Hiking Rules and Trail Etiquette You Should Know

Posted on February 10, 2020
hiking etiquette

Hiking is fun, and occasionally, we leave the urban life in search of some great nature for us to explore. More often than not, hikes bring together a group of people who want to share a similar experience. It is in the best interest to have a hiking etiquette to avoid ruining the hiking experience for other hikers. It should ensure that hikers have a great experience, enjoy their time in nature while protecting and preserving nature for future hikers. Below are some useful hiking etiquette tips.

Leave no Trace Policy.

The goal of this policy is to make sure to sustain nature for future use. The “leave no trace policy” is a hiking and camping policy or etiquette that stresses minimizing damage to nature and wildlife while spending time outdoors.

There are seven “leave no trace” policies:

  • Fore planning and preparation.
  • Traveling and camping on durable surfaces.
  • Proper waste disposal.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize and control campfire.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate and respectful of other hikers.

These policies help preserve nature and wildlife and create a continued culture of a great experience for others in the future. Failure to uphold those rules can destroy the wilderness and ultimately ruins a better experience for others. Let’s have a closer look at what these policies mean for us hiker.

Bathroom Etiquette.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you need to know how to use the wilderness to pee or poop. Hikers should understand how to answer nature’s call while hiking and do so with minimal damage to the environment. This part of the hiking etiquette is to ensure a great experience for others. Discretion, please!

It’s a good idea to pee on areas where no one will sit on or use for camping (I can’t believe I just wrote this, but I have seen strange things in my life).

I recommend that the best place to pee is on the bare ground rather than plants. Find some spot that is set aside and will not be used by others to sit on away from the edges of busy trails.

Keep in mind that your pee contains salt, which attracts wildlife in need of salt, such as mountain goats. Peeing on a bare ground minimizes damage to nature even for these animals in search of salt as they can easily access it on a rock than a bush.

Pooping is a bit more complicated matter during hiking. However, proper etiquette while pooping ensures that other hikes get to enjoy nature, with minimized chances of stepping into poop or ruining the perfect campground.

Proper preparation is essential before hiking to ensure appropriate disposal of poop during hiking. Pack a spade for digging a cat hole for yourself, hand sanitizer, and durable bags for carrying tissue. I recommend that one should look out for some woods if there are any and do your business number two there.

Finding a perfect spot is crucial.

An ideal place should be at least 200 feet away from a water source. The cat hole dug should be at least 6-8 inches deep. After conducting your business, I suggest burying the poop to avoid foul smell and flies.

Pack out any tissue paper into a durable bag for disposal at designated points. It is wise to clean your hand after the whole process using a hand sanitizer.

Be Friendly and Polite.

I think it should be clear to all of us to be nice to other people on the hike. No matter your mood. Be polite and say ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ to other hikers you meet on the way. Similarly, you should also respond if they greet you first.

It’s called the passing etiquette. However, do not force conversations on other people. They may not need it or want it. Respect their wishes. However, maintain a friendly tone during any conversation that may come up.

And who knows maybe you will meet some great hiking partners for your next hike on the trail

Use Technology Wisely.

Make sure you use technology wisely on a hike. Going on a hike should help you stop excessive technology usage. But listening to some music while walking through the woods can enlighten your mood.

While listening to music, please don’t use speakers ever, even if the whole group loves music. Loud music can be a disruption for other hikers who came to enjoy a quiet time out in the wilderness.

Most people come for hiking experiences to take a break from the noisy urban life. If you need to listen to music, put on some earbuds.

Passing Etiquette.

Many people hike around your designated area for different reasons. Occasionally, you are bound to run into them, which is quite normal.

It is a good hiking etiquette to pave the way for them to pass if you run into them. Do so without tramping or ruining vegetation and nature. With everyone walking at their pace, with different goals and reasons for hiking, you might walk into a hiker in front of you, moving at a slower pace than you. It is a good hiking etiquette to let them know, politely, that you are behind them and that you want to pass.

When on a vehicle, it is important to stay to the right while driving to ensure steady and flowing traffic and avoid blocking the terrain for other motorists. If you are traveling slower than the others, it is polite to pull over and allow them passage.

Avoid Smoking.

One of the main aims of hiking is to get some fresh air. Everyone needs it. With the city life full of toxic gases and clogged fumes, a hike is the best place to get a break from all those fumes and get some fresh air.

If you care about your fellow hikers, you do no to smoke at all while hiking. Non-smokers can easily smell cigar smoke yards away in nature. Restraining from smoking can ensure everyone has a nice time.

(To all the smokers out there: I do smoke, too… but I avoid smoking when I have non-smokers around me even if it’s outdoor. It’s not that hard)

Camping Etiquette.

After a long day of hiking, everyone is tired, and it is time to set camp and get some rest. In well-developed hiking areas, with guides and scouts, they will often guide you on where to set camp.

However, in some more untapped areas with no guidance, it’s important to know where to camp as you will have to find the spot yourself.

Look out for an area that appears marked out, commonly by previous hikers and campers before. You can identify those spots by looking for some patterns on the ground, such as worn-out areas of grass, fire rings, stone patterns, among others.

Avoid setting camp on fragile alpine meadows because you could cause irreparable damage. Also, preserve nature while setting camp and ensure that you keep the damage you will create to a minimum.

Respect Other Peoples Privacy.

While camping, respect other people’s privacy. It is not wise to pitch a tent next to another hiker’s tent. It’s a violation of privacy. How would you feel if someone sets his camp directly in from of the tent entrance or your tent?

In our shelter, we like privacy. This is no exception for a camp. You should always respect other campers’ personal space and stay away from their tents.

Do Not Disturb Wild Animals or Plants.

While hiking, you are bound to run into animals, as this is their natural habitat. When you run into an animal, do not disturb it or approach it. Never feed or pet the wild animals, as this disrupts their normal behavior, and can eventually make them dependent on human beings for food.

Similarly, hikers should not pick vegetation or pluck it. This damages the environment and also ruins food for animals in nature. Please understand that uprooting vegetation leads to soil disturbance and, eventually, soil erosion.

Leave Everything You Find In Nature There.

I understand that when you are on that fantastic hiking experience, you would like to keep some souvenir that will always remind you about the great time you had.

But if you want to show some proper hiking etiquette, you leave everything you find in nature just as you found it. Never tamper with the natural environment on a hiking trail.

Do not collect stuff in nature, attempt to clean up or dig holes or terraces. Some people tend to collect stuff in nature or carry away small wildlife such as tortoise. Respect the environment and leave everything you find on a hike just where you found it.

Conserving nature and leaving it just as you found it ensure that other hikers get to experience a great hike just as you did.

You will also save the ecosystem from irreversible damage such as the death of species, some of which might be even endangered and are on the verge of extinction.

By doing so, you maintain a balance to nature and make certain that everyone gets to enjoy their stay in the wilderness and get the best out of it.

Dog Hiking Etiquette.

Dogs often tend to make some of the best-hiking partners. However, it is essential to guarantee that you have complete control of your dog at all times.

It’s best to have your dog on a leash. Especially for younger dogs, it’s essential for the control of your dog. You can let it off-leash in safe areas, but always have it under control.

Clean up after your dog always and collect poop when it does poop, especially if your doggy poops in the middle of the trail. While we can hold and lookout for a nice spot on the side, your dog can’t and won’t do that. We need to make sure that our fellow hikers won’t step into dog poo every 10 yards.


Well, next time you are out for a hike, remember to enjoy yourself, and more importantly, follow the hikers’ etiquette rules. They will guide you on your hiking experience for maximum enjoyment and great socialization with other hikers whiles preserving nature for future use.

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