Adam Sawyer's Hiking Tips: Trail Etiquette Skip to content

Tillamook Coast Life Blog

Adam Sawyer’s Hiking Tips: Trail Etiquette

Hello, good people!

Next up in my series of posts on trail etiquette, safety, and stewardship, is trail etiquette itself.

As with anything, hiking has its own set of written and unwritten rules that are good to know and adhere to. These courtesies help to ensure a pleasant experience for everyone. Some of these also crossover into the principles of “Leave no Trace,” which we’ll cover more in-depth in a future post. For now, here’s a brief rundown on trail etiquette accompanied by photos of things you shouldn’t disturb. Thanks again to Visit Tillamook Coast for collaborating on this!

Share the trail – Walk single file. On wider paths, you can occasionally stroll side by side, but never take up more than half of the trail. Always yield to the hiker heading uphill. Pass slower hikers on the left, and give them a verbal greeting. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with giving everyone you encounter on the trail a friendly nod or a greeting. Bicyclists yield to hikers and horses, and hikers yield to horses.

Stay on the trail – Always stay on the established trail and never cut switchbacks. There are places for off-trail explorations. Popular day-use areas or anywhere guidelines or signage restrict such activity isn’t one of them.

Hike quietly – Keep noise to a minimum and conversations at a reasonable volume. Most folks are out there for peace and quiet or nature’s soundtrack.

Take only pictures – Don’t pick flowers or otherwise disturb flora, especially delicate habitats! The generations after us are going to want to see these wildflower meadows as well. Foraging is an exception that we will cover in another post.

Don’t disturb wildlife – Keep your distance from the wildlife you encounter. And never leave the trail to get a closer look at an animal – it can hurt the habitat and the animal, and put you in danger. We’ve all seen those Yellowstone bison videos – don’t be that guy!

Check trailhead guidelines – Trails occasionally have very specific rules. It’s a good idea to give trailhead signage a once-over. In addition to guidelines, there are often important announcements about things like trail conditions.

Follow guidelines for pets – Most trails allow dogs, but some do not. Check before bringing your pets. Also, follow leash laws. There are some trails that don’t require dogs to be on-leash, but most do. And always clean up after your pet, (and yourself while you’re at it) and pack it out.

Learn more about how you can be a steward of our trails and natural areas by visiting Caring For Our Coast.

A Picture of Adam Sawyer
Adam Sawyer
Adam Sawyer is an outdoor and travel writer, photographer, and published guidebook author based out of Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Northwest Travel, Portland Monthly, Columbia River Gorge, Central Oregon, and Backpacker Magazines. He currently pens articles as the Portland Hiking Examiner for and authored the bi-weekly column Portland Family Outdoors for Craigmore Creations. He was the co-host of the KEEN HybridLife Radio Show for its duration and now serves as a Brand Ambassador for the company. In addition to “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” he is the author of the forthcoming "Best Adventures Near Portland," and the co-author of "Hiking Waterfalls in Washington," all for Falcon Guides. Adam is also a “Resident Expert” for Portland Walking Tours and leads a variety of tours through the streets of Portland, including the company’s popular Epicurean Excursion. Follow him at: