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Don’t Overwhelm the Trail: Group hikes can be a lot of fun but not always for other hikers. If you organize a large hike, try to reduce your impact by splitting up into smaller groups. That will make it easier for other hikers to pass and reduce your group's presence on the trail. Clusters of fewer hikers are also less likely to scare off wildlife.

Silence is Golden: It’s a hike, not a rave, right? Whether you’re in a large group or just hiking with one other person, there’s no need to speak loudly, shout, or sing. As Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “Hell is other people.” And when you call too much attention to yourself, you can quickly become “other people” to your fellow hikers.

Follow Basic Trail Etiquette: Many trails are open to a variety of users, including equestrians and mountain bikers. As a hiker, you yield to horses.

Stay to the right and pay attention to faster hikers coming up behind you to make it easier for them to pass. Uphill hikers have the right of way so that they can maintain their momentum, although there are plenty of times when they’ll gladly step aside for a break and allow downhill hikers to get by.

When meeting other hikers, a quick hello is a nice touch. And definitely alert other trail users about skunks, rattlesnakes, trail obstructions, and other problems you’ve encountered. They’ll appreciate the heads-up.

Stay on Designated Trails: Shortcuts can lead to increased erosion and also destroy vegetation. In arid regions, cryptobiotic soil crust, a living groundcover, takes years to form but can be ruined in an instant. Tundra, both wet and dry, is also extremely vulnerable.

Nobody wants to get muddy boots, but tough it out in wet conditions rather than going off trail. Once a side path starts forming, other people will begin to use it and before long you have two trails instead of one. On narrow trails, try to walk single file to avoid inadvertently widening the path.

Don’t Approach Animals: It’s not good for them—or you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists all sorts of nasty diseases that you can pick up from wildlife.

Your well-intentioned curiosity can create stress for animals and cause them to flee, which may leave their young vulnerable to predators. You should never feed wildlilfe because it’s unhealthy for them and animals may also become a nuisance by associating humans with food.

Leave Things Where You Found Them: Nature offers plenty of potential keepsakes but resist the temptation to pick up rocks and flowers in the forest, or driftwood and shells on the beach. It always seems harmless at the time. But especially in heavily visited parks, the accumulated impact can be severe. You should also show the same respect for human artifacts, such as arrowheads and pot shards.

But Collect Any Trash You Find: Everybody can do their part. Carry some sort of bag to gather garbage you find along the trail, then dispose of it properly when you return from the hike.

Clean Up After Yourself—and Your Dog: It’s not always convenient when nature calls when you're out in nature. You’ll want to find a spot that’s away from heavily trafficked areas and at least 200 feet from water sources.

To minimize impacts, try to urinate on rocks or gravel. The best approach for solid waste is to dig a cathole that’s 6-8 inches deep. Once you're done, refill the hole and cover it with leaves, needles, or other natural materials. That's the basic plan but there are additional specifics to consider depending on where you’re hiking.

And be sure to pick up after your dog. Nobody wants to step in dog poop on the trail and it can be unhealthy for wildlife and degrade water sources.

Respect Closures and Private Lands: Officials sometimes close parks and trails to protect nesting birds or for revegetation projects. While frustrating, these closures typically try to limit impacts on recreational users. You can avoid potentially more lengthy and extensive interruptions of trail use by obeying any posted signs.

Be sure to avoid trespassing on private properties. Some public trails abut or cross private lands and nothing will shut down access faster than trespassing.