Hiking Tips for Hiking Safety or Hiking Rules for Hiking Etiquette or Trail Etiquette
This article highlights hiking tips regarding hiking etiquette or trail etiquette. These hiking rules or guidelines have evolved over time to maximise hiking safety and minimize the interference with the enjoyment of other hikers. If we all adhere to the following then everyone should benefit from a safer and more enjoyable hiking experience:
Most hikers take pleasure in the peace of the natural world. Please avoid noise pollution with sounds like: shouting, talking loudly, using mobile phones, playing loud music, etc. that disrupt this enjoyment.
When you meet others, greet them. Not only is it polite, it ensures they know you are there. A simple “Hi”, “Hello” or “Good Day” is sufficient.
Leave No Trace
Do not leave litter! All you should leave are your footsteps. If you bring it with you, take it back home with you. You could even go further than that. Should you come across rubbish left by someone else, take it away with you if possible. You could also bury material of an organic nature as it would decompose or taken it away to prevent local wildlife from eating it.
Do No Harm
Please be aware that your actions may harm the natural environment:
- Do not harm the flora and fauna – Stay on marked trails. Do not disturb nature further by taking shortcuts or cutting switchbacks in the undergrowth. It may also save you from getting lost.
- Please use biodegradable soap or detergent – If you need to wash yourself or your clothes and do so at least 100 meters away from the closest source of water.
We all need to go to the toilet at some point, so please bear the following in mind:
- Urination – Urinate at a good distance away from trails and sources of water.
- Detritus – Make sure you dig a hole to bury your detritus and cover up the hole.
- Toilet Paper – Burn used paper in the hole if you can and put out the fire.
When hiking in a group, it is usual to encourage the slower hiker to take the lead with the other hikers matching their speed. Alternatively, you can have more experienced hikers take turn at the back to make sure slower hikers are safe and nobody gets lost.
Right Of Way
Just like on the road, the trail would benefit from some rules or guidelines so that everyone gets on well. However do not get frustrated if these guidelines are not followed:
- Horses First – Horses are large and can be unpredictable so it is best for hikers and bikers to give them right of way on a shared trail.
- Hikers Second – Bikers are considered faster and more are able to stop and start easily so they should give hikers the right of way.
- Meeting Horses – Get off the trail on the downhill side. Should you be waiting on the uphill side then you will look more like a predator about to attack. Be aware that horses tend to bolt uphill when scared. Greet riders quietly and ask them if your position is OK. Stand quietly whilst horses pass you.
- Side Of Trail – Stay on the appropriate side on wider paths, depending on the country, for example, to the right in the US and the left in the UK.
- Passing Side – Pass on the appropriate side for the country, depending on the country, for example, on the left in the US and on the right in the UK.
- Overtaking – If you want to overtake someone, announce you are near and want to pass. If someone calls out, “On your Left!” as they approach from behind, it means that you should keep to the right.
- Group Hiking – Hiking in a group can be great fun as you share a common interest and chat but please consider others:
- Group Knowledge – Make sure all in your group know what to do when encountering hikers, bikers, and horses.
- Single File – Please hike in single file or when on wider trails, take up no more than half of the trail.
- Groups On Hills – When hiking in a group and meeting another group travelling uphill towards you, it is customary to give way to them. On occasions, uphill hikers may want to stop and take a break to let you pass. Let the uphill hikers make the decision.
- Yield To Singles – When hiking in a group, yield to single or pair hikers even though it may be harder for a group to get off the trail. However, often the single hiker will stop and let you all pass, but it should be their call.
Taking A Break
Whether if is for a great view, a well earned rest, or just to let someone pass, move away from the trail so that others are free to pass. When choosing a resting place, exit the trail at a used location or onto a hard surface like a rock, dirt patch, or snow. Please conserve the grass and flowers.
Do Not Leave Markers
Please do not leave markers when you hike away from a trail. It should not be necessary to leave cairns, ducks, or small piles of rocks. Leaving a marker tends to focus traffic in specific areas and results in additional unmanaged trail scars, or markers appear everywhere with no navigational reason. If people are hiking cross-country, their compass and map are all they need.
Do Not Take Mementos
In you want something to remember from your hike, take a photo. Please do not take that lovely rock or the beautiful bunch of flowers you saw. Think about what a location may look like if everyone took mementos and the enjoyment both you and others will miss out on.
Trail Specific Rules
There could be special rules to be followed on individual trails so please read the trailhead guidelines.
Damaged or ruined trails and signs could cause severe problems to other hikers. If there are any contact details along the trail and you have noticed any destruction or anything requiring maintenance, inform the contact.
Dogs On A Leash
Check the local regulations as many trails have rules that dogs need to remain on a leash. It is proper etiquette to have control of your dog at all time whether it is on or off a leash. Many people dislike when someone else’s dog comes up to sniff their own dog and people without dogs usually do not want a dog to be running up to them.
Camping & Fires
Most locations have designated zones for camping and fires. Before you camp or make a fire, ensure you know the local regulations as it is often illegal to camp or make fires other than in designated zones.
Hunting & Fishing
Most time you have to have a local permit to hunt or fish so ensure you know the local regulations.
Hiking Etiquette Summary
I hope you found these hiking tips useful.
You may think of more hiking rules regarding hiking safety and hiking etiquette/trail etiquette but these are just the main points I have come across.
You may also not agree with all of them which is your prerogative.
As a general rule, follow local regulations and your own conscience.
However, bear in mind that “what you give you often get”, therefore do nothing that could harm others or the environment.
More On Hiking Tips, Safety And Etiquette
1. This short 1 minute 47 seconds video has some great tips for beginners to hiking (No, it is not about mountaineering as it may first appear):
This video has some great tips for beginners to hiking.
2. This is another short video at 1 minute 28 seconds which conveys some basic satefy tips in a humourous way:
This video conveys some basic satefy tips in a humourous way.
3. This video from Howcast.com is 2 minutes 49 seconds which contains a number of hiking safety tips and trail etiquette tips regarding hiking:
This video covers how to observe proper hiking rules and trail etiquette.