Trail Etiquette 101 — How to Be a Courteous Hiker

Sharing the outdoors with your fellow enthusiast brings with it a collection of unspoken rules — a code, if you will. Proper trail etiquette is in place to keep everyone safe, respectful and considerate not only of each other but of the ecosystem itself. It pays to be mindful of other trail users before heading out, as your fellow outdoorsmen will appreciate it. Here are five unspoken rules that proper trail etiquette entails.

Multiple Uses

On the trail, it’s important to know when and how to yield to other users. Hikers typically yield to horses — heck, everyone really needs to yield to horses, as they can spook easily. Bikers yield to both hikers and horses, as bikers are faster and can start and stop more easily. BWith horses, be sure to step to the downhill side of the trail and quietly ensure with the rider that you’re where they want you.

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Walking the Trail

As you make your way along the trail, be sure to stay on the path. I know it may seem easier to take shortcuts through the brush, but resist the temptation. And don’t step off the trail to go around puddles or mud. Try to stay to the right side of the trail while walking and pass on the left if you need to. Just be sure to announce yourself with “On your left,” especially if you’re on a bike.

Uphill Yield

It’s still slightly up in the air whether hikers going uphill should be given the right of way over hikers coming downhill. Some believe uphill hikers are working harder and should therefore be given the right of way, while others think it’s up to the uphill hiker to make the call. Sometimes uphill hikers will prefer to stop and let you pass coming down so they can get a short break. Your call, but I’d still always yield to bikes and horses that are going uphill.

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Group Hikes

If you’re hiking with a group of people, it’s polite to yield to solo or pairs using the trail. Sometimes, though, these individuals will offer to yield, as it can be harder for a group to move aside. In a group, be sure to hike single file, as well, so you’re not taking up the whole trail. Finally, it’s wise to make sure everyone in your group knows basic trail etiquette, in order to avoid potential confusion or injury with others.

Behave Yourself

To allow for a peaceful and enjoyable experience all around, try to hike quietly. This means speaking softly and avoiding unnecessary noise, such as car horns, yelling or cell phones. Anything you bring with you—especially trash—should be packed out with you and disposed of properly. Make yourself aware of the rules for the specific trail you’re on, as some areas have unique guidelines not found elsewhere. Finally—and I can’t stress this enough—take pictures, not souvenirs like flowers, rocks or a baby turtle or something.

Photo credit: Dreamstime