Hiking for me is a relaxing escape. Between the crisp air, workout, sense of accomplishment and gorgeous scenery- Hiking is my ultimate well-being refresher. I am very much an extravert, do not get me wrong! However, It is critical for me to balance solitude and socialization. Therefore, when I am out hiking, there is nothing sweeter than the sounds and sights of nature and the feeling of being part of something so much larger than myself.
That being said, there are so many times I am out hiking and I find myself irked by the negligence or misunderstanding of a hiking etiquette. I should add that I am a HUGE advocate for just getting out there on the trail! So even when a hiker, or group of hikers is “breaking the unspoken hiking etiquette,” I can not get angry. My goal is to provide insight for those who have simply never known what goes into being a courteous and mindful explorer! I truly believe that no one wakes up in the morning and strives to be uninformed or negligent.
So without further ado- Here are my tips on how to be the most courteous hiker you can be!
Always Yield to Uphill Traffic:
When hiking, it is exceptionally easier for a downhill hiker to gain momentum than an uphill hiker. Once an uphill hiker loses pace, it can be difficult to regain that momentum time and time again. So when you’re on your trek down and you come across a hiker making their way up, pull off to the side and let them pass. I promise they will be so grateful.
Stay on the Trail:
If you’re making your way along a trail and you see a potential shortcut- be VERY wary before trotting along the undesignated path. This is part of the “Leave No Trace” rule, which is absolutely a critical piece to following hiking etiquette.
Pass on the Left:
Just like Driving, hiking etiquette means you should pass on the Left and let the other person know what you’re doing. It is absolutely acceptable and polite to simply say “passing on your left,” when coming up on a hiker. Groups of Hikers should always be especially aware of those around them. Single and double hikers can get very flustered if stuck behind an oblivious group.
If you’re hiking with a friend or a group, it is always fun to chat and have a good time. However, always be aware that there are many people who are hiking to experience nature. Please be conscious of noise and keep it down. Always use headphones as well when listening to music.
Pack it in- Pack it out:
All of the other rules I tend to be forgiving about except this one. I have absolutely no patience for hikers who litter and do not clean up after their pets. There is nothing more unsightly than beer cans, soda bottles, dog waste, napkins and wrappers lying along a trail.
Wear neutral clothing:
This is not a mandatory rule, but one to think about if you want to be as mindful as possible. Wearing harsh neon colors and unnatural hues can hinder the experience of other hikers around you. It isn’t something that lots of people think about, but if all of the sudden we are coming up on someone wearing a neon yellow shirt- it is going to be hard for us to direct our attention elsewhere. Definitely do not go out and buy brand new hiking gear, but keep this in mind next time you go shopping.
Give a Smile or Say Hello:
I have met some of the most amazing people just in a passing hello on a trail. Of course you do not go on a hike to make friends, but acknowledging others in a friendly way can really enhance the experience for others around you. You do not need to stop and have a conversation- especially because most people would not necessarily appreciate that. However, I know for myself and others I have ran into, it is a beautiful thing to be able to share a moment in a gorgeous place with a complete stranger.
Hiking With a Dog:
As I have already mentioned, Always clean up after your dog. I am not against leaving a doggy bag on the side of the trail as long as you remember to pick it up on your way down. If you can not remember which bag is yours on the way down, pick up a different one. Also, know your dog. Some hikes allow for dogs to be off-leash, so it is critical to know how your dog interacts with other dogs before allowing them to roam free. If your dog is aggressive, or nervous and unpredictable- keep them on a leash near you. Dogs can spook horses and cause horrible collisions for bikers, so know the rules and follow them. If a hike calls for no dogs, it is for a very good reason. Most of the time when there is a hike that does not allow dogs, it is because it is by a watershed, and it is highly unsanitary to have dogs so close to drinking water.
Horses, Hikers, Bikers:
That is the hierarchy of the trail. Bikers yield to Hikers, and hikers yield to horses.
Uh-oh Gotta go:
If you must relieve yourself on the trail you MUST be 200 feet from any source of water. Also for #2 you must dig a hole 6 inches deep and bury it.
There are many other things that play into trail etiquette. These are the most common rules I see unexperienced hikers breaking on the trail. So just remember that the general rule of thumb is “if it will detract from anyones experience, it is probably not acceptable.”