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Although they are not normally talked about, there are many unspoken rules of hiking. Each one presents different dilemmas that many hikers face while out in the wilderness.
Today, we will break down the rules of hiking that every hiker should follow regardless of experience. By giving you a heads up about improving trail etiquette and manners, you will be equipped to become a more conscientious hiker.
In turn, this will keep hiking an enjoyable spot for everyone. Although there should absolutely be more open discourse about these rules, there really isn’t. Experienced hikers know what to do and subtly pass it all on to the next generation.
Having good trail manners and etiquette is important for keeping the entire experience enjoyable for everyone.
- Golden Rule – treat others how you want to be treated.
- Right of Way – on the trail is awarded to whoever is hiking uphill.
- Pitching your Tent – the rule for setting up a tent is to stay 100 feet from any water source.
- Move off the Trail – get off the trail enough that fellow hikers can still carry on without a hitch.
- Stay on the Trail – Staying on designated trails keeps the areas in pristine condition.
- Keep the Peace – if you want to listen to music, no problem! Just wear headphones. It is as simple as being a courteous human on the trails.
- Pack it in, Pack it out – Practicing LEAVE NO TRACE is the best way to keep our trails in unspoiled condition.
- Bury your “Business” – First, you need to know how far away you are from the water.
- Keep pets on a leash and under control – First and foremost, check local trail regulations to see if pets are allowed.
- Campfire Rings– make sure you have a campfire permit and know the requirements contained therein.
- Don’t feed the Wildlife – Not only is this unhealthy for the natural wildlife, but it is a huge safety risk.
What Are The Rules of Hiking
Listed below are the rules of hiking. We need these rules to give every hiker the same enjoyable experience as you.
Unfortunately, there are few ways that this information can be spread to the masses. Because there is no hardline communication between millions of hikers all over the world, it relies on one generation passing it onto the next.
Thankfully, the rise of the internet has allowed for the transfer of information to be much easier. Unfortunately, every hiker cannot read this blog, but we are doing our part to spread good information and make the community better.
1. The “Golden Rule” Applies To Hiking Too
Ever since you were a kid, you may have heard the mantra “treat others how you want to be treated.” This absolutely applies to hiking. Not only should you treat other hikers well, but you need to have respect for wildlife, nature, and everything else.
You will run into wildlife and other people on the trails, so the same rule applies to both. If you can do your part to be a considerate hiker, you are doing your job.
2. Who Has The Right-of-Way On The Trail
Most trails, especially as you dive into the backcountry, will only be wide enough to fit one, maybe two people next to each other at one time.
Tighter trails force one party to yield the right-of-way to the other. The right-of-way is awarded to whoever is hiking uphill. Especially with steep trails, going uphill takes a ton of work, and having the momentum behind you is a gamechanger.
So, if you are descending and see a group coming up, move off to the side, take a break and let that group keep trucking.
Once you experience the hardships that come with hiking uphill in a serious manner, you will understand.
3. Where Is It Safe To Pitch Your Tent
If you are hiking while also camping, known as backpacking, there are some specific rules for you. One of which is how far you can camp from water sources.
The rule for setting up a tent is to stay 100 feet from any water source.
This ensures that water sources are not contaminated by you and your presence. Especially when backpacking, hikers may need to rely on local water sources to survive. So long as everyone camps far enough away from them, they should be protected and good to use.
4. Move Off The Trail If You Are Taking A Break
No one wants to be hiking up a tough trail and have to navigate around a group taking a break right in the middle of the path. Do not be those people. No one likes those people.
If you need to take a break, you definitely will need to be sure to get off of the trail enough that fellow hikers can still carry on without a hitch. The key is not disrupting or damaging the natural environment around the trail while finding a nice place to relax at the same time.
5. Rules of Hiking Say To Stay On The Trail
When hiking and not taking a break, you need to stay on the trail. Hiking is a beautiful thing, but without the preservation of our trails, no one can fully enjoy the experience.
Staying on designated trails keeps the other areas in pristine condition for every other hiker to come.
The big lesson with this point is to not take shortcuts. Whether it be switchbacks or anything else, taking shortcuts and blazing your own trails can and will ruin the specific area.
If there is a situation where you need to go off the trail, or there is not one for a certain stretch, the key is to spread the entire group out. One person walking through the brush will make far less of an impact than 10 right behind each other.
6. Keeping The Peace On The Trail
The wilderness is pure bliss for a lot of enthusiasts out there. Keeping the peace is a job that you should take great pride in. Keeping the peace is being considerate and following these rules of hiking.
So, if you want to listen to music, no problem! Just wear headphones. It is as simple as being a courteous human on the trails.
7. Pack It In, Pack It Out
Practicing LEAVE NO TRACE is the best way to keep our trails in unspoiled condition. One of the biggest factors of LNT is the idea of not leaving any trash behind. Whatever you pack in, you need to pack out.
This includes trash, diapers, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and anything else that is not part of the natural environment.
Don’t be the inconsiderate backpacker who throws their trash in the campfire thinking they have done their part. Foil food liners do not burn, and plastic creates noxious air pollution which drifts through other campsites. Although this may seem like a hassle, it is far better than seeing trash all over the trails.
8. This Rule of Hiking Is Mandatory: Bury your “business”
One of the weirdest transitions from casually hiking to backpacking is how you go to the bathroom. If there are actual bathrooms, definitely use those when you can. When you are in a more remote setting, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
Firstly, you need to know how far away you are from water sources. Similar to campsite location requirements, you need to be at least 200 feet away from any water source or trail. This is to avoid any contamination issues.
Five years ago, Del Norte Campground on Santa Cruz Island basically turned into a trash pit due to people not burying their waste deep enough and not packing out their used toilet paper.
The foxes had a field day with the trash.
The Geez just returned from there (August 2021) and the area was completely cleaned up. The Nation Park ranger we spoke with said it took several days and a lot of effort to clean all the toilet paper off the bushes in the surrounding area.
9. Keep Your Pets On A Leash And Under Control
First and foremost, check local trail regulations to see if pets are allowed. Hiking with your dog or other pet can be super fun, but you need to make sure that they are under control and on a leash.
Also, treat their waste as you would yours. Consequently, it needs to be buried or packed out.
10. Campfire Rings
Making campfires while hiking is subject to fire regulations in your area. In places with ongoing droughts and increased fire risks, they will probably be banned.
In other areas, be sure to only use established campfire rings. This ensures that the blaze is contained, and it reduces the risk escape and causing a forest fire.
Finally, make sure you have a campfire permit for your state and know the requirements contained therein.
Need a permit? Click here for National Park wilderness permit purchases and information.
11. Please Don’t Feed The Wildlife
Finally, don’t feed the wildlife or inadvertently allow them to get into your food. Not only is this unhealthy for the natural wildlife, but it is a huge safety risk.
Wild animals are very unpredictable and can cause several issues. So, keep all the human food for the humans and carry on with your trip.
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