HHP 023: Hiking Etiquette, Trail Manners – Hike Healthy Podcast

Trail yield sign, trail right of way
Good Trail Manners can make a world of difference in how much you enjoy hiking.  There are a few guidelines which will not only ensure you have a good time, but….click the read more button below to continue

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Foreign Language Clip:

This is a translation of the subtitle of the Hike Healthy Podcast: “helping you take control of your lifestyle!”

The foreign language spoken in this episode is:

Quotes from this episode:


1. Yield to uphill traffic
2. Stay on the trail
3. Stay on the right when passing, pass on the left, announce your behind someone if you’re going to pass. Stay in single file when in a group passing others.
4. Minimize technology
5. Control your pets. Keep on leash if required. Clean up after pets, dispose of properly.
6. If you have to go to the bathroom, use provided facilities (port-a-potties, restrooms). If you’re in a primitive area without facilities, dig a hole and “go” at least 200 feet off trail and 200 feet away from water.
7. Everyone yields to horses, bicyclists yield to hikers, hikers yield to horses. When passing horses, step off the trail (on the downhill side, if it is safe). To avoid spooking horses, stay still and keep children still, do not wave arms and keep hiking poles still and at your side. If horse riders talk to you, engage them in conversation as this shows the horses you can be trusted.
8. Leave No Trace
9. Leave what you find, take only pictures, memories and better health!
10. Be cordial to others. Say hello or at least smile to those you pass.
11. Don’t feed wildlife
12. Take ownership. Remind others who don’t know proper etiquette. Help protect the surroundings we enjoy so it will be around for years for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and others.
Yield to uphill traffic. Those coming up hill are working hard to reach their goal. Give them the right of way and let them push ahead. Maybe even a word of encouragement would be great.
Stay on the trail. Thousands of people use the trails. If people choose to go off trail, it disturbs the beautiful growth that surrounds us and makes the landscape unsightly. Don’t take short cuts or hike along side an established trail as this can cause erosion and tears up fragile vegetation.
Follow the rules of the road.  Just like driving, you should stay on the right side of the trail.  Pass on the left side and give the person or people your passing a little honk so you don’t startle them when you are passing.  It can be rather quiet on the trail so the person you’re passing may not even hear you coming.  Give them the courtesy of a little “coming up on your left” verbal warning.
Minimize technology. Most of the people who in the outdoors hiking are trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. They are usually only interested in hearing the sounds that come from nature like birds, insects, animals and the weather. Be considerate of the people you share the trail with by using headphones for music, podcasts, or audio books. Try to avoid telephone conversations as this interrupts the atmosphere. If you can keep your technology to yourself, great! Many others would rather not have their hiking experience spoiled by Molly Hatchet. Keep in mind that it is a good idea to carry a cell phone in case an emergency comes up, just keep it in your pocket or backpack.
Controlling your pets can be a touchy subject. However, there are rules which apply to different hiking areas. Usually, dogs must be leashed or kept at heal (heal is very difficult to achieve unless it is an extremely well trained and behaved dog). There are many people who are afraid of dogs and if they encounter an off-leash dog, they may not come back to that hiking area. There are specific places, like off-leash dog parks or the dog owner’s own yard or other private property where off-leash is appropriate. Part of being a responsible pet owner is making sure your pet’s activity and behavior doesn’t interfere with other people’s enjoyment of the great outdoors. Additionally, cleaning up after your pet is expected. Carry disposal bags for animal waste and pick it up. Carry the waste to a garbage can. Don’t leave it under a rock with the thought that you’ll pick it up “when you come back”. Be responsible with this waste and don’t spoil other hiker’s experience by not taking accountability for your pet, that is part of what you signed up for by being a pet owner.
Having to go to the bathroom when hiking is probably going to come up. In many day-hiking areas, there are restrooms or port-a-potties available. If hundreds of hikers decide not to use the available facilities, imagine the stink which would ruin the experience. I hear horror stories of places like Mt. Everest where you have to step carefully or risk clogging up your hiking boot soles (yuck!). Going to the bathroom is a natural part of life but hikers should do so responsibly. If you are in a primitive area with no facilities, make sure you carry a small shovel or trowel. Go at least 200 feet off trail and 200 feet away from water and dig a hole for your excrement then bury it well when you’re done.
One of the most common questions I get about trail etiquette is “who has the right of way?”. See the picture of the right of way sign which may be helpful. Just remember that horses have the right of way over all other trail users. Horses can easily be spooked and can kick others or rear up and buck their riders. Hikers or foot traffic (this includes trail runners), must yield to horse traffic. Bicyclists must yield to hikers and horses. Stepping off trail on the downhill side of the trail (if it is in a safe location), is the best way to let horses pass. Avoid sudden movements, keep arms and hiking poles at your side and talk to the horse riders if they talk to you. This helps the horses know that you can be trusted.
Leave No Trace should be a familiar phrase to most people who have spent time in the outdoors hiking, camping or backpacking or in association with the Boy Scouts of America. It’s a set of outdoor principles dedicated to promoting conservation. The organization known as Leave No Trace has seven principles, some of them overlap with our list of 12 hiking etiquette guidelines:
1. Plan ahead and prepare
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
3. Dispose of waste properly
4. Leave what you find
5. Minimize campfire impacts
6. Respect wildlife
7. Be considerate of other visitors
Leave what you find, take only pictures, memories, and better health! If anyone decides to take a beautiful flower or rock or other natural item of interest, it only benefits that one person. If it is left in it’s natural habitat, it can be enjoyed by hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people. Also, flowers and plants which aren’t left to go through their natural growth cycle my not be able to flower, go to seed and regrow next year.
Be cordial to others. People who encounter others on the trail share a special bond. We’ve both made a choice to take a hike, on purpose. We recognize that there will likely be some benefit to taking that hike whether it’s to be more fit, enjoy the beauty that surrounds us, clear our mind, or just to get away from our busy lives. You don’t have to stop and have a conversation (though that is okay too). Just a simple “hello” or smile between fellow travelers who are on the same journey is courteous. I hike in the same areas near my home and sometimes see some of the same people. We recognize each other and our greetings, no matter how brief, are friendly and genuine. There is a special fellowship or bond that can come from those who share the trails.
Don’t feed the wildlife. They have their own way of gathering food. Getting food without effort from humans interferes with the wild animal’s natural progression. Regularly fed wildlife become dependent on humans and they forget how to forage and hunt and gather their meals. It may be fun to feed a critter but remember they will likely need to fend for themselves at some point.
Take ownership. As hikers, we should take responsibility for the enjoyment we have of being in the outdoors. That means taking care of our surroundings and living by the above guidelines. Take a minute to politely let others know about proper trail etiquette when they make a hiking faux pas.
This is not an exhaustive list, there are other elements to being a good steward of the land, habitat, wildlife, and environment we are surrounded by. This is, however, a good start on a list of guidelines which can help facilitate enjoyable use of the great outdoors by a variety of people. If we ignore these guidelines, access to beautiful areas will likely be reduced due to careless activities which destroy the natural beauty of our surroundings. By following these guidelines, we can be more apt to have the opportunity to hike and enjoy around for a long time.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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