I know that I’ve been tempted – the trail is marked “off limits” or “closed” BUT I want to hike there. I can see that there is an amazing vista just at the top or want to see what is behind that bend. But those signs are there for a reason.
As a member of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy and life-long hiker, I know that the closed trail sign often means that the trail is healing. Well-traversed trails mean constant wear and tear. Sometimes, that means erosion that can cause serious issues for a trail and the surrounding area. Since the whole idea of trails is to get people out and enjoying nature, erosion and destroying our natural areas is counter-productive. Trails may be re-routed to allow those areas to recover, grow back and when necessary, human assistance to help the area recover. Areas that aren’t allowed to recover can suffer long-lasting effects that can permanently damage or ruin that area for natural habitat.
A trail may also be closed to protect you. The area ahead may have become dangerous because of erosion, wild-life sightings or other natural hazards.
Staying on the trail also means less chance of getting lost or – heaven forbid – if you do get lost, it makes it much harder for your rescuers to find you if you have wandered off the marked trail.
Trail closures mean everyone stays off. Everyone. And yes, that might mean that a new trail isn’t as pretty, fun or challenging as the original trail. But that’s ok. You are still out there enjoying nature, right?
For more information about closed trails and hiking etiquette, visit this article from the National Park System. https://www.nps.gov/articles/hikingetiquette.htm