9 Trail Etiquette Rules You Need to Know

9 Trail Etiquette TipsThey say America’s favorite pastime is baseball, but how about hiking? From coast to coast, North America is bursting with some of the world’s best hikes. And as we spend more time outdoors, it’s good to know the trail etiquette so you’re not caught making the wrong move.

In this post, we’ll be covering some of the tips, rules, and norms of the trail. Your questions about who has the right of way, how you should pass, and how to hike with pets will all be answered. Keep reading and enjoy these trail etiquette tips!

9 Trail Etiquette Tips for Hikers

1. Right of Way

We all have places to go, but who has the right of the way? Trail etiquette has different rules depending whether you’re on foot, two wheels, or horseback.

When hikers are passing each other, those going uphill have the right of way. Uphill hikers may let others pass while taking a breather, but that’s their call.

When mountain bikes and hikers encounter one another, those on bikes are expected to yield. That said, mountain bikes can move a lot faster than legs. It may be easier for hikers to yield if a mountain bike is coming in at speed. However, a cyclist should always yield unless given the clear go-ahead by a hiker.

Horses present yet another scenario. Because horses are large and tricky to maneuver, they get the right of way from both hikers and bikers. Give horses room when passing and don’t make any sudden movements that may startle them.

Leave No Trace Trail Etiquette2. Pack In, Pack Out

If you pack it in, pack it out. This simple piece of trail etiquette is a rule to live by. If you bring snacks, take your wrappers home. If you use a napkin, save it to dispose properly. If you eat a banana, pack the peel in your backpack and toss it in the trash. Even biodegradable items should be packed out. Leaving them disrupts the ecosystem.

3. Quiet Voices

Use your quiet voice when hiking. By doing so, you will cause minimal disruption to wildlife and others on the trail. Instead of talking, save your breath for hiking and focus on the sounds of nature.

Hiking With Pets Trail Etiquette4. Practice Pet-iquette

It’s great fun take a four-legged friend for a hike. But be sure to practice trail etiquette with your pet. We like to think of this as pet-iquette. Some important components include:

  • Always keep your pet on a leash.
  • Only take your pet on approved trails.
  • Clean up after your pet and properly dispose of pet waste.

For more pet-iquette suggestions, check out our tips for hiking with pets.

5. Don’t Disturb Wildlife

A big rule when hiking is to never disturb wildlife. Wild animals are just that, wild. Their behavior is unpredictable and interaction between humans and wildlife is dangerous.

If you want a picture of wildlife, remember to stay a minimum of 50 yards (150 feet or 45 meters) away. Never try to feed or pet wild animals. And please don’t leave any food waste or trash. This acclimates wildlife to humans and can cause them to lose their natural fear of humans, an especially dangerous scenario when dealing with bears and coyotes.

See more suggestions on viewing wildlife from the National Park Service.

6. Leave No Trace

The classic trail etiquette advice: leave no trace. This means that you should leave the trail just as you found it. Don’t leave any remnants of your presence, such as trash, food waste, or campfire remains. Additionally, don’t remove anything from the wilderness. Wildflowers, rocks, and other objects should remain in the wild.

7. No Shortcuts

Don’t take shortcuts on your hike. Stick to the trail, even if it means going through mud or trekking along switchbacks. Going off the trail for a bit might seem harmless, but it’s anything but. This can trigger erosion, which leads to unsafe trail conditions. Often, trails damaged by erosion must be closed for years to recover.

Do everyone a favor and stick to the marked path.

Social Distancing While Hiking8. Single File, Please

Group hikes can be a lot of fun! But they can also prove pesky to other hikers. Don’t let your group take up the trail by walking side by side. Instead, walk in a single file line. This allows hikers behind and in front of you to pass without trouble.

Try taking a tip from wolf packs and place the strongest hiker at the rear. Then, allow the hiker with the most difficulty to lead. This ensures that the group sticks together, and no one is left behind.

9. Make Room to Pass

When you encounter others enjoying the trail, give them room to pass. It’s especially important to provide ample space when social distancing guidelines are in place. If it’s a wide trail, you may be able to walk past with plenty of room. But on a narrow trail, be sure to step to the side if you’re the hiker who must yield.


All this talk of hiking has us craving time in the great outdoors. Luckily, many of our resorts are close to spectacular hikes. Check out the related posts below for ideas on where to go for your next hike. And be sure to pass these trail etiquette tips along to your hiking friends!


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