Yosemite Instagrammer Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Photographed himself doing illegal activities in the park

Oct 29, 2014
Outside Magazine
trevor lee photography instagram national parks yosemite

Several of Lee's shots from Yosemite depicted activities that are illegal in the national park.    Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Trevor Lee gained a name for himself with his stunning photos of camping on top of Eagle Peak in Yosemite National Park, climbing trees, and enjoying the wilderness. But it turns out that some of Lee’s shots, which he posted on Instagram under the name @trevlee, depict him breaking laws. He pled guilty to five misdemeanor charges earlier this month.

The photos that got Lee in trouble seem innocent at first. According to KCET, a couple of them show a group of friends enjoying a campfire, but in one image, the fire is lit where campfires are not allowed. In the other, Lee had lit a campfire under a ban during the Rim Fire, which started outside Yosemite National Park with a similarly illegal blaze set by a hunter. Lee also faced charges of camping in an off-limits area and camping without a permit.

Other charges include skateboarding off El Capitan and climbing up and camping on Half Dome during the government shutdown. The government eventually dropped these charges after settlement talks.

Two of the more serious charges came from a photo Lee posted in November 2013 of him and a friend climbing giant sequoias in Tuolumne Grove, again during the Rim Fire closure. Climbing a protected species of tree is forbidden.

According to court documents, Lee worked in the park planning events and hikes for visitors and employees.

Lee’s sentence, handed down on October 7, requires him to pay a $1,500 fine and undergo a year of unsupervised probation. He must also acknowledge on his Instagram account that his activities in Yosemite were illegal, and he’ll have to delete the photos.

Lee said in a statement that he would have done things differently: “I would have made better decisions. I never had bad intentions; I love Yosemite and the beautiful community that lives there. I just wanted to capture Yosemite and share it with others who will never be able to. I never intentionally damaged nature or promoted any abuse of nature. I just wanted people to see how much I loved Yosemite in hopes that I’d encourage them to see it for themselves.”

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