Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trail etiquette: What’s the protocol when passing a hiker?

Is it just me, or does it bug you when you pass someone on the trail and they don’t say hello, or even acknowledge your existence? I can understand not saying anything when you’re on a short, popular trail, with a ton people passing by every minute. But when you’re five miles deep in the backcountry, and there’s no one else around, I just think it’s impolite to ignore a fellow hiker.

Although this happens fairly often, I’m writing this specifically in reference to two guys that passed us while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains a few weeks ago. Not only did they fail to acknowledge us, they didn’t even look at us!

I should point out that most people actually do say hello. There are many who will even start up a conversation for a minute or two. In fact, I love meeting people on the trail. As I’m sure is the case with most seasoned hikers, but I’ve meet quite a few interesting characters over the years while out on the trail. My wife and I once met several Buddhist monks from Vietnam, all dressed in traditional clothing, while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago. They were taking part in a Buddhist monk convention in Estes Park, and decided they wanted to do a little hiking while in the mountains. We chatted with a couple of them, and even had our picture taken with one of them. They were all very friendly. It was probably one of the most unique and memorable hikes that I’ve ever been on.

Last summer we ran into a guy at Ptarmigan Tunnel in Glacier Park who could probably pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. He had the five us in stitches while telling some of his crazy hiking and camping stories from over the years.

Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, and I’m certainly not trying to become the Miss Manners for “trail etiquette”, but it does bother me, to an extent, when people don’t say hello. Am I the only one?

Hiking in Glacier.com


  1. Hi! I'm glad I found your blog because it is one of my pet peeves too. I started hiking recently and I love it. It is one exercise routine where you can benefit from fresh air, connecting with nature, a good workout, and meeting others. I am usually the one who yields to other hikers, whether it is my right of way or not because it is faster for everyone to go at their own pace, as well as have their own "space". I always greet and reciprocate the greeting to acknowledge others that I or they are there. A simple "hi" or "hello" is sufficient enough and everyone can go on their merry way. I'm not asking for a conversation but if someone wants to stop and converse, I do not mind since I am also people person. I found that hikers who are in a group only 1 or 2 of them will greet and others will ignore you. I guess since the members of their tribe have already greeted, they shouldn't do it. As far as hikers who do not make eye contact, well I can not speak for everyone but I find myself looking at the ground often for protection especially from snakes, but if I see a human then I will take the time and make eye contact, smile and greet them. Thank you for posting this I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. I say don't worry about the 1% of unfriendly hikers who do not acknowledge your existence and pay more attention to the 99% of hikers who do :-)

    1. I also want to inform other hikers who are oblivious on the importance of greeting. It only takes 1 second to say "hi" or "hello". You never know if you're going to end up making a new friend or if you get caught in an emergency crisis, the hiker you just passed and greeted may help save your life! Think about it!

  2. Sheri - you make some great points! Thanks for the comments!



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.