We live in a crowded world and we hike in one too. Trail etiquette is becoming increasingly important yet most hikers are oblivious when it comes to proper hiking behavior. We’ve seen confrontations between hikers and bikers, dog owners and land owners. To keep the peace and stay safe, learn some trail etiquette and follow it. Here are 11 lessons we’ve learned on the trail.
1. No Contact Sport
Just because you’re on a hiking trail doesn’t mean you won’t be sharing it with other users. Hiking is not a contact sport; avoid confrontation. When a mountain biker comes blasting downhill, don’t assume they will yield for you even though that is proper etiquette. When horses come down the trail, yield and stand on the downhill slope, as horses spook easily. Always yield to sherpas and porters in Nepal and Kilimanjaro.
2. Noise Pollution
Nothing drives us crazier than hikers talking loudly with eachother or into their cell phone. Going into nature is supposed to be an escape from everyday stress, but we often overhear women/men bashing significant others or talking about the world’s unsolvable problems. If you must pontificate on trail, don’t broadcast it.
3. Bathroom Break
When nature calls, walk at least 40 feet off the trail, dig a hole, and bury or carry out your used toilet paper in a Ziploc bag. We’ve seen too much toilet paper within eyesight of the trail in the world’s most iconic places.
Perhaps the most violated trail etiquette lesson is failure to give right of way to ascending hikers. As you’re descending, step off trail especially if it’s narrow, and let the ascending climber have the trail. Don’t break their flow up the hill by forcing them to stop.
5. Single File, Please
When group hiking, always walk single file to allow others to pass you.
6. Straggler Awareness
In a group, there are always the alpha hikers and the stragglers, those that fall behind. When they fall far behind bad things happen. Never let it happen by keeping tabs on the slowest in your group.
A friendly greeting on the trail for passing hikers is a sign of respect and shared camaraderie for being in nature. On an international trip, learn some local greetings and use them to show how much you appreciate being in their beautiful land. A simple “Namaste” goes a long way in Nepal.
8. Sharing is Caring
When coming upon distressed hikers, offer food or drink to help them make it. Sometimes just a word of encouragement can help them reach their goal. Always give accurate info when asked, “How far is it to the summit?”
9. Dog Dos & Don’ts
Many dog people haven’t a clue about trail etiquette. Their dogs are running wild, unleashed, chasing wildlife and invariably sniffing hikers in their path. Other hikers may like dogs, but not appreciate them in the wild. Dog owners should leash their hiking buddies and respect the experience of fellow hikers and wildlife on the trail.
10. Don’t Trespass
Many public trails abut private land usually signed, NO TRESPASSING. Stick to the trail and don’t trespass. If caught the landowner could get grouchy, and in a foreign country it could lead to all kinds of issues.
11. Shortcut Sam
There’s a guy on every trip who thinks he knows a better way to the summit and looks for the shortcut. Erosion shortcut trails are badly damaging to the mountain and unnecessary.
Trail etiquette is about curbing your ego and being sensitive to your fellow human and the environment. It’s leaving your aggressive city survival skills at home and taking a more natural approach. Common sense and civility will make the trail a lot more tranquil and clean for all of us.