Hiking Etiquette 101

(Source: Laura Lollman)
(Source: Laura Lollman)(Laura Lollman)

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- We are in the middle of prime hiking season in the Valley of the Sun and sometimes novice and experienced hikers alike need a reminder about basic hiking etiquette.

By following a few simple rules of the trail, you will ensure that both you and your fellow hikers will be able to enjoy the many incredible trails Phoenix, and all of Arizona, has to offer.

1. Be Prepared – Before heading out on your hike, be sure you have done your research about the trail, weather and climate (especially if you are new to Arizona). AND, be certain you have everything you need, like water. What does this have to do with etiquette you may ask? Well, an unprepared hiker can become a burden on other hikers that may feel the need to assist because you didn’t bring enough water, thus sharing the vary life saving item you failed to bring with you. Or maybe they have to assist you because you got bit by a snake – see item 4.

2. Pack out Your Trash – We go into nature to see what is natural, not vegetation decorated with toilet paper and orange peels. So anything you bring in, you need to carry out. This includes orange peels, shells, pits, seeds, etc. When nature calls, you need to carry out your toilet paper. And if you need to go number 2, you need to dig a 6 inch cat hole and bury it. Hiking in a hazmat suit is not my idea of a good hiking experience.

3. Stay on the trail – Venturing off the established path or crosscutting trails in order to save a few seconds of time will damage the surrounding environment. If too many people stray from the trail it can lead to damage like soil compaction, erosion, and vegetation death. It can also lead to injury or death to other hikers or yourself. I had several large rocks fall just a couple feet in front of me hiking at Grand Canyon because another hiker cut the trail on a switchback above me, creating a rock slide on the trail below that I, and many other hikers were hiking.

4. Avoid Interacting with Wildlife – I was thinking of leaving this off the list since either hikers don’t want to encounter desert wildlife or they don’t want to encounter you. But then this happened. I was hiking Monday at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve when I encountered a passing hiker. I did not encourage this conversation, but he asked, “Have you seen any snakes?’ I said “Nope.” He then said, “Too bad, cuz I like to catch them but I release them so it’s cool.” At which I said, “Have fun with that,” because what else do you say? So the moral? While watching for and spotting animals along the way can be an enjoyable part of your hike, attempting to feed, pet or charm them is not good for you or the animal.

5. Be Considerate of Other Hikers – People hike to get away from civilization, other people and noise. Try to keep your voice down and use your ear buds if you listen to music. When you encounter another hiker, what do you do? Yield to hikers hiking uphill. You will understand when you are hiking uphill and just want to keep going instead of stopping for every downhill hiker that barely looks out of breath. And if you get behind a slower hiker, it is not rude to ask them to move aside for you to pass. Trying to pass without someone realizing you’re there can result in slips, falls and injury. Super simple to avoid it when you remember that no one has eyes on the back of their heads. And for you dog owners – please keep your dog on a leash at all times and pick up and dispose of their poop in a trashcan. Think it’s gross having to carry it around? You should love EVERY part of being a good dog parent.

So enjoy the outdoors and make sure you leave it just as you found it!