When hiking in the backcountry, we should always set out with the goal of minimizing the impact of our travels. When hiking, skiing, or approaching a climb, this means aiming to travel on the most durable surface available.
What makes a surface durable?
Durable surfaces can withstand the traffic of backcountry users better than sensitive surfaces such as vegetation, meadows, and informal trails like herd paths (social trails). These include established trails, rocks, roots, and man-made objects such as bridges and stairs.