Six Things New Hikers Should Know

Six Things New Hikers Should KnowAfter hiking one of the most popular trails yesterday, I thought of a few important things new hikers need to know:

  1. Hiking etiquette-when hiking on any trail stay to your right when you are passing oncoming hikers. This may mean you have to walk single file if you are with a group. Be courteous to those hiking on the cliff side. If other hikers are coming up behind you, be mindful and let them pass on the left by going single file or by stopping to the side.
  2. Trail Markers-some trails, especially in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park(GSMNP), have trail markers. At the beginning of a trail, there will be what’s called a trailhead sign. This will tell you the ONE-WAY mileage of the trail.  Some trails have brochures you can pick up, some for a donation and some free. These brochures highlight certain aspects along the trail and are denoted by numbered markers on the trail. Some people confuse these with mile markers. They are not the same thing! Usually, if a trail has mile markers, it will say M or Miles on the marker. (I will update after I snap a picture from our next hike) Below is an example of different signage you might see. The first is a trailhead sign you will usually see near the parking area at the start of the trail. This is in one-way mileage. The second picture is of handy markers that were along the trail at Bud Ogle’s place. It helps guide you on the trail as it goes rocks and can be hard to tell which way the actual trail goes. The third picture below shows the same concept but in a different way. This particular trail system marks theirs by color. As you can see in the fourth picture, the Sycamore Falls Trailhead marker has a blue flashing on it. Along the trail itself, it will have flashing tacked to trees to indicate the actual trail.
    Forney Ridge Trailhead Sign
    Trailhead Sign
    Trail Guide Marker
    Trail Guide Marker
    Trail Guide Marker
    Trail Guide Marker

    Sycamore Falls Trailhead Sign
    Sycamore Falls Trailhead Sign
  3. Pack in-Pack out-There is nothing worse than sitting down on a rock for lunch and learning that it was someone’s potty before you got there because their soggy tissue is still on the ground! Yesterday, on the hike there was an older gentlemen actually cleaning these and other trash off the trail. It’s simple, if you are taking tissues, take a bag to discard them in and carry it out to the trash. The park is not a trash can. For a helpful list of what to pack click here.
  4. Bear proof cars- don’t leave any food in your cars if you are hiking in areas where there are bear which is all of the GSMNP area. Don’t leave your food wrappers either! Bear have a great sense of smell and will break into your vehicle. It’s not worth it. Hike with your snacks or leave them in the room. If you hike with snacks, see #3!
  5. Water-always carry water with you! If you happen to fall and break your leg, you may be waiting for help for a while. It’s better to be prepared! On most hikes, we usually carry a bottle for the way in and one for the way out. Longer hikes or hikes that we pack a full picnic for, we take more.
  6. Pets-pets are not allowed on any trail in the GSMNP. The only trail that allows them that I know of at this point is the Gatlinburg Trail. Check all trail allowances before heading out! Most visitor centers can tell you the rules long before you bring your fur-baby to the woods.

We meet new hikers all the time that aren’t prepared, that don’t understand the trail systems, wearing the wrong shoes and all kinds of other hiking faux pas. We were there once, too.  That’s why we are sharing what we know. We are not experts by any means but we want to share what we have learned over the years. Comment below with your hiking questions!

six things new hikers should know




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  1. robin rue says:

    Yes! Take your trash with you! I HATE when I am out hiking and other people’s litter is laying on the ground.

  2. I haven’t been hiking in years, so I would be a beginner again lol. My parents used to hike often when we lived in North Carolina. We even did portions of the Appalachian Trail , which was so much fun!

    1. We love that area! We will be back there this summer!

    1. I love that you get the kids out hiking!!!! That is wonderful!

  3. Yes! These are great etiquette rules! And, this has me sooo ready and excited for hiking this summer! Bring it on!

    1. Where are you heading?

  4. This is important stuff a lot of people don’t realize when they go camping. Thanks for sharing this info and safety tips!

  5. I’ve never been hiking before but this looks like fun!! I will have to plan a hiking day with the family.

  6. Love the tips – especially staying to the right. Why dont people “get” that basic law of the road/course/way? haha!

  7. We like to hike but I suppose not far enough that we can’t get back to the bathroom. 🙂 You would think people hiking the trails would be more conscious of littering and wanting to protect the beauty of nature. Great tips though for our next trip!

  8. Great tips! I would love to hike and as I become more healthy, it is what I plan to do. Thank you!

    1. I don’t know what kind of fitness plan you are on but as you become healthier, one of the best exercises to prepare for hiking is the elliptical. Start at an easy level. Then every couple of minutes up the level by one until you can’t take it anymore (like walking in quicksand) and then take it back down and start again. That and uphill on the treadmill. If you live in a hilly area outside would be even better. I train on the elliptical for our trips so I can keep up with the hubs!

  9. I did a bit of hiking when I was in Hawaii and I did see a lot of people trying to hike in shoes which were totally inappropriate for the trails x

  10. Great tips. Some of them kind of remind me of subway etiquette, lol. Nothing grosses me out more than to see people just leave their trash on the ground or where ever. It really isn’t that hard to pick it up.

    1. LOL! I don’t know why they toss it to begin with. Like the whole world is their trash can. Drives me crazy!

  11. Reesa Lewandowski says:

    I am going to share this our cub scout pack since we are all going camping this weekend and hiking is one of our requirements. Thank you!

    1. Great! Happy to be a resource for them!

  12. I’m taking notes on all of these because my hubby and I were just talking about all the trails we want to hike this summer!

  13. I’ve never really been hiking, but enjoy going on walks with my husband from time to time. These are great tips which I’m sure can be very useful for those new to hiking.

  14. Ugh hate seeing trash on the trails. Really annoying. Also if you do hike with your dog pick up their poop! As a dog owner this is a pet peeve.

  15. These are great tips. We have a two year old daughter and haven’t done much hiking lately but would love to get back into it as a family hobby.

  16. Hiking is amazing, it’s one of the best ways to appreciate nature. I think these are great tips! It’s a good guide for people who are thinking of hiking without prior experience.

  17. We have so many trails in our town/backyard (we have 20+ acres of hiking land). These were perfect tips!

  18. These are wonderful tips. I will be hiking in New Hampshire this summer, and will definitely keep all of this in mind. The shoes. One time I went hiking with the wrong footwear. I will NEVER do that again. My poor feet probably still haven’t forgiven me. Also, forgetting bug spray. Total nightmare. You live and you learn!

  19. I had no idea that there was a code for hiking etiquette. It’s important to educate oneself before embarking on a new activity or hobby.

  20. Krystle Cook says:

    Hiking is one of our favorite things to do when the weather is nice. This is such a helpful post!

  21. I’ve been craving a good hike lately but I’m not a hiker! What a perfect time to stumble across this! Thanks for sharing!

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