Jasper park officials ask public to stop building inukshuks in the mountains

Jasper park officials are asking hikers to stop building inukshuks along the trails and on peaks of mountains.

Recent uptick in stone cairns on mountains could make soil erode quicker

An Inukshuk in Waterton Lakes National Park. Cairns like these are being built in the mountains in Jasper National Park — which park officials say can make trails confusing and can speed up erosion. (CBC)

Jasper National Park officials are asking hikers to stop building inukshuks on trails and mountains in the park.

Stone sculptures are often built to mark trails and to help hikers find their way up and down the mountains.

But lately, hikers have been building cairns as a sign that they themselves have been there.

Kevin Gedling, the partnering and engagement officer in Jasper National Park, said volunteers have been doing trail restoration and part of that includes making rock lines to show hikers where the trails are.

"In the last couple of months especially, it seems that visitors have been taking a number of those rocks … and building these rock-statue cairns in a number of places along the trail," Gedling told CBC's Radio Active.

Gedling said that picking up the rocks from where the trail is supposed to be can make it harder for hikers to find the trail they're supposed to take.

Pulling the stones out of the ground can also cause the soil to erode faster.

"We just want people to understand that they do have a pretty significant impact on the area — not just on people's personal enjoyment of the landscape, but also on the landscape itself," Gedling said.

Building inukshuks on the mountain can be confusing for people who use landmarks as a way to navigate up or down the mountain.

Gedling says more hikers should subscribe to the Leave No Trace philosophy. (Parks Canada)

Gedling said some trails above the tree line do rely on cairns and other stone monuments to navigate the area.

Extra stone sculptures could make that more difficult.

"It can make for some confusing routes," he said.

Gedling said more hikers should subscribe to the idea behind Leave No Trace, which is a non-profit that educates hikers on what they can do to minimize their impact on the environment.

One of the first things suggested is for hikers to bring maps and compasses to avoid the use of rock cairns along the trail.

Gedling said the Leave No Trace website is a valuable resource for people to look at before heading out in the mountains.

"We're just really hoping that we can get people to understand what Leave No Trace is about and understand that building some of these things just kind of adds to their impact in that area," he said.

"Leave only footprints and take only photographs."