GPX tracks – when to show and tell?

The dilemma of knowing when to share on social media, or not

Instagram has ruined this place.

Coming from Sydney, where people frequently hop the security fence around Wedding Cake Rock, or need rescuing from the Figure 8 pool, we understand the concerns around social media and the outdoors.

Recently, we rock-hopped up a creek to a place where clear water tumbled down a cliff into a dark pool fringed with bright green lomandra. Back home, relaxing with a beer and still buzzing from the joy of our workout and the unexpected beauty of the destination, we debated the question of publishing our tracks, or not.

Is sharing good or bad, or a bit of both?

The water ran clear – we have no doubt many creatures make their home in that valley. The creek is hard to access (four wheel drive is required) which naturally limits visitors, but we’d hate to see weeds and litter introduced.

Nature belongs to everyone, we believe in encouraging others to go exploring outside, to appreciate and conserve. Guidebooks and track notes make nature accessible. We don’t want to be gatekeepers, but neither do we want to provide a GPX track that might lead to over-crowding and destruction.

We are not alone in this dilemma; awildland faced similar concerns and decided to publish. “If no-one knows about this place, if no-one knows the beauty of what is there, it will be lost through ignorance or lack of care”. Social media and websites can be a force for good, an amplifying tool for environmental education and advocacy.

When the traditional custodians ask you not to

In the essay How to Talk about a Mountain, climber Jerath Head discusses when traditional custodians welcome your visit, but request you don’t climb the mountain.

What is the desire to climb a mountain other than a wish to move, unbounded, through space? What is it to ignore the requests of Traditional Owners other than a wish to move, unbounded, across lines of power?

Jareth Head, How to Talk about a Mountain published on

Cultural sensitivities is a discussion that comes up on social media often, particularly around the closure of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), and comments quickly become polarised. Where we live, Picket Hill is a local example of an area we choose not to explore.

Leave no (digital) trace

We try to practise and encourage leave no trace bushwalking that minimises our impact on the environment. While the seven LNT principles don’t directly address digital traces, they can be adapted. Think before posting geotagged photos or GPX tracks; consider others, safety, and park rules when taking and posting photos; include land stewardship and cultural notes in posts.

We use a framework to decide what photo and GPX trails we publish. We consider issues such as land ownership and community concerns, access and parking, and the impact of any off-track walking on the environment. We welcome your feedback. If you have concerns about any other specific photo or track that we have published on this site, please reach out to us directly via our contact form or Facebook.

And our rock hopping waterfall walk? We decided not to publish the GPX track to protect the creek environment. The photo on this post is of the Mother of all Falls, the much visited Iguazu in South America, and not somewhere up a creek in the Coffs Coast hinterland.

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