Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hiking Etiquette

On a recent hike, it happened again. I was hiking uphill when a trio of hikers stepped off the trail for me to pass by. I stepped off the trail almost simultaneously. The trio then insisted that I come on ahead -- since the uphill hiker had the right of way. Sorry. But this hiker needed a short rest.

Ten years or more ago, the rule found on the internet was -- simply -- "the uphill hiker has the right of way." There were no qualifications or exceptions.

In a search of the internet, there were several hits and -- fortunately -- the rule has been qualified:

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.
-- or this:

Vehicles making turns from traffic lanes enjoy the right of way. A similar rule applies to head-on encounters on the trail. If you’re descending a steep trail and you see hikers coming up, step off the path to let them pass. Since gaining elevation requires more energy than going down, it’s polite to give way to the person burning more calories. If the ascending hikers want to stop for a rest break, they can wave you ahead.

I can understand the downhill vehicle yielding to a motorized vehicle needing to maintain momentum on an uphill climb.

I do not understand applying that rule to uphill hikers. No doubt there are hikers who "power walk" uphill. Not me. I need an occasional rest on an uphill climb.

I'm not changing. Hiking etiquette means the downhill hiker has right of way. Always.


  1. Interesting post. I didn't realize there was any such rule. I tend to agree with you, as a practical matter it doesn't make sense to have a hard and fast rule. Especially when it is steep and/or slippery, because its a lot easier to stop when going uphill than down - not so easy to start up again though! But there are places where it is best to give the person or groups coming uphill time to get through a pinch-point especially on an exposed ledge for example. As a runner, I'm always ready to stop if necessary, but rarely have to since most uphillers seem to instinctively make way for me - probably out of self-preservation as much as etiquette. But I always make a point of showing my appreciation.

    1. Not a rule, but merely etiquette. If there is an excuse to take a rest on an uphill climb, I take it. Occasionally that excuse are hikers coming down hill on the trail.


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