San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance •  107 E. Hopkins St. Suite 121A; San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Loop


The Best Ways to Preserve Nature Visiting the Natural Areas of San Marcos

Hiking has never been more popular than it is now. Given that so many people are working from home, they are (1) getting outdoors as often as they can, and (2) taking advantage of local hiking trails and paths. Hiking is an amazing way to improve and maintain people’s physical and mental health. And San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance has over 22 miles of hiking trails and 1,200 acres of land in seven different natural areas for everyone to enjoy.

It is amazing when people get outside and enjoy nature for its breathtaking beauty, relaxing essence, and ability to facilitate the best memories. However, when visiting and enjoying the outdoors, people need to remember that they have a direct impact on the natural world. This is because, when people aren’t conscious of the impact of their actions on the environment, they can end up causing real, and permanent, damage to local ecosystems. Thus, hikers and other outdoor visitors need to always do these things to protect nature:

Don’t Make Your Own Trails

It is fun to play explorer by making your own trails through the wilderness from time to time. However, if all of the 50 million people who go hiking each year did this, all of the public parks and nature preserves would be pretty quickly destroyed. The existing trails we have in the San Marcos Greenbelt are there for people to enjoy. Additionally, these trails are organized in such a way that helps move people through the areas and cause the least amount of damage to the environment. As such, if you walk off the trail, or decide you would like to make your own trail(s),  you can cause a lot of damage to the natural world that may not be apparent to you. So, please, stay on our hiking trails that already exist. We think they’re pretty great

Take Photos and Nothing Else

It’s very normal to want to pick some wildflowers, take some of the vibrantly colored fall leaves, and/or pick up a rock or a stick as you’re hiking. However, if everyone who hikes takes a piece of the environment home with them as a memento, it would not be too long before all of the flowers were gone, plants were destroyed, and the entire ecosystem failed as a result. And when an ecosystem(s) fails, animals start to die as a result. Nonetheless, hiking is an incredible pastime, and is an activity during which you can make some of the best memories with your loved ones. It is natural to want to take something as a keepsake to remember all the fun experiences you had and memories you made while enjoying the outdoors. Rather than taking actual objects from their natural environments to remember your hike, take pictures. Pictures are so much better at documenting memories than a rock is.
Here in the San Marcos Greenbelt, we encourage you to take as many photos of the interesting and unique things you see. And you can submit them to The Loop!

Don’t Let Your Dog Off Leash

Nature preserves are not your dog park. Dogs that are unleashed can kill baby animals, attack or chase other more-adult animals, trample grass, pull up plants, annoy other hikers, and possibly even hurt themselves. Just as we want each of our visitors to have good, safe fun on our trails, we want the same for your animals. Therefore, it is never okay to let your dog off leash when you’re hiking. Additionally, we ask that everyone who enjoys our natural areas and trails to clean up after their dog(s) to help us in making sure we keep our natural world beautiful.

Clean Your Shoes

When was the last time you cleaned your hiking boots? Although it’s common for people to take their shoes off or clean them before entering their home, cleaning your hiking boots before going back outside to a different trail is not something that everyone knows or thinks to do. When you hike, your boots pick up soil, bacteria, seeds, and debris as you go. And when you don’t clean your shoes between hikes, your boots will deposit all that debris from one natural area to another. This transfer can cause bacteria to grow and attack trees and plants in the new area, as well as lead to the growth of seeds in the new area that don’t belong there. Plants and/or seeds that come from an old environment and grow in a new one where they are not supposed to, are called “invasive species.” Here in the San Marcos Greenbelt, we oversee many projects to remove invasive species from our areas. While these restoration efforts are great, it is better if invasive species were never introduced in the first place. As such, we need your help with this and ask you to please clean the soles of your boots after you hike so you don’t contaminate the area you decide to hike in next. Also, remember not to hike on muddy trails!

Take Out All the Trash

It’s shocking how many hikers think that leaving their apple cores, banana or orange peels, or bits of trail mix behind is totally okay. It is actually not okay. While it is true that food items will eventually decompose, it can take years for a banana peel to decompose. And while this banana peel is decomposing, it will grow bacteria that can make animals very sick. So please (1) don’t leave any trash behind (not even food scraps), and (2) keep track of your trash on your hike and throw it away right when you get to the nearest trash can. Nature is beautiful, not a trash can.


Written by Elizabeth Van Arsdall, who began hiking at a very young age and grew up visiting family and friends in the Texas Hill Country. She was drawn to the San Marcos Greenbelt by the stories and photos she found on our website. To read more of Elizabeth’s content, visit

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