Hiking through nature is one of the most relaxing things you can do. It allows you to get away from the noise and fast pace of day-to-day life. However, on any trail, you’ll come across other people who are doing the same thing as you. To ensure everyone is able to enjoy their hike, each person should practice trail etiquette.
What in the World Is Trail Etiquette?
Trail etiquette describes the things you should do and the types of interaction you should have with people, wildlife, and the environment during your hike. If you’ve never hiked before, this may be new to you. Don’t worry; we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
8 Trail Etiquette Guidelines To Help You Hike Like a Pro
Being out in nature isn’t like going to a fancy dinner party; it doesn’t take much effort or education to behave properly on a trail. To get you started, here are eight trail etiquette guidelines that will have you hiking like a professional in no time.
1. Watch Your Step
While soaking in all the beauty around you, it can be tempting to step off the path and wander around. Believe it or not, this is very harmful to the environment. As you walk around, you could unknowingly kill or damage vegetation and small animals. This can also cause soil erosion that damages the trail and ecosystem of the forest. Don’t leave the trail unless it’s to yield to someone who is passing by, or you need to go relieve yourself.
2. Be Polite and Step Aside
When you come across hikers coming up the trail while you’re heading down, per trail etiquette, they have the right of way. Politely yield to them by stepping aside so they can pass by. This will prevent them from losing their momentum as they travel uphill. You should also yield to horses, even on level ground. In case you forget this, there should be plenty of signs along the path to remind you.
Yielding to others is always important, especially on narrow trails with little room. However, on wide trails, feel free to stroll past your hiking neighbor if there is enough room for the two of you to pass each other comfortably.
3. Don’t Be a Road Hog
If you’re going on a group hike, please remind the rest of your crew that nobody likes a road hog. Groups must follow trail etiquette, too. Although it is natural to want to walk side by side, a narrow trail is not the time or place to do it. As a courtesy to other hikers, your group should walk in a single file line so that others can pass. This also ensures people coming from the opposite direction will have enough room.
4. No Scaring Allowed
It’s easy to get lost in thought when you’re out in the woods. Don’t be surprised if a person hiking in front of you doesn’t hear you as you quickly come up behind them. To keep from scaring them, use a calm tone to announce yourself and ask if you can go around them. Also, make sure all your interactions with other hikers are friendly. This is an important part of trail etiquette and helps to maintain a peaceful environment.
5. Don’t Bother the Animals
Another benefit of hiking is the amazing wildlife that you’ll see. Don’t get excited and leave the trail to get close to wild animals, though. This can be dangerous for both you and them. Most parks have distance regulations, so be sure to look them up before your hike. This will allow you to admire the animals in a safe and responsible way.
6. Cover Your Tracks
One thing you never want to see while on a hike is someone’s trash laying on the ground. To prevent this from happening, trail etiquette dictates that every hiker is responsible for cleaning up after themselves. That’s why it’s important to follow the “Leave No Trace” rule. This requires you to remove and properly dispose of all trash and food that you bring with you. Once you leave, there should be nothing left behind and no trace of you ever being there.
It’s also important to plan ahead and take as little trash as possible with you. Even on a short hike, it’s not a good idea to bring disposable water bottles. At the Rugged Standard, we recommend you pack a lightweight reusable bottle. That way you can avoid carrying items that could hurt the environment.
7. Follow Proper Pet Practices
Taking a hike with your favorite furry friend? If so, please know that trail etiquette also applies to dogs. This includes keeping them on a leash and cleaning up after them. No one should have to run away from your pet or step in their waste. Also, before you take them with you, make sure the park allows pets on the trail.
8. Keep the Peace
Hiking is a good way to clear your head while enjoying the sounds of nature. It’s not a place to catch up on calls or blast your favorite songs as you’re walking along. This can be very distracting for both wildlife and any fellow hikers who are near you. Be mindful of this by limiting your calls, lowering your voice, and using headphones to listen to your music. This is a respectful way for you to have fun without disturbing others.
This is not an exhaustive list of guidelines to follow. However, these are the most important ones you need to know. Now grab your gear, pack your bag, and get ready to go!
Putting Your Trail Etiquette Skills To Work
Now that you’ve been schooled in the art of proper trail etiquette, if you follow these guidelines, no one will ever guess that you’re new at this. In fact, be prepared to share your knowledge with other hikers who seek out your wisdom.
For more information on hiking and other outdoor activities, check out our blog. It’s loaded with helpful advice, tips and reviews that would be helpful to you.