Tree Climbing Ethics

The forest belongs to everyone. Follow these guidelines to maintain it as an undisturbed home for the plants and animals which live there and an enjoyable place for people to visit.

  • Pack it in, pack it out!
    • Don't leave any litter in the woods, on the trails, or in parking areas.
    • Pick up whatever trash you see that’s been left behind by previous visitors.
    • Leave the area cleaner than you found it.
  • Minimize your impact on the forest.
    • Don't climb in an old growth ecosystem or areas that are highly vulnerable to disturbance. For example, it is illegal to climb most old-growth redwoods, even some on private land. Your activity there will impact or damage the roots of the trees, ground habitat, and/or life systems in the trees that have been developing for centuries. If you’re going into this type of area, stay on trails and stay out of the trees.
    • Climb in areas where you will have the least impact on the habitat. Follow existing trails whenever possible to avoid trampling on undergrowth, especially around the base of the tree you’re intending to climb.
  • Respect the tree(s) you climb.
    • Use a branch saver at all times.
    • Never ever climb with leg spikes.
    • Don’t bring a saw (handsaw or chainsaw) into the forest. Leave your climbing tree in as close to its original condition as possible.
    • Avoid cutting or breaking small limbs that get in your way. Find a way around them. If the tree looks too hazardous to climb without removing dead branches, find another tree!
    • Avoid climbing "champion" trees. These are the largest and often the oldest of their species in a county, state, or the whole country. Like old-growth trees, these, too, are vulnerable to human activity in or around them. Love them, respect them, and view them with awe, and keep your distance.
    • Avoid damage to other life forms on the tree, such as moss or epiphytes. Watch where you put your feet!
  • Respect wildlife!
    • Don't climb in areas that are managed for protected or endangered species (plant or animal). Obey all signs and rules.
    • Don’t disturb wildlife. Avoid climbing a tree where a wild animal has its nest or den.
    • Never feed a wild animal or take an animal baby as a pet.
  • Be considerate of other visitors to the forest.

    Lack of consideration is annoying. It also produces complaints, and complaints are the fastest way to get tree climbing banned by the authorities.

    • Avoid loud noises and shouting from the treetops. Use a cell phone or two-way radio to communicate.
    • Climb in out-of-the-way places whenever possible. Don’t climb in a tree that overhangs a foot trail or road, and don’t block trails or roads with your equipment and packs.
    • For security reasons, it is often best to hide your packs and other equipment well off the trail while you’re aloft. Cover your gear with a camouflaged tarp or net.
    • Avoid scaring hikers with noises from the treetop.
    • Ask non-climbers to move out from under your climbing tree if they are there, and explain to them that it is for their own protection.
  • Be pleasant with strangers.

    Most people will be interested in your activity if you take the time to explain it to them in a friendly manner.

    • Emphasize that you are doing everything you can to protect the tree from the impact of climbing. Point to your branch saver and explain its purpose. Also point out that you are NOT using leg spikes to climb, and why not.
    • Show others how you get the rope in the tree and how you ascend.
    • Some climbers leave printed information at the base of their tree to let others know about what they’re doing.
  • Obey all rules about tree climbing on public lands.
    • Do not climb in national parks.
    • It is illegal to climb most old-growth redwoods, even some on private land.
    • If a forest or park ranger tells you to stop climbing, be agreeable, and don’t argue. Come down as quickly and safely as possible. Politely ask the ranger to explain his or her reasons for stopping the climb. Rangers may not have time right then to discuss it, but are usually willing to make an appointment. Many rangers will work with you if they know you’re willing to follow the rules and they can see your commitment to tree protection and your own safety.
  • Don't climb a tree with a canopy research station in it.

    These trees are "classrooms" for scientific study, and all forest visitors should consider them off limits. There probably won’t be any signs displayed on the ground telling you there is research going on above, but you may see a fixed line tied off. If not, and you happen to climb up into a tree and see unusual objects or equipment, don’t touch anything and leave the tree immediately.

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