Hiking Trail Etiquette

There are some rules that should be followed by all hikers in order to ensure everyone has an enjoyable and safe time out on the trails.

Hiking is a great way to keep in shape and have a fun time while getting some exercise. A beginner can start off by going for nice easy hikes along paved or groomed trails while a more experienced hiker might choose a backwoods trail. No matter how experienced or inexperienced you are there are some general unwritten rules that should be followed while out on the trail.

Leave no Trace

Hikers should always be sure to clean up after themselves. Some trail systems have garbage cans along the way for easy disposal of waste but the majority of the time you will need to carry garbage with you until the hike is complete. It is just as important that any animal waste from pets is cleaned up from the trails as well. Dog waste should be picked up with a garbage bag and disposed of in the trash. If you are horseback riding it is important to remove horse manure from the trails. It is often acceptable if horse waste is kicked off the trail into the bush but you should check the rules for the trail system you are riding in advance to ensure this is proper etiquette.

Share the Trail

There’s nothing worse for a hiker when someone on a bike comes flying up behind them unannounced and passes by. Not only is this dangerous practice but it also makes for a lot of negative feelings between hikers, cyclists, and even equestrians. A sign that is often posted at a trailhead is the one explaining yielding rules.

Cyclists should always yield to hikers and equestrians and hikers should yield to equestrians. When you are approaching another trail user you should always make your presence known and only pass on the left. Equestrians will often let you know the best way to pass through. If you need to pass by horses try not to move too slowly because you will appear to be a predator and many horses will spook. Speak softly and pass quietly. Communicating with other trail users is important for the safety of everyone.

Keep a Leash on Dogs

Many trail systems 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 and people without dogs usually do not want a dog to be running up to them.

Trail Maintenance

When hiking it is a good practice to try to perform one bit of trail maintenance during each hike. What kind of trail maintenance could possibly be done of a paved walking trail? Something as simple as pushing sticks or rocks off the trail will help everyone out. When on a rough trail some maintenance ideas might include:

  • adding a few more logs to a washout area
  • moving sticks or downed trees
  • filling holes
  • picking up some garbage

Respect Others

Having respect for other trail users is very important. Most hikers like to enjoy nature during their hikes; bird watching, listening to the wind rustling the leaves, and observing wildlife are activities hikers might partake in. Showing respect by talking quietly and keeping music to yourself by using headphones are appreciated.

Winter Time Hiking

When hikers are using the trail systems in the winter months they should stay clear of paths made by cross-country skiers. It is proper etiquette to avoid walking on ski trails; instead walk to the right-hand side of the tracks so they are not ruined with footprints.

If common courtesy rules are observed it will ensure that everyone has a great time on the trails. Yielding to others and doing your part in maintaining trails will add to everyone’s enjoyment and safety.