The Hiker Responsibility Code is a set of principles that all hikers can look to before they hit the trail. Similar to the Skier’s Responsibility Code endorsed by the National Ski Areas Association, the Hiker Responsibility Code was created to help hikers become more self aware about their responsibility for their own safety every time they are on a hike. It also acknowledges the inherent danger of hiking in the backcountry, and encourages hikers to be better prepared every time they are on the trail. The Hiker Responsibility Code was developed and is endorsed by the White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game.
Hiker Responsibility Code
You are responsible for yourself, so be prepared…
- …with knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start
- …to leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.
- …to stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
- …to turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
- …for emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
- …to share the hiker code with others.
Travel responsibly on designated roads, trails and areas.
- Stay on the trail even if it is rough or muddy.
- Walk single file to avoid widening the trail.
- Spread out in open country where there are no trails rather than following each others’ footsteps—this avoids creating a new trail and disperses your impact on the land.
- Comply with all signs and respect barriers. Buddy up with two or three hikers to reduce vulnerability in case of an accident.
Respect the rights of others
- Respect the rights of others, including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed.
- Be considerate of others on the road or trail.
- Leave any gates as you found them.
- Proceed with caution around horses and pack animals. Sudden, unfamiliar activity may spook animals, putting you in danger.
- When you encounter horses on the trail, move to the downhill side of the trail. Stop and ask the rider the best way to proceed.
- Keep your companion animals under control to protect yourself, other people and wildlife.
- If crossing private property ALWAYS ask permission from the landowner.
- Keep noise to a minimum.
Educate yourself and take care
Educate yourself prior to a trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies, planning for your trip, taking recreation skills classes and knowing how to operate your equipment safely.
- Obtain a map of your destination and determine which areas are open to you.
- Make a realistic plan and stick to it. Always tell someone your travel plans.
- Contact the land manager for area restrictions, closures and permit requirements.
- Check the weather forecast for your destination and plan accordingly for supplies, clothing and equipment. Don’t neglect appropriate footwear in all weather.
- Carry a compass or a GPS unit and know how to use it.
- Carry water and emergency supplies even on short hikes.
- Dress in layers and always carry a jacket to be prepared for quickly-changing weather conditions.
- Never allow the weight of your pack to exceed one third of your body weight.
- Avoid sensitive areas such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands, streams, seasonal nesting or breeding areas.
- Do not disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites.
- Keep your distance from wildlife.
- Remember that motorized and mechanical vehicles are not allowed in designated Wilderness Areas.
Do your part
Do your part by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and restoring degraded areas.
The longest journey begins with a single step. Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching