When you hiking in high traffic locations such as the Swiss Alps you will encounter other hikers from time to time. There are also great chances you will encounter cattle on your way, or horses and equestrians, and bikers too. You will also be meeting up local people in villages, so it’s a good thing to be prepared for these encounters and to know how to act in those situations. It may seem of little importance, but there are unspoken rules that every true hiker needs to obey and those rules make every hike easier and more pleasant.
Hiking trail etiquette or hiking bonton teaches you how to treat other hikers and bikers with respect. And not only them, but also our mother nature. True hiker always cares for the environment and strives to preserve it and minimize its impact on nature.
You probably know that you should not dispose your trash along your hiking trail, or that you must respect flora and fauna in the mountains, but are you sure you’re familiar with many other rules of hiking trail etiquette? Who yields to whom on a trail? How to act when hiking in large groups? If you’re having any doubts, read these rules of hiking trail etiquette!
Learn Who Has the Right of Way
It sounds strange, but there’s actually some kind of a hierarchy on the trail. Hikers, bikers, runners, equestrians – all kinds of nature enthusiasts and adventurers are hitting trails all the time.
So, who yields to whom?
Bikers yield to hikers and horses, while hikers yield to horses. But when bikers are moving very fast it is sometimes easier for a hiker to yield.
When you encounter a horse get off the trail on the downhill side. Be calm and wait until horse passes, because a horse can easily get spooked.
Also, remember to yield to single and pair hikers when you’re hiking in a group.
When yielding, just move a few steps off the trail, and when you want to pass another hiker, pass on the left side of the path. That also means you should always try to keep it to the right side when you’re being passed. And if you’re about to pass another hiker from behind, shout “On your left!” or simply say “hello” to announce your presence.
And what about uphill and downhill hikers?
Hikers going uphill have the right of way. But, sometimes, a hiker who goes uphill wants to use the opportunity to stop and take a break, so let the hiker going uphill to make the call.
Greet Other Hikers and Be Polite
There is that type of hikers that are ‘lonesome riders’ – they like to hike solo or in a pair and small groups. If you’re one of those, you have to deal with the fact that you’re probably going to share the trail with others. So, when you meet other hikers, greet them and be friendly. On the other side, respect other’s decision to walk alone and do not disturb them and gab with them, unless they want to.
Respect Hikers in Your Group
Don’t be the person who doesn’t smile. Be friendly to other hikers in your group, share your water and snacks with them if needed, if someone gets hurt help them carrying the weight, slow down your walking tempo so the slowest hiker in the group doesn’t fall behind. Work as a team and have fun together!
Don’t Rest on a Trail
When taking a break, move a few meters away from a trail so other hikers don’t need to over jump you. Carefully pick a spot where you will sit for a while, don’t just trample into a lovely bunch of rare mountain flowers.
Be Polite and Friendly to Local People
There’s no need for further explanations, but still – if you’re crossing over or near someone’s private property, be polite, considerate and kind. Greet the locals and try not to interrupt their everyday routine.
Stay on the trail
Do not take shortcuts and stay on switchbacks and follow the marked route instead. Marked and beaten trails are there for a reason – they are made to make your hike easier and safer and to prevent any possible dangerous situations or damages such as soil erosion or stone avalanches.
One of the most beautiful things about hiking is peace. True hikers just love the silence, so let others enjoy the sounds of nature such as wind and birds. Don’t make noise, don’t talk too loud, limit the use of a cellphone, and never, but never blast music loudly! It’s not about your music taste, some people simply don’t enjoy loud music outdoors as much as you are.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash
Be considerate to other hikers if you’re hiking with your dog. Although your dog is friendly and harmless, some people are afraid of dogs and you can never tell how your pet will act in the completely new environment and among unfamiliar faces. It may seem tempting, but don’t let the dog run free.
Do Not Disturb Cattle
When hiking in alpine regions, you will probably cross fields and meadows with cattle, cows particularly. Try not to scare them and pass them quietly at a certain distance. If you’re hiking with your dog, be sure to keep the dog on a leash.
Watch Out for Hikers Below You on Slopes
When passing over slopes, serpentines and extremely steep sections, always be careful not to kick rocks and harm hikers who are located somewhere on the path below you. Watch your step and try not to cause the stone avalanche. Also, don’t throw rocks off the cliffs, someone might get hurt.
But if you unintentionally knock down a stone, shout a warning in case anyone is below you.
Leave No Trace
And last, but not the least – an essential rule for every hiker. Leave No Trace means you should leave the place you visit in the same state as you find or even try to improve it by fixing the broken signs on the trail or picking the waste left by unconscionable and unresponsible visitors.
No need of telling you that you should clean litter after yourself and stay on the marked trail in order to preserve the environment, right?
Don’t pick rare and endangered flowers and plants, and respect flora and fauna you see. What you find along your trail can be interesting and could be a great souvenir, but let it stay where you’ve found it. Take nothing but pictures – that’s the old rule of leave no trace ethics.
Also, don’t leave marks behind you such as rock piles – it could be misleading.
If you want to contribute to the preservation of the beautiful Swiss Alps, join us in our second Leave No Trace hike in partnership with the Summit Foundation, a Swiss ecological non-profit. The aim of the foundation is to reduce the environmental impact of human activity in high traffic locations, and WeHikers are always willing to fight for the pristine and untouched beauty of the Swiss Alps. Join us and help nature remain pure and wild!