Etiquette on the Trail: The Do’s and Don’ts when hiking

Members of the Sun Lakes Hiking Club enjoy a spring hike!

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Hiking is a social activity. For safety sake one should never hike alone; and it’s almost certain you and your companion(s) will encounter other nature lovers seeking the same experience. Like all social activities, there are certain manners that will help insure a pleasant, as well as safer, experience. Common sense dictates appropriateness in any given situation. However, the following guidelines are offered.

Most hikers have observed the “Trail Courtesy” triangular signs that picture icons of an equestrian, a hiker and a mountain biker. Horses have the right of way over hikers and bikers (duh), and hikers have the right of way over bikers. The theory is that bikers are fast and can stop and go easily so they let hikers and horses have the right of way. However, a sign can’t say it all. When sharing the trail with mountain bikers, be aware that a cyclist’s vision (as well as your own) can be blocked by the contour of the land. Being safe means not standing your ground when confronted by any larger body of motion coming at a faster or unpredictable speed.

An added note when meeting a horse: get off the trail on the downhill side and stand quietly until the horse passes.

As a general rule, smaller groups step off the trail to allow larger groups to pass (less impact on the flora off trail). However, it often does not make sense to have one or two people wait while a large group of perhaps 20 trample by. Downhill hikers generally yield to uphill hikers for two reasons: with eyes cast downward at their feet, those going downhill have a longer view of the trail plus it’s harder for uphill hikers to get their momentum going again once they stop. Very often, the decision regarding right of way will be determined by the hikers who are most in need of a moment’s rest.

While one of the pleasures of hiking is conversing with others in your group, there are several instances when ample room should be left between you and your companions:

When crossing streams that require jumping from rock to rock, or walking on a log or other makeshift bridge.

When hiking down a steep incline on loose rock. (If you slip you could create an avalanche of hikers).

When climbing up an incline over rocks. (Hikers need to be very careful not to displace any loose rock; if a rock does fall, shout “rock” immediately).

When going through bushes or trees with branches hanging over the trail. (A branch might spring back to hit the next person in line).

Other “do’s and don’ts” include: Do stay on the trail; don’t take shortcuts on switchbacks; do pack out everything you pack in; do respect all living things, do stay on the right of the trail, pass on the left.

Do save Friday, November 7 for the Sun Lakes Hiking Club Welcome Back Picnic and first meeting. Watch future editions of the Splash for more exciting SLHC events planned for the 2014-2015 season. If you would like more information about joining SLHC, contact President Brian Hill at 480-802-1050 or email [email protected] You can also visit the club website at