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Hiking is one of the best ways to disconnect from the daily pressures of life. It helps you put your digital woes in perspective and enjoy some much-needed downtime. And like many other outdoor activities, hiking also has some certain rules of etiquette that everyone needs to learn before actually hitting the trail.
Following a few basic hiking etiquette will ensure that you have a positive, relaxing experience opposed to a negative one. But most notably, you will be able to set an example for other less experienced hikers to do the same.
Here are 7 basic hiking etiquette tips to keep in mind the next time you hit the trails:
1) Follow the Leave No Trace Rule
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First up is the “Leave No Trace” rule. This is arguably the most important hiking etiquette that you need to understand. Regardless of where you are going or how long your journey is, you have to make sure to leave no trace behind when hiking outdoors. Meaning anything you bring with you on your adventure must also leave with you. Pack out your trash, including fruit peels and eggshells. Rocks, plants, and animals belong where you found them. Don’t move them or bring them home with you. And leave only your footprints wherever you go.
If you're a newbie, here's an article to help you become familiar with "LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES".
2) Know who has the Right of Way
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It’s important to know when you should yield the right of way in common hiking situations. These days you can find right-of-way indicators for different types of traffic on most hiking trails. But even without such indicators, you should be able to clearly tell who has the right of way. When you are going downhill and encounter hikers who are on their way up, you need to stop and give them a way to pass. After all, hiking uphill is a lot harder than going downhill. You need to build momentum in order to go upwards. So stopping, and then restarting that uphill hike will take a lot more effort. That’s why hikers going uphill have the right of way over hikers coming downhill.
Generally, it is expected for bikers to yield to hikers because of their maneuverability. But that should not be the case all the time. Bikers often move considerably faster than hikers so it is usually easier for hikers to stop and give bikers the right of way. Likewise, you should always yield to horses. But never make the mistake of passing a horse from behind. Instead, move to the right and let them pass.
Related: When hiking, who has the right of way?
3) Hike Single-File When In a Group
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Group hiking is on the rise these days. Being with your loved ones on the trail can be a lot of fun. But you should never clog up the trail and have it all to yourself when hiking with a group especially if the trail is not wide enough for multiple parties. Always stick together and walk in a single file if you’re hiking in a large group. And be sure to let solo hikers and smaller groups pass. Having said that, it is still completely fine to gather up all your group members for a quick rest or a group selfie once in a while .
4) Keep Your Volume Down
It is safe to assume that most of us go hiking to escape the hectic city lifestyle and be close to Mother Nature. So, it can feel downright frustrating when you hear someone yelling or playing loud music on the trail. Trust me, nobody wants to hear your collection of latest rap songs or you shouting lewd jokes to your friends. Talking loudly is considered impolite and hikers should avoid it as much as possible. It’s especially rude to blast music from a Bluetooth speaker in your backpack. Use headphones instead. Or you could just talk and not play music at all. Basically, it’s an etiquette issue if hikers don’t see anything wrong with playing loud music. And because it is often extremely quiet out in the wilderness, even low-level music can annoy others at great distances.
5) Stay On the Trail
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I can’t emphasize this enough. You should always stay on the trail and don’t wander off on a whim. There will be plenty of scenic spots to tempt you. But it’s vital you stay on the track at all times. Follow trail markers and try your best to enjoy everything around you without leaving the main trail. Remember veering off the trail to explore surrounding areas can damage vital plant life and also put you at risk of getting lost. You can help preserve hiking trails if you simply stick to the path and follow the established route. For your personal safety and preservation of the trails, try to keep your tracks on the well-traveled paths every time you go hiking.
6) Respect wildlife
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Before hitting the trail, check online to find information about the wildlife found on the trail. It’s your own responsibility to practice wildlife safety. Observe wildlife from a distance and do not follow or approach them. Never ever feed animals…. EVER. The wilderness is the animals’ home and it deserves respect. They need enough space to maintain their natural behavior and may attack if provoked. It will be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone if you keep your distance and just take a few pictures.
Want to learn how to be prepared for wildlife encounters while hiking? Check out this blog post!
7) The Slowest Hiker Should Lead
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It is always a good idea to have the slowest hiker lead the trail instead of super fit, fast hikers. Having the slowest hiker in the back will only increase their chances of getting injured or lost. And if you have the fastest hiker leading the group, they’ll probably leave everyone behind. This is something that you should discuss with your group before the trip. It’s also way easier to keep the group together when you have the slow hikers at the front leading the way. For safety purposes, it’s better to opt for slow but steady progress along a well-planned route. Plus, hiking at a comfortable pace is also a great way to soak it all in.
- If you bring your pet, control them at all times. Make sure to clean up after your pets and keep them on the trail.
- Don’t stop for a break in the middle of the trail. Instead, step aside so others can easily pass you.
- Hiking is a social activity. So, it’s considered polite to say hello when you encounter others on the trail.
- When nature calls, do your best to find a private spot behind a rock or a tree at least 200 feet from the trail or any water sources to avoid contamination.
- Respect private property and the privacy of people living along the trail.
- Do not use trails when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Proper hiking etiquette applies to all people, including men, women, and children. And you don’t have to exaggerate showing them. It should come naturally. Do remember these etiquette and try to follow them and pass them on to new hikers. Lastly, when you go on a hike, always let someone you trust know where you’re going, who you’re with, and when you expect to be back.
I hope you found this short post and tip useful. Most, if not all, mentioned above are really common sense and basic non-written etiquette rules. Do you think following proper etiquette is necessary while hiking? Do let me know in the comments below what you think.
If you’ve made it this far and still want to read more then do check out our blog post about “7 Ways To Save Money On Hiking Gear“.
I’m sure you’ll love it! 😄