I try to spend at least one day a week on a trail somewhere, weather permitting. It’s great exercise, an excellent way to relieve stress and relax, as well as a good way to be active while socially distancing- if you pick the right trails. As we make our way through the fall season and the increased crowds, around here anyway, I find myself thinking about manners, behavior on the trail. Who has the right of way on the trail? What about dogs? So I thought I’d do some research on some hiking etiquette, because I need to know. Because, no matter where you are, you’re going to eventually come across other people on the trail. Luckily there are some simple guidelines that makes things clear. Unwritten but generally accepted rules that direct trail traffic and promote cleanliness.
In case your wondering the cover photo is near Apple Orchard Falls in Jefferson National Forest, late October.
Right of way
This is the big concern for most- who steps aside. It may seem petty, but many people feel it’s important,. Manners make the person and all that. So in no particular order we’ll look at the three most common encounters. Despite many articles regarding UFOs lately we will not be discussing who has the right of way on the trail- use your best judgement.
So first, Hikers versus Horses
Horses are big, hard, comparatively, to maneuver and can be unpredictable. Put all that together and horses get the right of way from both hikers and mountain bikers. When sharing the trail with equestrians, give them as much room as possible and do not to make any sudden movements as they pass. A common theme throughout this discussion is be polite, it really takes such little effort. If you find yourself on a narrow trail with horses passing, get off the trail on the downhill side. Apparently horses are more likely to head uphill when spooked.
Hikers versus mountain Bikers
Mountain bikes are considered more maneuverable than hikers’ legs. This means bikers are generally supposed to yield to hikers on the trail. But more often than not those mountain bikes are moving much faster than our legs. So in reality, it’s usually just easier for a hiker to yield the right of way. Especially if a biker is working his butt off up a tough incline. All that being said though, a biker should never expect a hiker to yield. Be aware of who you are sharing trails with when hiking. If there is a possibility of bikers, stay alert they’ll be moving quick when coming downhill.
Hikers versus Hikers
It seems to me that many hikers, even some experienced ones, don’t really know or always remember that hikers going uphill have the right of way. This makes sense because generally hiking up an incline limits your field of vision and requires more effort. Breaking your rhythm when going uphill requires more energy to get back on pace when restarting. Now very often an uphill hiker may let those coming pass to catch their breath, but that is always their call.
When coming up behind another hiker with the intent of passing, always announce yourself with a hello. You don’t want to startle someone in the “zone”. When passing another hiker always stay on the trail to reduce erosion. When in a group stay in single file, on the trail, as much as possible. The single hiker usually yields to the group.
Other important “rules” or SOME HIKING ETIQUETTE
- Cairns- Let cairns be, do not add to or topple existing cairns and do not start new ones. Moving rocks disturbs the soil and makes the area more prone to erosion. Disturbing rocks also disturbs fragile vegetation and micro ecosystems.
- Pack in, pack out- A simple one. If you brought it in take it out.
- Quiet Voices- no one wants to hear your conversation, we’re enjoying nature.
- Pets- keep them on a leash and clean up after them, and only take them where specifically allowed.
- No Shortcuts!! Stay on the damn trail, cutting corners can lead to erosion, which leads to unsafe trail conditions.
most importantly — Leave no trace
I know you’ve heard this, it is the most oft repeated phrase for those enjoying the outdoors. This means that you should leave the trail just as you found it. Don’t leave any remnants of your presence, no trash, no food waste even biodegradables, or campfire remains. And don’t remove anything from the wilderness.
some really nice hiking boots
When you’re out on the trail a decent pair of shoes is important. Whether you choose sandals, trail runners, or a good pair of boots do your research and don’t skimp. Danner has been making great leather hiking boots for years and the DANNER men’s mountain hiking boot, the Mountain 600, is a more than exceptional boot. Built lighter, waterproof and given superior abrasion-resistant qualities in order to hold up to the rugged Pacific Northwest. This boot can handle almost anything. Designed to have minimal seams and lined with Danner Dry to ensure it could withstand the wettest conditions.