Though most major trailheads will have rules and regulations posted on a sign or message board, there are a number of unwritten rules of trail etiquette that every hiker or camper should be aware of. These etiquette rules are there to not only ensure that we stay safe and do the least amount of damage to our surroundings but to also make sure that everyone (not just you) can enjoy the trail.
Pack it in, pack it out. Basically, whatever you bring with you on the trail should be leaving with you as well, including garbage, toilet paper, and even dog waste. (We also talk about this in our how to NOT be a bad National Parks tourist post.)
Don’t sneak up on other hikers. If you are approaching a slower person or group hiking in front of you, make sure to announce yourself and let them know that you’ll be passing them on their left.
Step aside for hikers going up. Gaining elevation requires more energy than going down. If you’re heading down a steep trail and see someone approaching from the opposite direction up the trail, do the polite thing and step aside to let them pass.
Don’t take up the whole trail. If you’re hiking with a group, try to walk single file or only take up half of the trail.
Bury your poop. As the children’s book states, everyone poops. If you’re hiking on a trail or out camping in an area without public restrooms and the urge strikes, you’ll need to dig a hole about eight inches deep, do your business, and then bury it.
Relieve yourself at least 200 ft from camp and water sources. Though you should be digging a hole before you go number two to bury your waste, you certainly don’t want you or your fellow campers to accidentally step in it by accident. You also don’t want to ruin a good water source or damage the fragile ground areas that typically surround rivers and lakes. Do us all a favor and do your business far away from trails, campsites, and water sources.
Don’t feed wild animals, including birds and squirrels. Most people would not go up to a bear or other larger wild animal to feed it some leftover morsels or crumbs. For some reason, there are people who are perfectly fine doing this to birds or small rodents like squirrels or chipmunks. The food you eat might not be good for them and can also create overpopulation issues in certain areas since they know they’ll be fed by humans.
These trail etiquette rules aren’t hard to follow but still have a big effect on minimizing your impact on the natural area your hiking through, as well as your fellow hikers.