Society is full of rules. As grownups, we all know not to talk with our mouths full and to always face forward in a crowded elevator. But there was a time when we were young and inexperienced and maybe a little unsure of how to behave. Let’s face it, we’ve all either been that kid (or shared space with that kid) who sneezed without covering his mouth or stared at someone for way too long. Somewhere along the way, someone shed some light on our less than welcome behavior — and we are all the better for it. If the thought of hiking etiquette makes you feel like that uninformed kid, here are five simple things to keep in mind the next time you hit the trails.
Share the Trail
A common rule of thumb is to yield to the bigger object. Most trail signs will say that bikers should yield to hikers because of their maneuverability, it is often easier for the hiker to simply step out of the way do to the higher speeds the bikers are usually traveling.
• Pass on the left: Just as on the road, slower traffic should stay to the right while letting the passers do so on the right. If quicker hikers are coming up on you, it is not necessary to quicken your speed. Simply move to the right and let them pass. Adjusting your speed to a pace you are not comfortable with can be dangerous.
• On a narrow pass, hikers going uphill have the right of way. Simply put, hikers moving uphill are generally working harder than those on the downhill slope. It is courteous to move to the side and let the uphill trekkers pass through.
• When hiking in a group, yield to the smaller group. This rule applies whether it's a solo hiker or a group of two to three traveling together. If you are hiking in a large group, let the single hiker or smaller groups pass.
• When you're stopped to check out a view or take a break, move off the trail. Maybe you’ve come across a spectacular view and you want to get a picture of it, or you just want to stop and rest for a moment. Pick a spot where you can safely step off the trail and not only stay out of the way of other hikers, but also not damage the natural habitat of an area just off the trail.
Stay on the Trail
This may seem contradictory, considering we just told you to move off the trail for views and breaks. Simply put, when hiking wilderness areas, it is important to protect the trails. In other words, don't take short cuts. This seems to occur most often on switchbacks, but is important at all points of the trail. This type of occurrence, not only damages the natural habitat of the newly traveled area; it can also become a safety hazard to other hikers where an unkept area can breed falls, twisted ankles, or unwelcomed run-ins with animals and plant life.
Leave the Trail as You Found it
The only keepsakes you should take from the trail are the stories you tell your friends and the photos you snapped while out there. The only thing you should leave on the trail are footprints.
Keep Technology to a Minimum
For many, hiking is a chance to experience a little bit of solitude. While it is advantageous to have a phone with you in case of emergency, having full on conversations while on the trail can be distracting to fellow hikers. So for this we say: Keep a fully charged phone with you for safety purposes, but keep it on silent mode, and use it to snap some great photos that you can look back on later.
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Chances are, you won’t be the only one on the trail. You will pass by other hikers throughout your trek. A simple hello can go a long way in terms of keeping the trails and experience friendly and fun.