Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Hiking Etiquette – Listening to nature

June 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Nature, Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

I was MORTIFIED the other day when hiking with a regular hiking group.

We started at Muir Woods and I wanted to go ahead to warm up before our climb.  Plus, the quiet of Muir Woods early in the morning is magical.  I passed a gentleman and his son experiencing the wonder of this national monument.  I overheard the tourist quietly challenging his son to find a more wondrous experience.  He said it’s better than being in church.   I stopped to point out a few of the natural wonders with them.  We found ourselves whispering because the silence of the woods was serene and profound.  There’s even a sign asking people to respect the quiet of the woods.

Towards the end of the woods, I heard a cacophony of sound resonating thru the forest.  I knew immediately that it was “my” hiking group approaching.  I felt embarrassed.  The man and his son pulled to the side so the group could pass and I told him to go along because – thankfully – we were heading up a trail out of Muir Woods.

This hike was on the small side for this group – maybe 10 people, vs. the usual 15 to 20.  Imagine what that kind of noise an even larger group would have made.  This is a nature experience people go to early so they can enjoy the serenity and majesty of the big trees.

Large groups often have multiple conversations going on and people have to speak more loudly as they compete to be heard.  Long ago a woman, standing on a bridge over the stream at Muir Woods, asked our small group of 4 to be quiet.  I thanked her for reminding me.   I have a friend who hikes behind just so he can hear the sounds of nature.  Many times, I’ve had to remind  our hiking group to please be quiet as we approach and are near water.   I wish I did not have to remind people that part of the experience of hiking – in addition to the EXERCISE and the socialization –  is being able to hear the birds and the water and the wind.

I am going to request RADIO SILENCE the next time I lead an early morning group through Muir Woods.  Good luck to me.

Does this post resonate with you?  Or tick you off?  Either way, thanks for reading!


4 Responses to “Hiking Etiquette – Listening to nature”
  1. Ellen says:

    Brilliant post, Jayah. Quiet is always best in situations (specifically natural ones, but also galleries, churches etc.) where we might share space with others outside of our group. I think of it as the equivalent of “white” way of being – it goes with everything and, generally, clashes with nothing. Cheers

  2. I just added a link to your article in one I just published about packing for a day hike. Wilderness etiquette is important to me, and groups can disrupt the entire experience, not to mention loose dogs harassing wildlife. Thank you for your article.
    Your link can be found at
    I hope you don’t mind the link, but your message is worth passing on!

  3. voltairesmistress says:

    Absolutely, this resonates with me. I wish people would make a distinction between exercising/socializing and hiking/nature observation, and would choose where they exercised so as not to ruin the experience for the quiet observers. This will happen just as soon as Americans learn to speak softly in restaurants. Never. As Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” 😉

  4. Susan Johnson says:

    Haha… I do agree with you . The group hiking is so very different then single hiking. I usually hike with one friend or by myself. Altho , I have gone on a couple group hikes. The commraderie is nice but you don’t really experience the hike same as you do alone. I prefer to go alone or with one other.

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