Chapter 71: Trail Etiquette

Here is a concise list of trail etiquette tips.

By practicing a few common sense tips you will enjoy your hikes and preserve the trails.

Stay to the right of others when you are passing in opposite directions.

Pass other hikers on the left when going the same direction. If they don’t see you, it’s good to say something like, “on your left.” Make sure they know it is a courtesy, not an order to get out of the way.

Hike in small groups. Many people suggest groups of 6 or less.

Groups should be courteous of singles and smaller groups.

Stay on the trail. Don’t cut through switchbacks and cause erosion.

Hike in single file on most trails, or use only half the trail on the right. Stay near the center of the trail in an effort to keep it from getting wider.

When stopping, step to the side of the trail, and stand on durable surfaces that won’t get trampled.

Practice low-impact hiking. Wet and muddy trails are more easily damaged. Consider other options.
Hike over objects on the trail, not around them. Going around them widens the trail.

Hikers yield to horses, on the downhill side of the trail. Horses will tend to bolt uphill when spooked. You look more threatening uphill. Remain quiet. Horses and other pack animals are nervous by nature, and some are more nervous than others. Stay far enough to be clear of their hoofs and any kicks. Horses with a ribbon on their tail are kickers.

When approaching animals on blind corners, it’s good to announce yourself. You can say something as simple as “Hiker ahead” and the riders and pack animals will appreciate it. It’s a good practice to announce yourself if you are overtaking from behind, too. Horses may feel threatened if they can’t see you.

On trails shared with bikes, bikers yield to hikers and be careful of your speed.

A general rule in hiking is uphill has the right of way. Since hiking uphill requires more energy, it’s polite to give way to the person going uphill. If the uphill hikers want to stop for a rest break, they can wave you ahead.

Faster users should yield to slower users.

Take a little time to improve the trail as you hike. Moving a rock might keep a later hiker from spraining an ankle. Remember that some rocks are meant to help stabilize trails and shouldn’t be kicked completely off the trail.

Be especially careful when moving rocks that could gain speed and roll across switchbacks and hit other hikers.

Never litter. If you pack it in, pack it out. Pick up some of the litter from others. It may have been accidental.

Don’t pick flowers or trample vegetation.

Control pets and kids, including pet waste.

Respect wildlife.

Be quiet. Add to the serenity of your surroundings, especially when near others. If you are using electronics, keep them quiet, especially near others. Be alert for others if you are using electronics and can’t hear people.

Many people appreciate it when others wear muted colors while hiking. You can carry something bright for rescue inside your pack.

Respect private property and the privacy of people living along the trail.

Greet others and be courteous.

Know any local rules. Read trailhead guidelines.

Others may not know the rules, and you can respectfully educate them.

Remember that by treading lightly you can preserve the trails and promote lightweight hiking.