Hiking Etiquette: Know Your Way on the Trail

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Hiking EtiquetteMost of us have at some point in our lives taken a leisurely walk around our neighborhoods. When we did, we never needed to make any preparations beforehand. This isn’t the case with hiking. I learned this early on thanks to my friends.

The great thing about having friends who are experience hikers is that they are able to warn you about the dos and don’ts, as well as what you need to be prepared for or have prepared before you go on a hike.

One of the most important things to learn is hiking etiquette. While they are basically unspoken rules, they make your hike much more enjoyable and you don’t end up bothering other people’s adventures.


Hiking Etiquette Tips

These are some hiking etiquette tips I’ve learned from others and on my own since I began to hike. It’s important to learn them because chances are there will be other people who will be traveling on the same trail as you are. And knowing what to do in different situations makes life a lot easier for you and others.


Knowing the Right of Way

This has to do with understanding if you should be yielding to the other party or you should be walking through. It becomes a bother when both parties want to walk through at the same time since you may be running into one another. In the same way, when both parties yield for the other, it often becomes awkward and can stifle your momentum.


1. When to Yield

Yield SignOne of the first things I was taught by my friends before setting off into the trail was the shortcut “H-H-B”. This meant “Horse, Hiker, Biker.”

The shortcut referred to who had the right of way should they meet on a trail, and it goes from left to right. So basically, both hiker and biker will yield to horses. And bikers will yield to hikers. This way everyone knows who gets to pass first should they happen to meet on the trail.

This is also one situation where practicing common sense comes in handy, since you’re at the disadvantage should you get hit by a horse or a biker. So whenever there’s a situation when I’m not too sure the other party knows who has the right of way and I’m facing a large animal or a speeding bike, I’ll quickly volunteer and move off the trail for my own safety sake.


2. Let Those Going Uphill Pass First

We all know going up an incline is much more difficult than going down. Plus, we need to built momentum in order to go upwards. So stopping, and then starting that upward walk takes more effort.

For this reason, yielding to those who are walking uphill is one of the unwritten rules of hiking etiquette. So if you’re going downhill, make sure to give those going uphill the right of way, unless they signal you to go ahead first.


3. Pass on the Left Side

This is very similar to driving. Unless you’re the faster hiker, stay on the right side of the trail. This allows those who want to go by you or your group to easily navigate their way through. It also makes it easy for everyone to follow since everybody universally understands to ‘overtake’ on the left side.

I’ve found that a nice, courteous way of passing is just to give them a head’s up. Telling them nicely that you’ll be passing on their left.


4. Move off the path when taking breaks

The trail is where people walk on. If you plan on taking a break or stopping to do something, step off the path to clear it for other hikers. Not doing so is like stopping your car in the middle of a small street to read the map or talk to a friend on the sidewalk.

By moving off the trail, you free up the path you’re not using for others to easily pass through.


Being Mindful of Others

Hiking with PeopleKnowing the right of way is one thing, but also knowing how to properly behave is another thing we need to know on the trail. Think of it as driving on the road.

Understanding when to yield during an intersection is one aspect of driving, while understanding how to properly behaving on the road is another. Here are some things to keep in mind so as not to be a nuisance to other hikers.


1. Don’t be Loud or Noisy

Hiking is not like hanging out with your college buddies in the hall. It is a time people take to relax, unwind and enjoy the freshness as well as the sounds of nature. The last thing they want to hear are loud voices, shouting or constant laughing. This also goes for loud music.

Keep to yourself or your group, enjoy nature. Another unwritten rule is limiting the use of tech gadgets. This means minimizing talking on the phones. Keep them for emergency situations.

If you happen to be taking pictures or videos, make sure you’re aware of what happening around you. You can easily trip or bump into others when doing so.


2. Be Respectful of the Land as Well as Others

In short, don’t litter or throw your trash around. Many trails will have some type of reminder saying something similar to “Leave No Trace”.

Try to keep the land the same way you found it. By not throwing trash or food around you keep the surroundings clean for others to enjoy after you. This also covers pets. If you bring your dog along with you on your hike, you’ll need to clean after it.

The last thing about this is not to move, cut or destroy any plants, rocks or formations that are found in the path or around it.


3. If You’re in a Group, Go in Single File

By doing so you allow groups that are moving at a faster pace that yours to pass through. In some cases, the trail may be wide enough that you don’t have to walk in single file. In these situations, remember to still be mindful and leave at least half of the width of the trail free for others to pass.


4. Greet Others, Be Friendly

Making Friends 1Hiking is made to be fun and saying “hello” or “hi” to those you meet along the trail is common courtesy. Some people don’t like to be bothered so you can greet them and be on your way.

Other meanwhile, like to chat and talk. I’ve made a few new friends thanks to this. It’s often useful as well specially if they’re more experienced hikers or they know the area and surroundings better than you do. I’ve gotten a lot of tips as well as learned a lot about the different places to see and visit thanks to these acquaintances.

On other benefit of greeting and talking to others on the trail is for safety purposes. By talking to them, making their acquaintance or simply greeting them, you embed a picture of yourself in their memory. This comes in handy in case something happens to you, they can be of help in tracing your whereabouts.

All this said, always practice common sense. If you feel unsure or unsafe of anyone, then avoid them by all means. Always practice safety first.


5. Don’t Bother the Wildlife

Some places may have wildlife on or around the trail. Always practice safety if you should happen to meet one. Chances are they aren’t harmful but always be on your guard.

The other thing when encountering any wildlife on the trail is to leave them alone. Don’t bother them, don’t disrupt them or try to feed them.


Further Reading

Want to learn more about hiking, here are some good reads:


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