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Trail Etiquette

Tips for happy trails

One of the best ways to clear your head is by getting outside and going for a hike. The United States has over 400 National Parks and many local trails. There is beauty to be found in nature all around you. To ensure that everyone has a good time and to preserve the health and beauty of the trail systems, everyone needs to follow some basic etiquette. Here are five things to keep in mind on your next trail outing.

1. Stay on the trail

Going off the marked trails can damage them by making them less defined. Over time, this can lead to erosion, which will result in sections of the trail needing to be repaired. Staying on the trails also prevents you from accidentally damaging animals’ habitats, killing plants, or hurting the animals themselves.

2. Respect and obey trail signage

Trail signs can serve many purposes. They provide information about the plants and animals you may see on your hike. They display maps to restrooms, locations of trailheads, and directions to where it is ok to set up camp. Trail signs also indicate if sections of a trail are closed. Following these restrictions is crucial to maintaining the health of trail systems.

3. Pack it in, pack it out

Anything you bring into a park or out on the trails needs to leave with you. Even biodegradable waste ¬–like a banana peel–affects the ecosystem. Leaving no trace means not introducing anything non-native to an area.

4. Do not approach the wildlife you may encounter on the trails

Maintaining a safe distance from the animals you see keeps you safe while also ensuring that their habitats remain intact. Appreciate their beauty from afar and do not feed the animals.

5. Treat others on the trail as you would want them to treat you

The golden rule in life also applies when you're hiking. Keep the noise from electric devices to a minimum. Say “hello” to others when you pass them. Announce your presence in a calm voice when approaching another party from behind.

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