Hiking Etiquette

01/04/2014 12:01 pm ET | Updated Mar 06, 2014

A quote from Lewis Carroll in my book, A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette, says it all. "If you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there."

When was the last time you stepped on a mountaintop? If recently, then you probably know the hiking drill. If not, it can't hurt to brush up on the do's and don'ts of hiking etiquette. No matter how short or long your trail, being smart goes the distance when it comes to the outdoors.

Every winter my husband and I make our annual trek to Hawaii to escape the winter cold and rain in our hometown. My husband golfs. I hike. For the past couple of years, I have noticed hikers big and small (as in children) wearing high-heeled shoes on the trail on Diamond Head. (And I know my designers: Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Manolo.) Others wore no shoes at all, and many were without water bottles and hats. One of the first rules of hiking is not to expose yourself or others to danger, and that includes damaging the trail, hurting your feet and risking dehydration and sunburn.

Here's some advice from an expert on how to hike safely and with courtesy toward other hikers. Meet Susie Rooker Ngarangad, senior personal trainer and fifteen-year group-exercise instructor at the Presidio YMCA in San Francisco, and my hike leader on Fridays. Susie, a native San Franciscan, an avid hiker, and a nature lover, has been leading hikes on the back trails of the Presidio National Park for the past eleven years. Her take on it: "As a naturalist and environmentalist at heart, I adopt a no-nonsense approach to hiking outdoors. The destination, terrain and the technical difficulty for a particular area/park will dictate the most appropriate etiquette/attire. But in general: Stop (or slow down, at least), look, listen and feel."
Here are some other basic tips for your next excursion into nature:

10 Hiking Tips for Both Seasoned and Novice Hikers

1. Do map out your plan. If you're on holiday, get hiking maps and directions from your hotel. In state parks, register with the park ranger and get a trail map.

2. Do play it safe. Carry your phone, cash and health card for emergencies, and by all means always hike with another person.

3. Do dress for the climate. If it's hot, a long-sleeved shirt is a must. At the very least, slather on sunscreen and wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun.

4. Do hydrate before, during and after your hike. Most trails do not offer a water source, so plan ahead.

5. Don't be a litterbug on the trail. Bring out all the packaging, bottles and other trash you take in with you, and either place it in recycling bins at the trail head or take it home. And pick up other people's trash along the way.

6. Do be courteous to your fellow hikers. Walk on the right, pass on the left. If there is no room for you to pass, then wait your turn. Also, be prepared to share the trail with faster hikers, horses or mountain bikes.

7. Don't starve yourself. If the hike is a long one, eat something ahead of time and bring high-energy snacks such as protein bars or trail mix to eat on the trail.

8. Do wear hiking shoes. Lucky for you if the trail is paved, but most are not. Support your body. You only have one set of feet!

9. Don't call your friends while hiking. It's the outdoors, and talking on a phone is disruptive to other hikers. Take a photo instead and upload it to Instagram.

10. Use common sense. Finally, more wise words from Susie Rooker Ngarangad: "Turning an ankle, stepping on a beehive, getting sunburned or poison oak rash, getting lost without water or enough layers to weather the cold when the sun goes down or a storm rolls in would be a total bummer and in some cases downright dangerous." Use common sense whenever and wherever you hike: Do your research ahead of time, know your environment, be prepared, watch where you're going and follow all trail rules.

Enjoy the journey, and here's to good health in the new year!

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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