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Hiking Etiquette Tips: How to be a Polite Hiker

Hiking should be an enjoyable experience for all, y’all. (We’re starting off with a rhyme, so you know this is gonna be good.) There are so many reasons to explore the outdoors. Some go for the exercise, some for the sense of adventure, others for the love of nature, and a handful of hikers like to go out to clear their head and work through a mild existential crisis. Hey, we’ve all been there.

Yes, we all have our reasons to lace up our boots and hit the trails. While we’re out there, we should be on our best manners and practice our best hiking etiquette. If you didn’t know that there were rules to hiking etiquette, it’s never a bad time to learn! Here are a few hiking etiquette tips that will make your trail journeys more pleasant for everyone.

a hiking trail in the blue ridge mountains

Know the Right of Way

When you’re out conquering mountains, it’s important to remember who has the right of way when you encounter other hikers. Always yield to hikers that are coming uphill. If you’re going downhill, be a kind fellow hiker and step aside so that other adventurers have room to pass you. The reason for this is that uphill hikers have a more narrow field of view than those who are going downhill. If those going uphill choose to step aside for you, that’s their choice, but do keep in mind that they aren’t obligated to do so.

Have you ever encountered someone on the road at a four-way stop who goes before it’s their turn? That’s what it’s like to be that guy who doesn’t adhere to the right of way while hiking. Don’t be that guy, y’all.

appalachian trail white blaze in the foreground with a trail in the background

Respect Plants and Wildlife

It’s important to keep in mind that when you’re out enjoying nature on a hike, you are a visitor to the place that you are exploring. There are many creatures and vegetation that call the areas that surround hiking trails home. While visiting said home, you can be respectful by staying on designated trails, not trampling vegetation, not intentionally disturbing wildlife, and leaving a minimal human impact. Nobody wants to be the friend that comes over, trashes the house like a heathen, and leaves.

panoramic view of the appalachian mountains

Respect Other Hikers

This tip seems obvious, but it’s worth pointing out because there are many facets that go into respecting your fellow outdoors people. Public lands are for everyone, so it’s important to respect other hikers out on the trail. Usually, us outdoorsy folks are pretty friendly, so acknowledging a passing hiker with a nod, smile, wave, or “how are ya?”, is a kind gesture that is very appreciated and goes a long way.

Another way to respect others that are out enjoying nature is to keep your music to yourself. If you absolutely must listen to music while hiking, wear some earbuds, y’all. It always baffles me to see a group of hikers with a speaker out blasting their music in the middle of nature. There’s no other way to put it… it’s rude. Nobody thinks that your bangers are that good, my friend.

One more way to be kind and respectful to other hikers is to share the overlooks. Understand that you may not be the only person enjoying those beautiful views, and let everyone around you get a chance to absorb that nature-y goodness.

Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Finally, it’s always good to practice Leave No Trace principles when you’re out in nature. If you’ve forgotten the 7 principles, here’s a quick overview (courtesy of the LNT website):

  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

The LNT folks know what they’re talking about, y’all. Click here to learn more about each of these principles.

Thanks for going over these etiquette tips with me!

Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles when exploring these beautiful mountains. Take only pictures, and leave only footprints!

For more photos and explorations, be sure to follow The Wandering Appalachian on Instagram and Pinterest! Be sure when you're discovering new places to practice Leave No Trace principles. Take only pictures, and leave only footprints. Happy wandering, y'all


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