Hiking Etiquette

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”

~  Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)

Minimizing your wilderness impact includes showing consideration for your fellow hikers. We all have distinct motivations for going out into nature. Accepting and being respectful of those differences, makes for a more harmonious experience for all concerned.

Billy Goat & Swami | PCT Kickoff, 2013 | I first met Billy Goat while hiking the PCT in 2007. 


Always acknowledge your fellow hikers. At the very least a nod of the head or a simple ‘hello’. Such basic gestures of friendliness distinguish your average wilderness encounter from its big city equivalent.

Never have I found the old adage, “strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet“, to be more true than when walking in the woods. Nature has an uncanny way of bring out the best in folks. I can’t tell you how many enduring friendships I have made, that began with a simple hello out in the wilderness.

Right of Way

People going uphill have the right of way. If they are exhausted, they will probably be grateful for the repose and wave you through. Nonetheless, the decision is theirs to make. An exception to this rule is if you happen to encounter a llama train.


Llama train | Colca Canyon, Peru, 1996


If you are taking a break or stopping to admire a view, move off the trail so others can pass without impediment.

Shelter Etiquette

If you are sleeping in a lean-to or mountain hut, be considerate to your fellow inhabitants.

  • Always try to leave the shelter cleaner than what you found it.
  • Keep noise to a minimum after 9 or 10 pm.
  • If you are an early riser, try to have the majority of your gear packed and prepared before going to sleep.
  • If you are a heavy snorer, do both yourself and everyone else a favour by bringing your own shelter. If you insist on staying indoors, think about passing out multiple sets of earplugs to your victims!

Two Shelters – Snoring & Non-Snoring | PA, Appalachian Trail, 2012 


Try to avoid being excessively noisy on the trail. This is easier said than done if you are hiking in a big group. Be conscious of the fact that others may prefer to hear the sounds of nature rather than your own dulcet tones (e.g. If you need to use your cell phone, try and do so out of earshot of your fellow hikers).

A notable exception to this “less is more” propriety is if you happen to be hiking in bear country (see Animal Encounters in HEALTH & SAFETY), where making noise will help to minimize the chances of a surprise encounter.

Bruin heading to water | Just outside of Stehekin, WA | Pacific Crest Trail, 2012