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Hiking and Trail Etiquette

Re-Connecting People with the Natural World

Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group is a tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) charity. Donations are tax deductable. (Tax ID: 47-5141831).

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Hiking and Trail Etiquette

Because hiking is a recreational experience, hikers expect it to be pleasant. Sometimes hikers can interfere with each others' enjoyment, or that of other users of the land, but they can minimize this interference by following good etiquette. Too many rules out on the trail can take away from the fun so keeping them to a minimum of what really is important is our focus. All of these rules are commonly found in hiking books and websites so our leadership team chose what we considered to be the ones we felt to be the most important to shorten the list from close to 50 rules to what you see below. We are human and we all make mistakes so please understand that these are guidelines. If you are not familiar with them, then there is no way for you to follow them, so we only ask that you keep them in mind while out on the trail. Most hiking guidelines are common courtesies while others might never have crossed your mind. Feel free to reach out to our leadership team if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions! Member input is always appreciated and encourage!

Stay On the Trail

Do not cut switchbacks or take shortcuts. Cutting switchbacks contributes to erosion and trail degradation.

Do Not Litter

Don't even think about it! PACK IT IN. PACK IT OUT. Period. Ask a hike leader to assist you before you take to leaving litter on the trail. Remember that we were all new to hiking at one point so don’t worry about being caught off guard with this rule. We support one another and would rather help you out than for you to feel like you have no choice but to litter, only for our group pick up your litter on our next trail cleanup day-grin. We are all in this together! PLEASE ask your fellow hikers before littering because you will be amazed at what the group will pull together for you to pack your trash into. It can be a most interesting exercise with a lot of creativity and laughs to boot. We ALL want to enjoy trash free trails! So much so, that you will see frequent volunteer cleanups on our calendar. We firmly believe that we should take care of the trails that we use and hopefully even more.

Please Be Able to Hike the Pace You Signed Up For

Being “forced" to hike much faster or slower than one's natural pace can be annoying, difficult to maintain consistently, not to mention significantly contributes to hiking injuries causing downtime in all of your outdoor pursuits. More seriously, hiking unnaturally fast or slow for what is natural for you dramatically increases fatigue and exhaustion, and may cause injury. We always include a hikes pace it will be led in the hike posting. If you do not see it, please let me know so I can remedy the situation. We have leaders who hike a variety of paces so please pay attention for what you are signing up for. While we will NOT leave anyone behind, it is not pleasant for anyone if you did not look into a hikes pace to see if it is being led within your current hiking abilities. These can change if you have not hiked in a while and deconditioned. If in doubt, please select the slowest pace option because anyone can always hike a bit slower, but not faster than our comfort zone. When we have more than 15-20 hikers, we divide the group into group of 15-20 based on your natural hiking speed and abilities. This helps to preserve the trails, prevent erosion in addition to allowing for several different hiking speeds.

We have experienced, certified volunteer leaders to help ensure that nobody gets left behind. But, it is not possible for one group large group to possibly match everyone's comfortable pace. You will notice that our hike listings post the paces offered for each hike. If a hike does not have your pace offered, please find another hike that does. We have a calendar loaded with hikes and our goal is to offer at least 3 paces in addition to a choice of distance options for every hike. We are getting there but still have a ways to go. Most of our hikes currently offer 2-3 different pace options and if they don't, the one hike pace is clearly posted so you know what you are signing up for. Feel free to contact the organizer or any member of our leadership team if you would like more information so you can make a more informed decision!

Note to Fido (Dog)

Fido, you are to be leashed at all times for your own safety and the comfort of those around you. Please do not or harass or chase wildlife. Unless you go number 2 off the trail and back in the woods, make sure your mom or dad pick up after you. If your parents ran out of bags, just get them to talk to a hike leader as we might have them. Otherwise, they will have to use leaves and/or sticks to clean up after you Fido. We have a Zero tolerance policy when it comes to your stinky poo being left on or close to the trail where it can easily be stepped on or smelled. You are cute but your stinky poo is not...

Be Sensitive to the Environment

Don't pick wildflowers, carve initials in trees, or in any way diminish the trail. Instead take a picture to share with others! Take only "pictures, leave only footprints or whatever is left of the ground after a stumble - grin.

Hikers Going Uphill Have the Right-Of-Way

In general, bike riders yield to both hikers and horseback riders; hikers yield to horseback riders. Hikers going uphill are working hard and should be given the right of way over hikers coming downhill. Sometimes uphill hikers will prefer to stop and let you pass coming down so they can get a short break. The uphill hiker should get to make the call.

Do NOT Leave Arrows Or Other Markers for Others

Cairns, ducks, or little piles of rocks are not needed and are responsible for many lost hikers. Markers tend to concentrate traffic which creates more unmanaged trail scars. Or, markers pop up all over and serve no navigational purpose other than confusing those who rightfully so, put their trust in trail markers. If you find yourself in a situation where you MUST use trail markers to use as a temporary directional for someone behind you, be SURE that they remove the marker after they reach it so others will not be confused or thrown off course by your temporary marker. We have all done this at one point or another but we need to focus on making certain we remove them after use because I know it is unrealistic to ask that they not be used at all.

Move Off of the Trail When Resting or Taking Pictures

Whenever you stop for a view, a rest, or to yield, please move off the trail so it is free for others to hike and not have to wait for your rest to be able to continue on their way. This is a common courtesy folks! If you are selecting a spot for a rest, please try to get off on a used area or a durable surface such as a rock, dirt, or snow. Please don't just trample off the trail into a nice soft field of grass and flowers and ruin it for everyone else. Sometimes it simply cannot be helped but please at least do look around for a spot that preserves as much of the beauty as possible, especially in the spring when people travel great distances to enjoy the wildflowers as some are true treasures in our region such as the largest Trillium "blankets" in America (yes, we have a hike there during it's very short peak every year!)

And no matter what, NEVER chop down a Cherry Tree for firewood or the like and then lie about it-grin

Pass On the Left

When overtaking someone, please let them know you are approaching and will be passing on their left by calling out "On Your Left". You will hear a biker call out,"On your Left!" as he/she comes up from behind. That means you should stay to your right just like when driving here in the States.

Be Courteous and Greet Others You See On the Trail

Greet people you meet. This makes sure they know you are there and is polite. A simple "Howdy" or "Nice Day" is fine and remember to pass on your left. When two groups of hikers meet, it is considered a common courtesy to exchange greetings (either verbal or physical, e.g. smiles and friendly nods).

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