Trail Etiquette

Right of Way

Remember learning the rules of Right of Way when you started to drive? Similar rules apply on the trail whether you’re biking, on foot, or on horseback:

To begin, downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. The simple reason being that hikers going uphill have a narrower field of vision than downhill, with their focus on the smaller and more immediate area around them. They are also working against gravity, sometimes extremely hard, in order to keep at a decent clip. Losing that momentum can cost them time, energy, and sometimes a quick stop could be dangerous. As downhill hikers have gravity on their side and a broader perspective it’s common courtesy to yield to uphill hikers when necessary. 

No Bull Tip! If you’re going uphill and passing another uphill hiker, don’t try to be sneaky. Wait for a wide enough area on the path to pass and let them know you’re there with a polite “excuse me, may I pass?” Second, solo hikers move for larger groups. This one may not be as obvious, but the proper etiquette for larger hiking groups is single file so as to not go off trail. As a solo hiker or a small group of two or three, it’s much easier for you to step to the side to allow them to pass. Just remember it’s the same as driving in Canada: keep to the right, pass on the left. 


Trail Hierarchy 

Many trails will allow not just those of us on foot, but bikers and the occasional equestrian, and there is a hierarchy among these groups to ensure the safety of everyone

Hikers < Mountain Bikers: If you are on a shared trail, the general rule is that mountain bikers should yield to hikers, however this rule depends on if the area, you’ll have to use a little common sense to avoid a disaster. It’s much harder for bikers to slow down, so in many situations, particularly if the biker is coming downhill, it’s much easier and safer for the hiker to give right of way. And why not help a fellow human out and do the same when they’re going uphill? I think a lot of us remember biking to school uphill, it’s much worse on a mountain!  

Hikers/Mountain Bikers < Horseback Riders: Now we come to the equestrian side of things. A rider on horseback will often be going a lot slower than a biker, since horses can be spooked easily or lose their footing on loose surfaces. For the safety of everyone, hikers and bikers should always give the right of way to horseback riders

Dogs on the Trail 

Four legs or two, every visitor needs to adhere to the rules of the trail. Hikers with their dogs should hike on dog-friendly trails and you need to keep your furry friend on a leash if there are rules that only permit leashed dogs. If dogs are allowed off-leash, always keep your pet under control and within your line of sight. In the case you are approached by another hiker, with another dog or otherwise, you need to keep your dog under your command. Be polite and always let them know if your dog is friendly or not; in the case of another dog, always ask before introducing the two animals to each other.

No Bull Tip! It is your responsibility to clean up after your dog and not let them bother or disturb any flora or fauna along the trail. Please do NOT leave your poop bags lying around for others to come across, even if you do intend on picking it up on your way out. 

Be Friendly and Respect Other Hikers 

Besides it just being nice to interact with other friendly hikers, the benefit of briefly pausing to say hello and chatting about your plans is for safety reasons. Particularly in more isolated areas, long day hikes, overnight trips or for solo hikers, talking with others can give you insight into trail conditions, wildlife encounters, and make you more memorable in the case of an emergency.

Smartphone or Devices on the Trail

Using a smartphone on the trail is a personal choice, and oftentimes unavoidable, but be aware of how you using it affects others. The point of the outdoors is often to escape the high-tech world we live in, so use it sparingly and stay aware of your surroundings. Just because you personal hiking mix includes Nicki Minaj’s greatest hits doesn’t mean others are keen on it. Don’t blast music or take loud calls on the trail or get in the way of others by taking a photo. 

No Bull Tip! If you’re going to listen to music on the trail, stick in one earbud so you can keep aware of your surroundings at the same time. 

Bathroom Stops 

Everyone has run into the situation where you’ve had to use the bathroom for #1 or 2 on a hike. If you run into this situation here are our ‘best practice’ tips: If you’re not going to bring your pack with you don’t leave it on the trail to trip up others, place it to the side of the trail. Go about 200 feet away from the trail, or any campsite or water source and do your business. If that distance isn’t possible without trampling vegetation, falling in a patch of poison ivy or tumbling off of a cliff, then use your common sense. Do your best to find a private spot behind a rock or a tree so passing hikers aren’t caught off guard by you fully Donald Ducking it.

No Bull Tip! Always, always, always pack out any used toilet paper. Burying it doesn’t make it disappear and leaving it just lying around is plain old rude.

Leave No Trace

By this point you’ve heard it a million times, but adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace by staying on the trail, and packing out your trash and waste:

Pack Out What You Bring In: Everything from food, trash, recyclables, or waste needs to be taken out when you leave the trail. You want to leave the area as you found it, better even if you find someone else hasn’t done this and collecting any trash you find along the way.

Stay on the Trail: Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid damaging the environment, this includes not taking anything with you like flowers or rocks, or cutting off branches – and don’t disturb any rock cairns!

No Bull Tip! Rock cairns are strategically placed rock formations to help hikers navigate. So don’t add to them, don’t take anything away, and don’t build your own! 

Now you have the basics of proper hiking etiquette, is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!

(information from

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