Here’s What You Should Do if You Find a Stack of Rocks in the Wilderness

If you’ve spent enough time in the wilderness, you’ve likely come across rock cairns, also known as giant stack of rocks. While these manmade creations can look cool in front of your favorite outdoor destination, there’s only one thing you should do if you see one.

In a recent announcement, Yosemite National Park encouraged hikers to dismantle rock cairns if they ever come across one. The park emphasized the importance of adhering to Leave No Trace ethics and respecting the wilderness environment and its inhabitants, which includes not building cairns and pushing them over when you see them.

Here is the announcement:

The oversized rock cairn in question was deemed to be a clear sign of human impact and stood out conspicuously in the natural landscape of the wilderness area. The construction of rock cairns can disrupt the habitats of small insects, reptiles, and microorganisms that reside beneath them.

While rock cairns serve useful purposes such as navigation, safety, and marking new or challenging trails when properly utilized, the park administration stressed that their construction should be limited to rangers and trail workers. The announcement urged visitors to dismantle any rock cairns they come across and refrain from building new ones during their visits to Yosemite National Park.

By adhering to Leave No Trace principles and refraining from creating unnecessary rock cairns, visitors can contribute to the preservation and natural beauty of the park’s wilderness areas.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Interesting. At canyonlands national Park and Arches national Park, you are asked not to dismantle the cairns because it is the only trail marker visible across vast stretches of rock. they are the only way to identify trails so that people don’t get lost.

  2. I’m going to leave toppling of cairns to the Wilderness Restoration Rangers. There’s an area near Mirror Lake just full of cairns, which I assume they do NOT want me to push over. But I hadn’t seen this video, so I didn’t take careful note of exactly what the sign there said.

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