When you visit protected natural areas, there are some simple things that you can do to minimise any environmental damage.
- Stay on the track, even if it's rough or muddy. Walking on the track edges and cutting corners on steep, zigzagging tracks increases erosion and visual scarring.
- Tread softly, choosing your footwear for the terrain. Often you will only need to wear lightweight walking boots or even running shoes.
- If there are no tracks, spread out rather than follow each other's footsteps. A plant will be more likely to recover if walked on once than if stomped on by the whole party.
- Walk as quietly as possible. This reduces the likelihood of disturbing wildlife and increases the chances of seeing it.
- Carry all rubbish with you. Even discarded organic litter such as apple cores or orange skin adds nutrients to the soil which can aid the spread of weeds.
- Avoid walking on sensitive vegetation by staying on rocks and hard ground wherever possible. Swamp and bog plants, mosses and other soft vegetation are easily destroyed by trampling.
NSW National Parks and Reserves are special places that are carefully managed to conserve their natural values. They are also great places to engage in recreational activities. Cycling and mountain biking is permitted in many areas of parks, mainly on roads, management trails and in a few cases, tracks, where signposted. So what's the difference between a track and a trail?
Tracks are provided for use by bushwalkers, pedestrians, and/or cyclists and are not available for motorised vehicle use. Most tracks are for walkers but some are designated for mountain biking, including some stretches of singletrack which have special cycling marker posts at the trailhead and at intervals along the length of the route.
Never create new tracks or structures unless you have permission from NPWS. Tracks can have significant environmental impacts unless properly located and designed.
Trails are generally only one lane wide and aren't covered with gravel or any other form of road surface. You can walk or cycle on them. Most trails in our parks are management or ‘fire’ trails which means a vehicle trail in a reserve that is maintained to facilitate management activities and is not available for general public vehicle use.
NSW National Parks and WildIife Service uses these simple Rules of the Trail to promote responsible and courteous conduct on all cycling routes or mountain biking tracks and trails. Keep in mind that individual parks may have particular rules of their own, which are listed on trail head signs and in park brochures.
Ride open trails: respect trail and road closures (ask if uncertain). Many parks operate a “No sign, No ride” policy. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted on walking tracks or in Wilderness Areas and Nature Reserves (except where sign posted).
Leave no trace: be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones.
Control your bicycle: inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations and ride within your limits.
Always give way: let your fellow park visitors know you’re coming. Don’t startle others. Show respect when passing by slowing to a walking pace or even stopping.
Never scare animals: all animals are startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. This can be dangerous for you, others and the animals. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain).
Plan ahead: know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Prepare accordingly. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear. Let others know where you are riding.
Do your bit: keep your bike clean. Help keep trails clear by picking up sticks and reporting maintenance issues to park staff.
- Minimise the use of fires, particularly in high-value conservation areas. Bring in wood or use wood provided. Do not break branches or use fallen timber - remember, dead wood provides valuable habitat for native animals. Only light fires in designated fireplaces - do not move bushrock to construct fireplaces as it also forms wildlife habitat.
- Make sure you completely extinguish all fires before leaving an area or going to bed. A small amount of glowing embers can start a huge bushfire. Heavy fines may apply if campfires or other unshielded flames are left unattended.
- If camping off the beaten track, use a fuel stove. If you do need to light a fire, remove the top layer of soil before making the fire. Keep the fire small and leave no trace of it when you leave: put the fire out thoroughly, scatter the ashes and replace the top layer of soil.
- Don't use your campfire as a rubbish incinerator. Fire doesn't destroy aluminium foil, and plastics release toxic gases when burnt. Carry these out with you along with other rubbish.
- Observe all fire bans.
- Avoid low or poorly drained camping areas where soil or vegetation may be easily damaged; look for harder ground or sandier soils.
- Use tents which do not require trenches and which are self-supporting; don't tie tent ropes to trees as they can be easily ringbarked and die.
- Use rubbish bins or, better still, take rubbish with you when you leave including all organic waste such as fruit peel. Remember that Australian plants are generally adapted to low-nutrient soils, and adding nutrients only encourages the spread of weeds. Only use detergents, toothpaste and soap if you're at least 50m from any waterways, to prevent harm to fish and other wildlife. If there are no toilets, bury human waste at least 100m from streams and at least 15cm deep, or carry it out with you.
- Please don't feed native animals - it can damage their health and make them dependent on campers for food. The wrong food can cause birds to lay eggs with weak shells that break before the young can develop. Find out more about how feeding native animals can affect them, their behaviour and you.
- Avoid playing music or operating machinery in a way that affects the enjoyment of other visitors and disturbs wildlife.
- Where possible use softer footwear such as sneakers or sandshoes around campsites to minimise compaction of soil and damage to vegetation.
- Try to leave everything as you found it. Don't disturb historic places, Aboriginal sites, plants, animals or bushrock.
- For more tips on treading softly while camping, check out the bushwalkers' FAQ, on the NSW Confederation of Bushwalkers website.
When generator use is permitted
Many visitors value our parks as havens of peace and quiet, away from urban noise - places where only natural sounds are heard. To protect this natural quiet, generators are not widely permitted in NPWS parks. Noise from generators can disturb other people’s enjoyment of the area and disturb native wildlife. To make a visit to a park as enjoyable as possible for all visitors, it is important to know where in a park it is acceptable to operate generators, or alternatively where they can find sites where there will not be any generator noise. Visitors are also encouraged to use batteries that can be charged before reaching the park or to consider alternatives such as solar panels or inverters.
Generators are permitted, with restrictions, in some designated NPWS camping areas, and are also prohibited in some designated NPWS camping areas. Where a park has a designated generator-use camping area, generators must only be used at these locations. Campers are responsible for checking generator restrictions at a camping area.
Please be aware that from time to time the use of generators may be prohibited for a specific period in a camping area where it was previously permitted, for environmental (eg. bird roosting) or safety reasons (eg. local fire bans) so always check with local NPWS staff first.
View contact details for local NPWS offices
Where generator use is permitted, it is subject to restrictions:
There is to be a maximum of one generator per group
The generator is to be located closer to the user’s camp than to any neighbouring camps
People using generators must take reasonable measures to minimise the noise they make and thus minimise impacts on neighbouring campers
Some parks have noise curfews in camps sites, which will apply to generator use.
To reduce the risk of starting a wildfire from your generator, please:
locate the generator in an area clear of fuels, dry grass or other combustible material
ensure extension cords do not cross access tracks and are rated for external use
ensure you follow the manufacturers guidelines for safe operation of your generator
ensure you are present whenever the generator is operating
never use the generator on days of local fire bans.
A person who requires a generator to operate a disability aid for medical purposes is not limited to staying at designated camping areas, but needs to apply for consent to operate a generator in any other areas. Disability aid means equipment (other than a palliative or therapeutic device) that provides assistance to a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability. This includes a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine and a refrigerator in which medications to treat a disability are stored.
Refer to your local park contact information on the OEH website.
When travelling by vehicle
Documents to download
- Keep your vehicles in good mechanical order to maximise safety and minimise risk of oil leaks and fuel spills.
- Check that your tyres and undercarriage are free from weeds or other environmental contaminants.
- Keep the number of vehicles in a touring group at a level which maximises quality experience, and minimises social impacts on other visitors.
- Ensure that you stay on designated roads and vehicle tracks. Don't drive on walking tracks.
- Drive in the middle of tracks to keep track widening and damage to soft edges as little as possible.
- Drive at speeds appropriate to the conditions, keep a lookout for wildlife and other visitors, and minimise noise and track damage.
- Avoid dazzling wildlife with high beam, spotlights or powerful driving lights.
- Try wherever possible not to drive on vegetation, particularly in grassy and soft areas.
- Keep horn use, light use, revving, excessive idling, loss of traction, and winching using trees to a minimum.
- Ford creeks only at designated crossings and approach the bank at 90 degrees to avoid damage to streambanks.