When is a natural wonder too secret to write about?

By Erin Alberty of The Salt Lake Tribune

Leprechaun Canyon was a quiet place the first few times I visited. The whispers of my friends and family echoed off the towering orange walls. No one else was there. There was no official parking or trail marker; our group met at a mile marker on State Road 95 north of Lake Powell. Word was this was a “secret” canyon. I kept it off our Hike of the Week feature.

Fast forward a decade or so to 2017. Leprechaun Canyon is searchable on Google Maps. It has five stars on TripAdvisor.com. On my most recent visit, a trail kiosk had been erected, a newly graded parking lot was full of cars, and several other groups of hikers joined mine in the canyon.

None of this was surprising. I’d done the non-technical part of this hike several times, and each year I found more people there. Word spreads. A glorious slot canyon just a mile from the road is not going to stay “secret” for long. Especially not with the internet.
But it got me thinking: When is a place too secret to talk about?

The friend who first told me about Leprechaun did not want me to write this. A decade ago, I would have agreed (and I’ve made such agreements regarding other places). But now I think critical mass has been reached, the cat is out of the bag and Leprechaun no longer is any more secret than the other places I write about.

My friend sees the problems of exposure more incrementally than I do; from his view, every bit of publicity puts this canyon at greater risk of overcrowding, degradation and unwieldy search-and-rescue efforts, and that is a bad thing.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of my co-workers and former colleagues at The Tribune recently had a debate about “secret places” in outdoor rec. One argued that our first duty is to you, our readers, and we can’t serve you if we keep secrets.

Learn Erin’s conclusions…

 

So dear readers… what do you think about this? Should outdoors writers and bloggers pass along information about “secret places” so that anyone can experience the grandeur and awesomeness? Or, should we do our best to keep secrets secret? Who is to decide what should be secret? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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