10 Rules Of Hiking Etiquette


Hiking is one of the most ideal ways to explore any particular destination, enjoy the sublime natural beauty, and get some fresh air. One thing that new hikers seem to forget is that it is extremely important to respect the trail and others utilizing it.

By following some basic hiking etiquette, hikers can protect the environment they are out trying to enjoy and also ensure the safety of others and themselves. In this article, we will take you through the 10 rules of trail etiquette – these should give you a better idea of what to do and what to not do once you put on your hiking pants and grab your hiking backpack.

10 Trail Etiquette Rules You Should Always Keep in Mind

1. Follow All the Trail Guidelines

Once you reach the trailhead, it is always a good idea to look for a sign providing a map and basic information about your chosen trail. Some of the guidelines available on the sign could include:

  • Permanent (or temporary) trail closures
  • Dog guidelines – whether hiking with a dog is allowed
  • Alternative routes you can follow
  • Camping rules

These guidelines are there for a reason. It is extremely important that you review, understand, and follow each guideline. Avoid closing into closed-off areas or using the closed trails. The closures are put in place to either protect the environment or keep you safe.

2. Don’t Mess with Any of the Trail Markers

This hiking etiquette rule helps keep the trail safe for the hikers who will come after you. If you come across any trail markers, avoid moving or removing them. Refrain from building any new cairns. This will help reduce the chances of other hikers getting lost in the wilderness.

3. Avoid Disturbing Plants or Animals

If you see a wild animal while exploring a hiking trail, refrain from approaching it. You should keep as much distance as possible.

Another trail etiquette rule that tends to be ignored is the rule about not disturbing plants. You must avoid picking or removing the vegetation you come across. Messing with the vegetation will end up harming the environment.

4. Respect the Peace

Put simply, keep your noise to the minimum. Even if you have a new music album or a new podcast, you mustn’t ignore this hiking etiquette rule. If you have to listen to music, use your headphones.

People wear their hiking boots and get on the trail to experience nature and its natural sounds. Avoid changing this.

5. The Right of Way Rule


The unwritten trail etiquette rule is that people hiking downhill should always yield to the uphill traffic. Although this is not an official regulation, it is a common courtesy to step aside if you come across hikers who are coming uphill. It is the polite thing to do considering that those hiking uphill need more energy compared to those hiking downhill.

6. Avoid Trashing the Hiking Trail

As experienced hikers say, “take only photos and leave only footprints”.

Make sure you carry out everything you carry in, including your hiking snacks package, fruit peels, eggshells, etc. If the trash bin available at the trailhead is already overflowing, avoid leaving your trash on the ground next to it. Consider picking any litter you find along the way.

Note: Consider taking it further by following the 7 principles of Leave No Trace,

7. Pass on the Left, Hike on the Right

In a lot of ways, hiking trails are quite similar to roads. On the wider trails, the general hiking etiquette rule is that you should hike on the right and to pass, or let other hikers pass, on the left.

If you are hiking faster than the individual in front of you and you wish to pass him or her, a friendly “on your left” should let the hiker know that you are about to pass.

8. Acknowledge Other Hikers

When you meet other hikers on the trail, do not ignore them. A simple “how is it going” or just a “hi” should be enough to acknowledge them. This will create a network of positivity along the trail – which will, in turn, create an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone.

9. Trail User Hierarchy

Some hiking trails are open to other outdoor enthusiasts besides the hikers. If you are exploring a multi-use hiking trail, you must familiarize yourself with the trail user hierarchy.

The trail hierarchy states that cyclists should yield to hikers, horses, and other pack animals. Hikers, on the other hand, are supposed to yield to pack animals and horses.

The trail right of way hierarchy is as indicated below:

  • Pack animals and horses have the right of way over hikers and cyclists
  • Hikers have the right of way over Cyclists

10. Don’t Take a Break in the Middle of the Hiking Trail

After hours of walking, you may want to take a small break and maybe eat some of your backpacking food before resuming the hike. Most of your stops will occur on the plain ordinary trail.

Instead of just sitting down on the path, look to your left and right, and choose a good place away from the path where you can rest. This will help you avoid blocking other hikers who are not ready to stop.

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While you are out enjoying nature, you must do everything in your power to protect it. This will give those who will come behind you a chance to enjoy the same natural beauty you enjoyed.

This article has the top hiking etiquette rules that everyone is supposed to follow. It is worth noting that we did not mention all the trail etiquette rules. However, by simply using common sense, you should be able to keep the environment safe for other hikers and leave it just as you had found it. By “using common sense” we mean that if something does not feel right, do not do it.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. New Zealand hiking etiquette: Unspoken laws of the trail, Natureandnosh.co.NZ
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!