Hiking is an activity with few rules and an abundance of freedom. As the popular saying goes, “Hike your own hike.” Yet there is such a thing as trail etiquette, a code of behavior that will mark you as a polite or rude hiker.
You won’t find this code written at the trailhead. It’s something that’s learned over time through experience, contemplation and maybe a wagged finger or two.
Trail etiquette is chiefly about showing respect. That means respect for fellow hikers but also respect for wildlife, landowners, trail maintainers and the environment as a whole.
Still, some elements of hiking etiquette move beyond common sense and into the realm of tradition. Here’s a list of trail etiquette guidelines that I’ve learned over the past decade or so, passed on to me from experienced hikers.
— Be cognizant of the amount of noise you’re making, especially at overlooks, summits and other places where people gather. Shouting, talking on the phone, singing and other loud noises can detract from the experiences of others. I once shared a summit with a man who was talking loudly on his phone on a business call. We were the only two people there. It was frustrating, to say the least.
— Don’t hog overlooks, summit signs, benches and other trail highlights and rest stops. While you should certainly enjoy those places, keep in mind that others would like to relish them, too.
– I’ve always been told that when passing a hiker going in the opposite direction, the person hiking uphill usually gets right of way. However, this doesn’t always make sense. Assess each situation. If it makes more sense for you to step off trail and let the person pass, do so.
— If you must step off trail, try to do so on a durable surface such as a rock. Stay on trail as much as possible to avoid trampling plants and causing erosion.
— If someone is carrying a noticeably greater burden than you and is passing you, step out of the way. For example, if you’re hiking with a small day pack and you come across someone who is camping and is carrying a large pack, move aside for them.
— Lost items. I’ve seen hikers deal …….