Hiking is a great activity for social distancing 98% of the time.
It gets you out of the house and in daylight, which helps you feel good. It’s a great way to exercise. It’s all fresh air. For the most part, there’s no reason to touch things that other people have touched.
But there is 2% of the time, where it’s not great for social distancing. This happens when you are walking on a narrow trail and you come across someone else going the other direction and then you are within 3 feet of each other, not social distancing anymore. Try to responsibly step off the trail to maintain the 6 feet recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hiking has always had an etiquette code, and if we all agree to expand the code just a little bit we can navigate that 2% and carry on.
Here are five pieces of advice:
• Say hello: Greeting people you meet is a long-established piece of hiking etiquette. Besides just being nice, it’s a way to pass on information about any conditions on the trail. Now it’s also a way to start the conversation to figure out how you are going to pass each other with some distance, i.e. who is pulling over onto the side of the trail. No high fives!
• Right of way: To help figure out who might pull over — particularly on narrow trails — there are actually pre-existing right of way rules. The hiker going uphill is generally agreed to have right of way to preserve their momentum.
• How to pass: Some people are faster walkers than others and pass from behind. The proper way to do this is to say “Hello, passing on your left,” because greetings are nice.
•Single file: Another old piece of hiking etiquette is to hike single file when possible, as it’s easier on the trails. But this becomes particularly important in the age of COVID-19 when two groups of people are passing each other. The polite thing is for both groups to form single file lines to create some distance. Remember, one of the reasons you picked hiking as your activity of choice is the social distance.
• A word on dogs: Your dogs should be on a leash, and people should always ask before petting them. Though, in this case, if you’re the one greeting someone else’s pooch, it might be better to skip the petting and just tell the dog they are very good in your warmest voice.
Happy trails and stay well.