Saturday, June 3, 2023


Painted ‘kindness rocks’ inspire others, but are they legal?

I glanced down, then did a double take. What is that? I wondered. Using the toe of my hiking boot, I pushed some leaves away until I could clearly see it—a small rock. Not just any rock. I’d found a kindness rock.

What is a kindness rock?

The movement, called “Kindness Rocks!” was started by Megan Murphy in 2019. That was when Ms. Murphy wrote the message, “You’ve got this!” on a small, smooth stone. Murphy left the message stone on a Cape Cod beach. When the rock was discovered (and deeply appreciated) by a friend, Murphy began decorating more stones. She intentionally printed words of encouragement on each rock. It was her small effort to bring hope and kindness to the area.

Another Cape Cod resident, Alice Brock, helped spread the kindness idea well beyond her hometown. Brock, a rock painter since the 1960s, began sending painted kindness rocks to her friends and family throughout the world.

Kindness spreads

Soon, the “Kindness Rocks!” movement became a worldwide phenomenon. Social media platforms like Facebook featured painted rock artistry, as folks photographed their projects and posted them online.

Today, rocks are painted by both children and adults alike and are often made to support specific charities or events in addition to encouraging kindness. Sometimes the name or hashtag of the painter is recorded on the back side of the rock.

Pandemic boost

Many folks think that the “Kindness Rocks” effort gained steam because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember finding the little treasures on my walks around our stix-n-brix neighborhood. Messages like “Stay strong!” let me know neighbors were thinking of each other even if we didn’t physically get together.

Found one! Now what?

Kindness rocks are usually hidden with the hope that a person will locate it, perhaps post a photo of it on social media, and then hide the rock again in the same vicinity where it was found.

Other groups of rock painters are hoping their rocks will be found, posted online, and then repositioned as far away from the original location as possible—even around the world!

As you can see, this isn’t a highly organized or standardized phenomenon. Still … the rock I found made me smile. Kindness was spread—to me. I picked it up.

Legal or… ?

Many places have since banned folks from hiding painted rocks on their privately owned land. City parks, commercial businesses, and even Disney’s theme parks disallow rocks within their borders. Carlsbad Caverns National Park was among the first national parks to ban folks from leaving painted rocks behind. Other national parks quickly followed suit, along with state parks across the country.

Park officials hope folks remember and follow the “leave no trace” practice. Bring out everything you take into the park (even kindness rocks). This will ensure our parks remain pristine and beautiful for years to come.

What about the kindness rock I found during my hike? I took a picture of it and left it at the ranger station.

How about you?

Have you ever discovered a kindness rock or painted some yourself? Do you think these messages of hope and kindness should be banned from our parks and other public places? Let me know below in the comments, please.

To learn more about The Kindness Rocks Project®, click here.

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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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Rhoda Fry
1 month ago

I see nothing wrong with painted rocks. Maybe some folks need to pull their heads out of their behinds and enjoy life. There is not much of that now a days, that you can do without looking over your shoulder. Everyone wants to jump on you for the Simplist thing. Plug into a painted rock or paint a few positive rocks. And post them in places that will make someone smile!

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Thanks, Gail. No, never painted a rock, or found one.

Susan burke
1 month ago

I have for 2 years and will continue to do so. I like making people smile

1 month ago

I’d keep them out of the backcountry, but I see no harm in people swapping them in more urban/suburban, local parks & playgrounds – or campgrounds with amenities. I don’t touch the painted rocks one way or another, but I appreciate the sentiment behind them.

G Welch
1 month ago

Rocks Everywhere.. City streets, parks and remote locations. As fine sand on a beach to Mount Rushmore. We build with em and block roadways. They scrape our knees, dent cars and crack windshields.
Discovering painted cave walls or chunks of pottery creates Awe. It makes headlines. Historians are called in for further discovery.
Why, then, would a “modern” painted stone, with words of kindness, encouragement, or just a pic, be frowned upon. Some of these “treasures” have traveled across states, continents and oceans. Thus creating a connection. Sharing a common ground.
Many stone artists use a clear sealant to keep the paint from chipping. Safer than the treated wood used in campgrounds. If you find a painted stone, you’ve stumbled upon a random act/words of kindness, hope and encouragement. A reminder that you’re not alone, keep the faith and You Are Worth it.
Not graffiti or trash. If you are such a gruff, leave it be for those who get it.

Jo G.
1 month ago

I have mixed feelings. I get the whole “kindness” behind it, but don’t leave painted rocks. Eventually there will be way too many and my hikes will begin to look trashy. I too worry about the paint they may leave behind. Maybe a water paint that will wash away wouldn’t be so bad if you are so inclined to leave a msg. But worse than painted rocks are the names I see carved in trees. That is such an eyesore and it really hurts my feelings. Leave our trees & rocks alone please. They are beautiful just the way they are.

1 month ago

So many grumpy people.
What harm is a painted rock doing?
I enjoy seeing them and relocating them after I post where it was found on the Facebook site

1 month ago
Reply to  RoseM

Relocate them to your own yard. If I’m hiking thru Zion I’m really not interested in a nifty message painted in day glow green and orange on the side of the trail. One person’s message of love could be another person’s message of hate. Who decides the acceptable messaging? God did a pretty good job on the Grand Canyon and Zion without the help of some day glow paints and nifty messages. It seems to me that nifty messaging on stone (tablets) was handled without colorful paints and a human touch.

1 month ago

I don’t see anything wrong with the rocks. Too many people complaining about the wrong things.

1 month ago

Sad so many people want to jump on people just trying to encourage others. Those same people probably toss trash anywhere they want.

1 month ago

So many angry people, wow. It’s a little rock with a nice message on it, and the world needs more kindness, not less. Try to not be so self-absorbed and angry.

Don N
1 month ago

Leave the rock on the trail so someone can step on it and twist an ankle!

1 month ago

I thot the hippie culture had left us.

1 month ago

This is a lesson in how to turn a rock into litter. No more, no less.

Would you paint a golf ball with a nifty well crafted message and place it on the side of hiking trail? No? When you do it to a rock, it may just as well have been a golf ball or a chunk of painted concrete. It’s a form of graffiti and should be prosecuted as such.

Would it be acceptable if you ran into a thousand of rocks on your favorite hiking trail painted with a #Trump? No? How about #Biden? No? That’s my point, litter or trash based on acceptable messaging is still litter or trash.

R yoder
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

People who think that a rock is litter are mentally unstable. Or that a painted rock is graffiti! Get real people! It’s a kind message written on Gods creation and meant to bring out a smile. Grumpy people who are out there in the world are the reason we need such things as kindness rocks. Hippie culture or not! Geez!

1 month ago
Reply to  R yoder

Speaking of unstable….. geez. Are you saying God’s creation could use a little help? Paint a rock and put it in your own yard but don’t paint a rock and put it on a hiking trail in Red Rock Canyon. If you want to look at art work you go to a gallery or an art instalation. You don’t go to Zion or Yellowstone.

Now go take your meds and get stable.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof
Sandi Pearson
1 month ago

I have found painted rocks at camp grounds, which is fine with me. Some CG do the painting as a kids activity and the kids are excited to hide them…on private property. I have also found near lodges at Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Glacier…began to wonder if we were following these people. I’m conflicted about the placement near the lodge…don’t want them in the wilderness or on trails but on another piece of concrete…I really prefer not to find them, don’t pick up strange stuff so I just leave them. I paint rocks….but they only go to my grand daughter as a picture of a place/NP we visit.

1 month ago

Well heck. Come leave a painted rock next time you visit aspiration trail,ik:CAoSLEFGMVFpcE10Tk9xcTJzbFdsTHVtV2dRQWFHYXNaVHhnVmxSR0xLNDRfQ1do

1 month ago

Leave nature natural! I don’t want to see your rocks, I hike to see natural beauty. Get over yourself.

1 month ago

Wonder what our great-great-great grandchildren will think when they find them? Another weird civilization? Indeed.

G Smith
1 month ago

So called “Kindness Rocks” are something between litter and graffiti. I dispose of them properly whenever i can.

Brenda Grady
1 month ago

I agree with the majority: I do NOT want to see nor discover ANY painted rocks while camping, regardless of the venue.

1 month ago

Hideous. Keep them out of public parks and lands.

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