You are here

Instagramming Park Vandal Is Just The Latest To Hit The National Parks And Show-Off Their Crimes

Alternate Text
Climbing a giant sequoia in Yosemite National Park might be cool, but it's also illegal. By documenting the climb, Trevor M. Lee helped park investigators/Instagram screengrab

A carefree New Yorker who left acrylic calling cards on the landscape of at least 10 national parks was just the latest vandal to "show-off" her work via Social Media channels.

Another scofflaw recently entered a guilty plea to illegal behavior in Yosemite National Park that he, too, showcased via Instragram, a form of self-promotion that provided investigators with the clues they needed to land a conviction.

In the most recent case, a woman traveled through Crater Lake, Canyonlands, Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Bryce Canyon, and at least three other parks and allegedly painted images on rock outcrops and signed them, "creepytings." Her images came to light from a trail of Instagram photos.

But months before "creepytings" came to light, another individual took pride in posting some of his mischief in Yosemite on his Instagram account, according to a story that broke Tuesday via KCET TV in Los Angeles.

Trevor M. Lee, who entered a guilty plea on October 7, was facing the prospect of more than four years in jail and a $45,000 fine connected with nine counts, which ranged from camping outside of designated areas to lighting a campfire when fires were banned due to high fire danger, according to court documents. The man also boasted of climbing a giant sequoia tree in Yosemite's Tuolumne Grove, an illegal activity, at a time when the grove was closed to the public due to the Rim Fire.

In the end, he reached an agreement with the government that allowed him to plead guilty to five of the counts and pay a $1,500 fine spread over 11 months. 

The two incidents raise the question of whether these forms of vandalism have long been going on in the parks but only now are surfacing because of the ease of taking pictures of one's "handiwork," or if the advent of Social Media prompts this behavior.

Alternate Text
While most of the country was kept out of the national parks by last fall's partial government shutdown, Trevor M. Lee saw the perfect opportunity to climb to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, and camp out there, both illegal activities/Instagram screengrab

Some of the infractions cited against Mr. Lee occured during the partial federal government shutdown last October, a time when park staff across the country was reduced. For Mr. Lee, at that time a concessions employee in Yosemite, that reduced staffing apparently made a trek to the top of Half Dome too enticing to pass up. Investigators noted that Mr. Lee lived in the park and "would have had knowledge of the closure and the limited staff levels in the Park during that time period. LEE acknowledged to Ranger DuPont he had knowledge of the Park closure."

Photos posted to lnstagram on October 12, 2013, showed LEE and another individual, identified in the photos as LEE'S brother, hiking to and camping on top of Half Dome during the government shutdown. LEE commented on the lnstagram, "We didn't just hike to the top of half dome during the gov't shutdown, we camped on top of it too!" Half Dome and the Sub-Dome area are closed to camping. Additionally, Half Dome and Sub-Dome are subject to a permit requirement imposed to preserve the areas natural state from overuse. LEE did not have a permit to hike Half Dome. LEE admitted to hiking up to, and camping overnight at Half Dome.


The case against Mr. Lee arose in December 2013, when a park ranger learned about Mr. Lee's Instagram feed via an article that explored his behavior in Yosemite.

"The site described and displayed LEE engaged in numerous activities prohibited or restricted in Yosemite National Park. The article was prominently displayed on the website and had over 400,000 "likes" from other users of the lnstagram site," the investigator's report noted.  

As part of his sentence, Mr. Lee also had to "(T)ake down any and all photos that depict illegal activity in Yosemite on or before 10/31/14 (and) write a statement recognizing that the photos were illegal and post on all social media sites where defendant has accounts, once statement is approved by the Government and the Court."


Sounds like he got off easy.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide