Trail Etiquette: How to be Respectful on the Trail

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Hiking and backpacking are fast becoming a favorite pastime activity. It is safe to expect that on almost any hike, you'll run into plenty of other hikers. Although you're in the backcountry, there are certain things to avoid out of respect for others. Here are some etiquette tips that we recommend so everyone has a good time on the trail.

Walk in a single file

As much as it sounds fun to walk side-by-side and chat among your friends when hiking, stay within the trail and hike in a single file to lessen the impact on the trail and give way for other people.

Remember when to yield

When walking on a narrow trail, hikers going downhill should give way to hikers going uphill because it is generally more difficult to climb up than to go down. While bikers should generally yield to hikers except on slope trails where bikers would have less control and would have a hard time gaining momentum if they stop. Last, everyone should yield to horseback riders.

  • DOWNHILL hikers should yield to UPHILL hikers
  • BIKERS should yield to HIKERS except on slopes
  • EVERYONE should yield to HORSE RIDERS

The slowest hiker should lead

Having the slowest hiker at the front of the group ensures that he does not get left behind. It would also be easier for the more experienced hikers to support him this way. They will be able to keep track if the least experienced member needs to rest without having to keep looking back. At the same time, being at the front of the group could motivate the said hiker to speed up.

Respect other hikers’ privacy

Hiking is a great time to commune with nature and think. We could use this time to process our thoughts away from the noise of the city. Let’s keep this in mind and minimize our noise so that the other hikers or campers could do the same. Not only would this be respectful of the people around us but will also keep from startling wildlife around us. This way we could have the chance of observing them from a safe distance without them running away, or worse, attacking us.

Stay on the designated trail

Always stay on the designated trail to prevent any further damage to the ecosystem. These trails are marked for our ease and safety; it would not be wise to wander off and try to discover new paths. The trails are tried and tested and are mapped out so they are easy to follow. Should anything happen to you, the trails are the first place the rescue teams will check.

Do not block the trail during breaks

Should you need to take a break and the nearest campsite is a ways off, step aside from the trail without going too far and causing any damage to the ecosystem. Stay within sight of the trail. This will let other hikers pass easily but still allow you to get back on track quickly.

On a side note, try to greet other hikers with a simple hello or smile. Not only would this be pleasant, but it will also show them that you are fine and do not need any assistance.

Always follow the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles

As much as we are thankful for the beauty that we get to experience when we hike or go camping, respect nature and follow the Leave No Trace principles so future generations have the same opportunity. Here are the 7 rules to abide by:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Leave What You Find

  • Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Respect Wildlife

  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

For a more detailed description of these principles, check out our article Leave No Trace.

Follow these guidelines so every encounter with a fellow hiker becomes a good one. Respect is the key, for your fellow hiker, for wildlife, and for nature. Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for things that we might have missed.

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