Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unwritten Rules of Trail Etiquette

Backpacker Magazine apparently has a new member of their blogging team. The author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking, Professor Hike (a.k.a. Jason Stevenson), has agreed to dispense with his sage outdoor advice three times a month.

His latest posting, 5 Unwritten Rules of Trail Etiquette, includes some very useful advice that hikers ought to heed. His list includes stepping aside on slopes, letting cairns be, using an "outhouse" that's far away from water sources, campsites and trails, saying hello to other hikers, and ditching your cell phone (for non-emergency use).

For whatever reason Professor Hike left out many other trail etiquette rules.

For example:

* Hikers should always yield to horses. It's probably a good idea to move off the trail and give as much room as possible. Horses can be quite skittish. I have a friend who was riding his bike past an Amish buggy several years ago, and got kicked in the chest by the horse as he was passing.

If you're a mountain biker, the proper rule is to yield to both hikers and horses.

* When hiking in a group, yield to single or pair hikers.

* Stay on the trail. Taking shortcuts and cutting switchbacks causes erosion.

* Keep your dog on a leash. It keeps your dog and wildlife safe. It also prevents unwanted interactions with other hikers. I can't tell you how many times I've seen "lost dog" postings at trailheads.

* Hike quietly. Allow your fellow hikers to enjoy the peace and solitude of the wilderness, especially at key viewpoints and lunch spots.

* Leave no trace. If you "Pack It In" then, "Pack It Out". Litter doesn't seem to be as much of a problem as it used to be, however, I still come across it every now and then.



Chuck Allen said...

Amen to all those. Trail etiquette is an important subject that does need to be discussed occasionally. Believe me, I've had a few talks with people over the years with other hikers about respect for the back country and for their fellow hiker. I feel that a little direct education sometimes is needed when people clearly are clueless.

Eric and Noelle Grunwald said...

It doesn't really have anything to do with trail etiquette but I thought I'd offer an idea I've had for some time now about establishing an official long-distance hiking trail for each of our 50 states. I'm guessing I'm not the first person to have this idea, but I've posted my "official" list at
Let me know what you think.