Hiking Rules and Trail Etiquette

Hiking is a great way to spend time outdoors. If you’re going hiking, it’s important to know proper trail etiquette to show respect for other hikers and the environment. 

These are the unwritten rules of hiking that everyone should follow out on the trail:

Respect the Right of Way

Knowing the right of way is important on the trail. Try to check the signs around the trail to ensure you are following the correct way. It can vary from park to park, but if there isn’t any signs around, the general rule of thumb is:

Downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers

Uphill hikers have the right away, so if you see people coming up the hill, try to move aside to give them space.

Bikers yield to hikers

If bikes are allowed on the trail, bikers generally yield to hikers. Bring your bike to a complete stop to the side to give room for hikers. Never bring a bike on the trail unless you are sure they are allowed.

Hikers yield to horses

If horses are allowed on the trail then hikers should yield to them. Try not to spook these animals and let the riders pass so that everyone stays safe.

Hike Quietly

For many people, hiking is an escape from the stresses of everyday life. Being in a natural environment with gorgeous scenery can be soothing for many hikers. There isn’t much that can ruin the tranquility like a loud hiking group.

Don’t be that group. Don’t yell or be obnoxious, and definitely don’t play music on your phone. Respect your fellow hikers and try to keep noise to a minimum.

Allow Others to Pass

If you’re hiking with a group and you see another hiker or hiking group approach, do not take up the whole width of the trail. You should leave enough room that the approaching party can comfortably pass you on the trail.

Announce your Presence

A friendly “hello” to announce your presence is a good idea when approaching another person or group, especially when you’re coming from behind. You don’t want to spook the other party, and this also allows them to make room for passing if the trail is narrow.

Stay on the Trail

Generally, you want to stay on the trail the entire time unless you really need to. Going off trail can damage the environment, so it’s important to be respectful. There are a few instances where you may need to step off trail though.

Going off the trail is generally acceptable if you have to step to the side to yield to another group, if you’re taking a break, or if you have to go to the bathroom.

Keep the Trail Clean

Take Breaks Off the Trail

As stated earlier, when taking breaks you will want to move off the trail so that others can pass. Don’t block the trail, and try to not damage any plants or animals while taking your break.

Bathroom Breaks

If you have to relieve yourself when hiking, make sure to do so far away from the trail. Generally you will want to be about 60 yards away from the trail when relieving yourself. Make sure to pick up after yourself and not leave any hygiene products laying around.

Don’t Litter

Be respectful of the environment and try to clean up after yourself to minimize damage when hiking. Try to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles so that you can properly care for the outdoors.

Leash your Pets

If the trail allows you to bring your pets, be sure to keep them leashed. This will ensure that other hikers, their pets, and the wildlife stays safe and secure during your hike. Even if you think your dog is the friendliest dog in the world—show respect by keeping your pets leashed.

Don’t Disturb Wildlife

Try not to disturb any wild animals that you come across on the trail. Some animals may get pretty close to the trail, but try to keep your distance as much as possible. Never go off the path to try and get a closer look at an animal, and don’t feed them either. You can put yourself and the environment in danger by disturbing animals.

Leave Anything You Find

It is important to be respectful of the environment and leave anything that you find exactly as it is. Leave any rocks, plants, or other natural resources so that other hikers can enjoy them too.


These trail guidelines are pretty basic and if you follow them, it will help show your respect for your fellow hikers and the environment. Treat others how you would want to be treated and be sure to leave nature’s beauty for others to enjoy too.

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Hiking Safety Tips
Health Benefits of Hiking