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A Hiker’s Guide to Trail Etiquette

January 24, 2020

Considering how expansive America is, and how much nature there is to see, it’s really no surprise that people love getting out there and exploring what Mother Nature has to offer.  In 2017, there were around 44.9 million hikers in America.  Some trails are more popular than other.  With so many people on those trails, there is a great need for all to understand trail etiquette.

If you’re just getting into hiking, you may not know the basics of trail etiquette.  Even if you’re a seasoned hiker, there may be some of which you’re not aware.  Continue reading to learn more.

Going hiking soon? Then keep reading. We’ll give you the lowdown on hiking etiquette.

Basic Hiking Rules and Trail Etiquette


With so many people on the trail, it is crucial to respect others.  This includes their right to enjoy the tranquility of nature.  Avoid being loud and obnoxious.

When you pack your camping gear, you’ll most likely toss your smartphone in it. Considering it has everything on it (such as GPS, phone capabilities, camera, music player, etc.), it’s essential.  While it’s acceptable to bring it with you, remember to be courteous. Don’t make loud phone calls, blast music, and obstruct the path when taking pictures.

Respect wildlife, and avoid stressing them with the same noise.  Observe them from an appropriate distance.  Protect them my not creating a problem animal.  Feeding or otherwise desensitizing them to humans only creates problems for them and your fellow hikers.

Keep pets under control, and clean up after them.


We know to pack out our trash, but some waste is more complicated.  We all need to go to the bathroom, and in the wild, there may not always be manmade facilities. According to the Leave no Trace principle, you should dig a “cat hole” dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet away from campsites, water, and trails. If this isn’t possible, then use your common sense and try to do your business as far away and as privately as possible.

Trail Etiquette: Right of Way

When you’re on a trail, there is a hiking right of way.

In general, if you’re going uphill, you have right of way. This means if you’re coming downhill and some hikers are coming up, you need to let them pass. This is because uphill hikers are fighting against gravity and their field of vision is smaller.

If you’re going uphill and are trying to pass someone who’s also going up, let them know you’re doing so. They may be intensely concentrating on the trail and may not realize you’re nearby. You don’t want to scare them, after all.

Also, if you’re hiking on your own, you should let bigger groups pass. It’s easier for you to step to the side rather than the whole group doing so for you.

Hiking Trail Etiquette for Horses and Bikes

As in regular traffic, bikers should give right of way to hikers. Bikers are faster and can maneuver much easier, so hikers should keep their pace and allow bikers to move around them.

However, it’s the opposite when it comes to horseback riders. They’ll be slower and can’t maneuver as well, so you as a hiker should yield to them. You don’t want the horse to be spooked and put everyone in danger, so it’s best to allow the horseback rider to pass before you continue on.

Follow the Proper Trail Etiquette for a Good Time

Now that you know the proper trail etiquette, the next time you go hiking, you’ll have a better time. Not only will you stay safer, but you’ll also create a more positive environment for other hikers when they see you know what the rules are and are following them.

Are you interested in going backpacking too? Then keep an eye on our classes calendar for our Introduction to Backpacking class!

Here at Bill Jacksons, we have friendly consultants, who are experienced in outdoor adventure. We are happy to work with you individually to make sure you get outfitted with the equipment that is best for your next outdoor journey. Give us a call or stop by to meet our team.