activities such as camping and campfire use, disposal of trash and human waste to help alter behavior to first time visitors, and visitors who may be familiar with dry camping but not in more sensitive desert environments. The goal is to communicate the seven Leave No Trace Principles in the park through various outreach efforts such as two Anza-Borrego Desert-specific designs, one of the park’s wind caves and one depicting native plants to the desert, helping promote these best wilderness practices in the park and support advocacy and education.

“We are excited that our partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has blossomed into a comprehensive educational initiative and outreach effort, equally embraced by our park partner and California State Parks,” Executive Director for the Anza-Borrego Foundation Bri Fordem said. “This initiative will help preserve our beautiful desert, enrich everyone’s experience and educate all visitors on the need to care for and protect these lands.”

“Leave No Trace looks forward to working alongside the Anza-Borrego Foundation and California State Parks to ensure that all visitors to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are informed on how to protect the area’s vital natural resources,” Executive Director for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Dana Watts said. “Our combined efforts to bring Leave No Trace desert-specific education to the Park is an important step in equipping visitors and locals with the necessary information to care for Anza-Borrego’s unique landscape.”

Other outreach efforts will include videos on social media, working with local businesses and partners, connecting with schools and underserved communities, Anza-Borrego Foundation’s “Outreach On The Move” stopping at individual campsites with free material and pop-up table events at key entry points to the park and at visitor center.

Below are the seven Leave No Trace Principles for Anza-Borrego and other desert public lands:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit, including local county and park COVID-19 specific regulations.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
  • Report any injured wildlife, resource damage, or illegal activities to Anza-Borrego headquarters at (760) 767-4037.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel or sand.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from dry lakes, streams and wetlands.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • Avoid stepping on vegetation and sensitive desert environment.
  • In popular areas:
    • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
    • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas:
    • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
    • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

 3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Desert environments are particularly delicate and not suited for decomposition. For human waste, we encourage the use of waste alleviation (WAG) gel bags or other portable toilet options to keep the desert clean. WAG bags can be safely disposed of in regular trash.
  • All waste, including hygiene products and toilet paper, must be carried out and disposed in trash bins at home or trash receptacles provided by the park.

4. Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past, do not touch or disturb cultural and historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture or dig trenches.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Illegal ground fires are prohibited. Campfires are allowed in camper-provided metal containers with bottom and sides, or in park-provided metal fire rings in primitive campsites.
  • Do not collect firewood or dried brush in the park. Bring firewood from local county to lower risk of exposure to pests.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash. Put out campfires completely.
  • Do not burn trash or dispose of trash in fire rings. Pack out ashes with you when using a fire pan to leave no trace.
  • Keep fires small or consider foregoing a campfire to enjoy the dark skies in remote areas of Anza-Borrego’s designated “International Dark Sky Park.”

6. Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow, approach or otherwise harass wildlife.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Do not approach or attempt to move sick or injured wildlife. Please report any encounters to park staff.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

Located on the eastern side of San Diego County, with portions extending east into Imperial County and north into Riverside County, Anza-Borrego has more than five hundred miles of dirt road, 12 wilderness areas and many miles of hiking trails providing visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the California Desert. Anza-Borrego protects nearly 650,000 acres of desert ecosystem in southern California, and two-thirds of that is afforded extra protection as designated wilderness. In addition to habitat for wildlife, the park serves as a refuge for humans too—offering expansive vistas, quiet solitude, stunning night skies filled with stars and a variety of recreational activities.

The desert is a very beautiful and exciting place, but it can also be very unpredictable and dangerous. Whether hiking, camping, viewing wildlife or vegetation or the dark sky, it is important for visitors to plan their outdoor adventure in the desert properly. Simple actions such as taking plenty of water and food and knowing that cell coverage is extremely limited or non-existent can help visitors be better prepared to safely enjoy this iconic landscape.

To find detailed safety tips and information on the Leave No Trace initiative and recommendations for getting outside during COVID-19 in English and Spanish, please visit and


The Anza-Borrego Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the official nonprofit cooperative partner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. For 53 years, the Anza-Borrego Foundation has worked alongside the Park to ensure a sustainable desert. It is our mission to protect and preserve the natural landscapes, wildlife habitat and cultural heritage of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and its surrounding region for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Anza-Borrego Foundation provides financial support for Park programs, acquires land for conservation in and around the Park, educates the public about the Park’s resources and supports research relevant to the region. Visit us at, www.facebook /AnzaBorregoFoundation or on Instagram through @AnzaBorrego.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a Colorado-based, national 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment by teaching people to enjoy it responsibly. The Leave No Trace Center has delivered educational programs in the United States and internationally since 1994. Leave No Trace works to educate, build partnerships, conduct research on best practices, and empower volunteerism. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics provides a foundation to build a nationwide outdoor ethic of critical importance — for now and for the future: or on Instagram through @LeaveNoTraceCenter.

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