Hiking Etiquette: How about just don’t be a jerk?

"Up to Windy Saddle" by Alpha, on flickrImage credit: “Up to Windy Saddle” by Alpha, on flickr


NOTE: I actually wrote this post months and months ago, but I never published it because I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Then last week, Caro from Lotsafreshair posted this article about people blaring music from their backpacks on the trail and it renewed my grumbliness, so here I go…


I’m about to get ranty. You’ve been warned. I’ll try and make it quick, though.

Inspired by someone tweeting an article on the subject the other day, I decided to do a Google search for the term “hiking etiquette” (yes, including the quotation marks)…

9,340 search results! I nearly fell off my chair.

Before I go on, I’ll say two things… Firstly, I do realise I’ve just made that number up to 9,341 (but, look, this one is just different, okay?).

Secondly, I do accept that there needs to be education around certain things. Some people might not understand the finer details of Leave No Trace, but I don’t even think of that as etiquette. Etiquette is about being polite to other people.

Which brings me to my one golden rule of etiquette for hikers… Don’t be a jerk.

It really is as simple as that.

I’d hope that by adulthood, most humans would be well aware of how to respect other humans. As hikers, why would we need a specific set of rules?

Who should have right of way when passing on a mountain trail? Can’t you just use common sense? Communicate with (and be helpful to) each other? We don’t need a blanket rule to tell us if the person going uphill or downhill should go first. What if one person or the other is buggered, and dying for an excuse to stop for a rest?

Sticking to the left (or right in other countries) on the trail? Seriously? Hikers don’t move at 60 kilometres per hour, and one would hope there aren’t so many on a trail at one time that we need to use road rules. Injuries from head-on hiking trail collisions will be minimal anyway. Don’t stress.

Should you acknowledge people on the trail when you pass them? Of course you bloody should. For a start, we’re all humans. I think that means you at least owe each other a friendly nod. Why not stop and have a chat, though? You’ve immediately got a whole bunch of things in common. You might have just come across your new best friend.

Should you play loud music from your electronic device, when sharing a remote campground with other hikers or while walking along the trail? Well, what do you think? Start by asking yourself if there are other people within earshot. If there are, do you think they came to this wild place to hear your sick beats? No. They did not.

I could go on, but I’m sure by now you get my drift. I’ll just sum up in the words of a great man, who said…


Be excellent to each other...


Do you disagree with my rant? Think we need a strict set of rules for hikers? I’m always ready and willing to stand corrected. Please let me know by commenting below.

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31 Responses to “Hiking Etiquette: How about just don’t be a jerk?”

  1. Andrew
    March 15, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    Hi Mark,

    I agree with what you and others are saying. I was taught to walk on the same side that we drive on (our left in Aus). This worked very well, many year ago. Now with airline travel so easy I’m finding that many Europeans are our walking and are doing the same thing, walking on the side they drive (which is our right side). So many times you have to switch sides of a track not to walk into people. I first noticed this issue when walking in the Lakes District, UK. Even though the UK’s drive on the left they walk on the ride side of the track, must be because many of them travel and walk abroad.

    My solution is to try to give eye contact with on coming walkers and make you move to the other side of the track early to avoid a ‘crash’ and also tolerance! Maybe we need “walking-rules”, as there are “road-rules”!!

    • Neil Fahey
      March 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

      Hey Andrew,

      I can see that it would be a problem on extremely busy trails, but really a bit of communication should solve the problem. We’re all humans after all.


  2. Kylie
    March 4, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

    Love this rant! As a new bushwalker, I have come across some less than friendly bushwalkers who certainly are more experienced than me.. it makes me feel intimated and gives me a vibe like they wish that I, as a newbie, wasn’t there on the same trail as them… even though I’m SUPER considerate and always let people get past me because I’d hate to hold anyone up because of my inexperience or lack of fitness. I think it’s crap they give off that vibe, rather than be encouraging. That said though, I’ve also said a brief g’day or had a brief chat with many lovely fellow bushwalkers 🙂
    As for people playing loud music, I haven’t experienced that on a walk, only when on public transport – and have you noticed it’s ALWAYS awful music? I bet the people who blast music while walking are also in to the same awful music lol.

    • Neil Fahey
      March 5, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      Yeah people can be pretty rude, hey? That sucks. 🙁

      I think those type of people do tend to have certain taste in music too haha.

      Cheers for commenting, Kylie!


  3. MikeM
    December 6, 2015 at 7:04 am #

    “Should you acknowledge people on the trail when you pass them? Of course you bloody should.”

    I’ve found this one to be fascinating. In my experience there seems to be some imaginary line between where many people remain in their I’m on a city street mindset, and an outdoors mindset where people acknowledge each other more easily.

    On multi-day trips where it might be lucky to meet someone else for the entire thing, I’ve rarely had an instance of others not at least saying Hi if not stopping for longer to talk.

    At the park down the road where people are out for a short walk or walking their dogs, most people I meet smile and acknowledge. A few mightn’t, and I’ve had an impression that maybe they don’t get out a lot.

    In stronger tourism areas, maybe where people have paid to get into a bush-walk or if it’s a short walk near a road, I get greetings much less frequently, as if people don’t get out much and haven’t really differentiated between walking around city streets where few people bother acknowledging anyone.

    Once, when checking out some short walks along the Great Ocean Road, I experimentally made a point of smiling and greeting everyone I met on various tracks which might’ve been up to an hour or so from anywhere. I received a few surprised reactions and some strange looks.

    • Neil Fahey
      December 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

      Hey Mike,

      Completely missed this comment somehow. Sorry about the delayed response! I think you’re spot on about the imaginary line. I find that this applies in my experience, too. People are strange. 🙂


  4. Peter
    November 25, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Couldn’t you include other users in your rant. I would. Mountain bike riders who think they’re on a time trial when on a multi use track. I’ve come perilously close to being cleaned up twice.

    • Neil Fahey
      November 25, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      Definitely, Peter! The rant was in response to all these articles about hiking etiquette, so that’s why I didn’t, but I think “don’t be a jerk” pretty much covers everyone. Don’t get me started on mountain bike riders! I’ve had a few close calls myself. :/


  5. Amanda
    November 18, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    I hate noisy walkers and ones that don’t acknowledge you with a nod or quick hello. We went walking up at Lamington a few months ago and a large group of walkers decided they would break up and walk in smaller groups at different paces. No worries, I like to see people enjoy a walk at their own pace. What I don’t like is that this group kept calling out “coo-eee” to eachother every 2 minutes to work out far apart they were from one another. After half an hour of that I was over it. We saw no more wildlife from when we got close to them. It was very rude and frustrating!

    • Neil Fahey
      November 19, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      I’ve been in the exact same situation and it makes me mad, too. I could understand it if there was one “coo-eee”, although it still does pretty much take away any chance of seeing any wildlife, but repeatedly doing it is just… jerky. 🙂


  6. Red Nomad OZ
    November 15, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Words to live by! One of my pet hates is the ‘fitness fanatic’ hikers who are in a BIG rush because they’re not there for the scenery, they’re there to break records!! Naturally this means their quest is WAY more important than mine, so I MUST get out of the way as soon as I hear them thundering towards me 😀 I’ve got no problem if someone’s trying to break a record, as long as they don’t make that MY problem!!

    Yes, I am the world’s slowest hiker 😀

    • Neil Fahey
      November 16, 2015 at 9:01 am #

      I hate that too! It feels too much like walking through the CBD at lunchtime! :/

      Thanks for the comment, Red!


  7. Caro
    November 14, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    Well put Neil. Thou shalt not be a most heinous jerk 🙂
    All comes down to respect for each other and our environment.

    • Neil Fahey
      November 14, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

      Thanks Caro! And yep, that’s pretty much it. 🙂

      Cheers for the comment.


  8. Jane
    November 11, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Just came back from a great day at Lamington National Park. Didn’t see one person on one of the trails. Was blissful and the wildlife was in abundance. A week before I shared one of the trails with a really noisy group that scared everything off. I wonder why people drive all that way to experience nature and then scare it off? Yeah, it’s ok to rant, Neil! I just did. 😀

    • Dayna
      November 12, 2015 at 6:39 am #

      They probably come away wondering why they never see much wildlife, Jane!

    • Neil Fahey
      November 12, 2015 at 7:09 am #

      Oh that sounds like hiking with the kids sometimes, Jane! 😀 Sometimes I wonder, too haha.

      I’m loving that people are joining me for a rant! This should always be encouraged! 🙂


  9. Dayna
    November 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Oooh I love a good rant, Neil. Most of the time I have to be content with muttering to myself, so I’m glad you’re letting it out.
    And I couldn’t agree more with you on all the above!

    • Neil Fahey
      November 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      Thanks, Dayna! 😀 Glad you enjoyed. I do far too much muttering to myself… I feel like a grumpy old man. :/

      • Dayna
        November 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

        Oh well. I’ve been a grumpy old woman for years! I just wish people were a bit more considerate. 😊

  10. Jay
    November 10, 2015 at 3:02 am #

    I feel like “love your neighbor” might go a longer way than “don’t be a jerk.”

    I can not be a jerk, and still do things that you find jerky. If I have legitimate interest in my fellow hiker though, I will be kind and courteous anyway.

    • Neil Fahey
      November 10, 2015 at 8:23 am #

      Haha fair call, Jay. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though. 🙂


  11. Serge
    November 9, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

    You hike your own hike. Do what you want.
    What’s the point of going into the woods and then be confined by the sociel rules and norms.

  12. Donna
    November 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    I was disappointed. I love a good rant. Have you got any more ? 🙂

    (You may or may not hike in a schooldress but I did once meet someone at dusk at a bush camp on Wilson’s Prom wearing a Greek style toga and what appeared to be a pink balloon on his head. He toasted me with a plastic glass of, I guess, wine. I nearly stepped on a big tigersnake trying to get away from him and his explanations. He earnestly reassured me that the tigersnake was harmless and had “gone to bed”. )

    I think some guidelines are useful (and I think I should be the one to write them), because it is apparently not always common sense and some people need to be told!

    I think it is common sense that I don’t drive for hours and head off into the remote wilderness to meet people and socialize! Just because we happen to be in the same place at the same time (with no-one else around for miles and miles …) doesn’t mean I want to be your new hiking partner. Some people do not know this! I’m pleased to share info about trail conditions, but I don’t want to discuss what I do for a living or where I live etc etc! You might be a creep, for all I know. It’s hard to tell. You can wear a sign that says “I am not a creep” but I might not believe you.

    Sure, share some trail info (“there’s a big tigersnake on the trail up ahead, it hasn’t gone to bed yet…”; “the trail is washed-out past the next junction” etc etc) but don’t start asking me my name and what I do for a living. (This has happened, I am not making this up.) Normal social boundaries apply, perhaps even moreso if you are a man and I am a solo woman. Also, don’t set up your tent 10m from mine, please! I didn’t come all the way out here to feel like i’m in a caravan park. And if you don’t like solo hiking, don’t go solo. Don’t tagalong with a couple. You will be a third wheel, even if we are too nice to say so!

    I think that’s all for now. Thanks for that, I feel much better.

    • Neil Fahey
      November 9, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      Nice ranting, Donna! 🙂 Hey, all I’m looking for is a passing head nod. On a good day I’d happily stop and share my life story. If I didn’t feel like it, I’d just politely say so and carry on my way. As a man, if I pass a solo woman I would certainly give no more than a passing ‘hello’ unless her body language/words suggested otherwise. As for the camping right next to someone, I agree that (from experience) this is obviously not common sense. However, there’s nothing wrong with saying something when you see them start. I guess you don’t always see them though… jerks. 😀

      Thanks for the comment!


      • Donna
        November 9, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

        thanks Neil, Oh I probably should add that I always say a cheery hello to anyone I meet on the trail and ask them if they are OK if they look bothered… I don’t want to sound like a jerk. Ranting can make you seem like a jerk… Not you, me … Oh well.

        • Neil Fahey
          November 9, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

          I’m always paranoid my ranting makes me seem like a jerk, which is why I didn’t publish this earlier. You’re not a jerk! You make some very pointy points. 🙂

  13. gilli
    November 9, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    Ditto- it’s not rocket science.

    “Should you acknowledge people on the trail when you pass them? Of course you bloody should.”

    I especially agree with that. They don’t need to be your new best friends but you just never know…

    • Neil Fahey
      November 9, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

      Thanks Gilli! I find it so frustrating when you’re miles from anywhere and you don’t get so much as a head nod from someone you pass. I’m genuinely shocked when it happens, especially on one occasion when I happened to be hiking in a school dress and some people still chose to just walk on by without any acknowledgement. :/

  14. Mark
    November 9, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more…..

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