Hiking Basics

Too often, I run into people with little hiking etiquette. It puts me in a quandary. On the one hand, I’m excited that people want to get out and explore the beautiful wilderness. But on the other hand, I worry for people’s safety and their respect towards others and nature. So, hopefully with more awareness about being out in nature will benefit everyone on the trails!

1. hiking etiquette

1.1 do’s and don’ts

Some of these are written on the info boards at the trailhead, but here are some before you go:

  • Do smile and say hi when passing people (although this does get excessive on very popular trails, so it’s not a hard must)
  • Don’t cut switchbacks. Shortcuts cause erosion, which is damaging to the mountain.
  • Do stay on the trail. Trails are there for a reason – so plants can continue to grow and we can still enjoy the mountains without disrupting nature so much.
  • Don’t block the entire trail when you’re taking a break or taking photos. Not everyone is on your same schedule.
1.2 right of way

Sometimes people are too polite to ask to pass, so here are a few golden rules for the right of way on the trail:

  • People going uphill always have the right of way. They’re working hard at their steady pace – stop for them, unless they decide to take a break and let you pass. Please don’t go barreling down the mountain and taking the uphill people with you.
  • People going at a slower pace should let those going faster pass by (kinda like cars), especially if you’re holding up many people behind you.
  • Allow larger groups to pass, but if you are part of a large group, make sure you don’t take up the entire trail and be aware of others that may want to pass too.
  • People with dogs should always pull their dog aside and let others pass.
  • When stepping off to the side on a narrow trail, try not to trample the plants.

2. hiking safety

  • Make sure you bring appropriate gear, especially footwear. Your feet are taking you to awesome places – make sure you treat them well!
  • Always bring the 10 essentials. This is especially important when traveling into more backcountry areas where you might not see as many people.
  • Know where you’re going. Some trails are straight-forward. Others have a few turns, so look at a map and keep a map with you, whether GPS on your phone, or take a picture of the trail map before heading up. Many apps out there also show the terrain, which is helpful when going on climber’s trails and less-maintained trails.
  • Bring more water than you think you might need. Don’t plan to drink river/lake water on trail, since it is not guaranteed to be clean even if the water is clear. If you’re running low on water, remember that you’ll probably need less water going downhill.

3. hiking tips

  • Get to trailheads early (have I emphasized this enough?). If you plan to go on any “popular” trail around Seattle, expect a full parking lot by 9am on the weekends. Yes, sometimes you have to wake up before your normal weekday alarm. But you’ll be a happier hiker if you’re not panicking looking for a spot or u-turning around in a tight corner.
  • Try to find some less popular hikes. They’re just as amazing and less crowded so you can enjoy the views more instead of running into people every 5 minutes.
Happy trails!