Trail Etiquette: you could consider them the unwritten laws for the trail. Like most outdoor activities, there are expectations for everyone out hiking. Abiding by these expectations makes for a much more enjoyable and memorable experience. One great thing about hiking, is that you never know what you are going to run into. If everyone knows proper trail etiquette, they will be better prepared to handle any situation on the trail. So let’s get started learn about some key points when hiking.
The Laws of The Trail
Know Your Right of Way!
This may seen like a simple notion to most, but let’s just make sure everyone is still on the same page. In regard to “right of way” things are different depending on who is on the trail. One easy tip is to look out for signs on the trail which let you know who you may come across. Some trails are pedestrian only, while others may allow horses and bikes. A good rule of thumb is that uphill climbers will have the right of way to descending hikers. If you come across a biker they must yield to you or any other “packing stock” including horses. And finally the hiker will give yield to horses. Knowing these will allow all hikers to have a fun, safe and easy hike no matter where they go.
Make Yourself Known
One common misconception that Youth Odyssey hears about is that hikers are out to escape other people. While sometimes true, that only applies to a small few of the outdoor community. Yes, they are outdoors to get away form the fast pace of the city or on a mental break from who knows what. But the outdoor community is very welcoming and kind to all those who appreciate nature like they do. There is nothing wrong with giving a quick “hello” as you walk by, and not uncommon to be stopped and asked about directions. We will talk about that in second. The moral of the story is, don’t be a stranger to other hikers.
Stay On The Trail
Nature is beautiful, but it could also be dangerous. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to remain on the designated trails. Uncharted terrain can result in people getting lost, injured or some combination of both. Most trails are maintained regularly and are intended to give people a great experience, but more importantly, ensure their safe return. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the area and communicate to someone where you are going. Keep a map and pay attention to the markers on the trail.
Do Not Disturb Wildlife
Animals are wonderful part of what nature can offer on a hike. It’s important that as outsiders, we do not disturb the existing ecosystems and all the living things that are a part of it. Animals and plant life are protected at state and national parks. Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics should always be practiced. Our fury companions are welcomed in some parks, given they remain on a leash. But as responsible dog owners we must always pick up after our four legged friends. Everyone should play their part to keep the outdoors beautiful.
Take Time To Listen
The last point we would like to hit on is for everyone to take time to listen. Listen to everything, and take it all in. To truly escape means that you block out everything that is not natural in an outdoor environment (cars, phones, music etc). That’s when you begin to really appreciate the beauty that comes from even the simplest of things. The ripples in the water, the movement of the birds through the trees or the ants navigating through the spaces in bark. When you actually stop, look and listen, you will be amazed at the amount of life that we take for granted. This also allows us to be respectful of others who might be enjoying nature nearby!
Knowing your trail etiquette is important when hiking outdoors. Consider them your outdoor social skills. Most of them are nonverbal ways of communicating to those around you that you we all understand what our expectations are. An if you are an experienced outdoorsman/hiker, help those around you appreciate the outdoors. It’s the jobs of those who know things like trail etiquette to share this information with others. There are so many resources out there for people to learn from like trail apps, community group pages and so many more. The more you seek the more you will find. We will see you on the trail!