Hiking taboos: 9 things you should never do while hiking

There are things while hiking that you should never do and they are a taboo. Unless you want to be the most unpopular person on the hiking trip.

from Martin Gebhardt | Hiking | reading time 7 Min
Updated on 06 February 2024 12.532 views 100% found this guide helpful
Hiking taboos: 9 things you should never do while hiking

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Do not feed or disturb wild animals
  • Dodge, leaving room for other wanderers
  • Don't leave litter in nature
  • Do not smoke around other hikers
  • Keep your distance from other people
  • Avoid loud music and don't disturb the tranquility of nature

Are you just starting out with hiking or are you already an experienced hiking pro?

Anyway - most people know that they shouldn't go hiking in flip-flops or leave plastic food packaging in the forest.

But the culture of hiking has much more to offer, perhaps things you don't know yet.

The following list of hiking tips focuses on hiking taboos - things you should never do.

Unless you want to be the most unpopular person on the hiking trip.

1. Do not feed or disturb wild animals

As a hiker, you are responsible for the nature you move in. Therefore, never feed animals and do not disturb them in any way.

If you see an animal, it is a great experience. Just enjoy it and observe it calmly.

Feeding not only makes an animal sick and suffer a painful death. It can also cause animals to seek closer proximity to humans.

This can lead to the animal possibly having to be put to sleep. For this reason, you should also not leave any food scraps on your path.

You probably find it cute to throw a piece of bread to a curious animal. But it's not, it's actually harmful to the animal.

You should avoid doing this if you are an animal lover: Feeding wild animals
You should avoid doing this if you are an animal lover: Feeding wild animals

Basically, this is the case everywhere, in the city when feeding ducks or in the zoo - don't just feed the animals because you find it cute. Especially with wild animals, it is important to leave them alone. Influence nature as little as possible.

No matter where you go hiking, make sure to inform yourself about the regulations and rules. In a national park, there are specific rules about how close you are allowed to get to animals.

This can even be punished with a fine or imprisonment if you break these rules. In general, I urge you: as soon as an animal changes its natural behavior because of you, you have come too close to it.

2. Go to the side and make space

You are walking uphill on a hiking trail and people are coming towards you. What do you do?

Actually, the rule is quite simple: on a path designated for hikers only, everyone going uphill has the right of way. So you only need to step aside if you are going downhill.

However, the situation is different when the path to mixed use is open. Here, there is a different hierarchy:

  1. Everyone makes room for horses with their riders.
  2. Hikers must give way to riders, but not to cyclists, mountain bikers, and bike packers. However, it is sometimes easier to give way to a biker, as they may have difficulty maneuvering. Especially when going uphill, they are usually out of breath.
  3. If you encounter a rider, try to clear the path enough for the horses to have a few meters of space. Horses easily get scared.
  4. In general, pass on information to cyclists or riders, such as the number of hikers still to come. This way, the person passing by can prepare themselves.

Regardless of all these rules, it is good if you generally behave considerately and do not insist on your rights.

Hiking is a great way to get out and explore nature. But it can also be frustrating if you don't consider others.
Hiking is a great way to get out and explore nature. But it can also be frustrating if you don't consider others.

3. Don't leave any trash

I'm sure you're already aware: the most important rule you must follow on your journey is not to leave any trash behind.

Although I'm sure I don't have to explain it to you: throwing trash into nature is simply terrible for the planet and the people.

Why are you in nature? To enjoy its beauty, the tranquility, and the fresh air. How foolish would it be then, to destroy exactly what we are seeking there.

Don't litter in nature because you are always a role model for everyone else. And besides, you would rather not receive disapproving looks from others, do you?

For your benefit, it is important to save nature from our waste, as it poisons it and takes away its beauty.

By the way: when I say trash, I don't just mean plastic waste, but also: banana peels, toilet paper, and cigarette butts. The latter are actually particularly toxic.

It's best to obey the rule for Bushcrafters: Leave nature exactly as you found it.

Leave-No-Trace is a concept that refers to the idea of minimizing human impact on the environment. It encourages people to properly dispose of all their trash, avoid fires, and generally be mindful of limiting their negative effects on the natural environment.
Leave-No-Trace is a concept that refers to the idea of minimizing human impact on the environment. It encourages people to properly dispose of all their trash, avoid fires, and generally be mindful of limiting their negative effects on the natural environment.

Reading tip: How to properly and sustainably go to the toilet in the forest

4. Don't smoke like a chimney

You are the one who decides how to live your life. I would rather not dictate that you should quit smoking.

But I can tell you, the very last thing I want to smell in the great outdoors is cigarette smoke (e-cigarettes included!).

I immediately get in a bad mood because it bites in my nose and is damn uncomfortable. After all, I go hiking in nature specifically to enjoy the fresh air.

Furthermore, never underestimate the risk of forest fires in summer. You certainly don't want a forest fire to break out because you were careless with your cigarette butt or even end up in prison for it.

In addition, you must definitely pick up and take away the remnants of your cigarettes because - as mentioned above - they are damn toxic to the ground.

It seems strange to me to struggle up a mountain, only to fill your lungs with toxic smoke at the top.

But okay, if that's your wish, then you'll have to do it. But remember to stay as far away from other hikers as possible, especially when there's a breeze.

For non-smokers, it is precisely the opposite, their experience of the fresh air is only disturbed by cigarette smoke.

If you are a smoker, please consider that your smoke bothers others
If you are a smoker, please consider that your smoke bothers others

5. Don't run too close to others

People who hike enjoy the peace and vastness of nature. Let them have this space.

Sure, there are narrow hiking trails where you inevitably have to get closer to each other. However, if that's not the case, leave enough space between you and other people hiking with you.

Normal hiking trails are wide enough to give each other space.

Now you may be wondering: how much space is appropriate so that you don't appear intrusive, but also don't stay too far away and appear distant?

Well, how else is your life going, how are you doing in your job? Be attentive and trust your sense of comfortable distance.

Just be polite: if a faster group appears behind you, let them pass instead of trying to go faster.

If you and another group seem to be moving at the same pace, take a longer break to let them get ahead, or accelerate strongly to create some distance.

wandern am berg

6. Listen to loud music

You probably know it: Your music only sounds good to you.

Usually, it sounds terrible to anyone else who isn't walking right next to you. And playing music outdoors is nothing more than noise in nature. It disturbs the environment, and you startle the animals.

And you might not like to hear this, but: Your music is not as good as you think. Even if you were listening to the best music, your fellow hikers would rather not hear it. Trust me.

This applies to all types of music. For many hikers, being outdoors is an opportunity to enjoy the sounds of nature or have a quiet conversation. Loud music is noise pollution - and noise pollution for the environment.

If you want to listen to music (or, my favorite, my podcast), that's totally okay - but then use headphones. But be careful that you can still hear people and animals around you on the way.

You can, for example, listen to your music or podcast on one ear, leaving the other ear free. This way, you can be sure to still hear people behind you and other important sounds.

Bluetooth speakers are simply cruel for people who want to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature
Bluetooth speakers are simply cruel for people who want to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature

7. Stay on the paths

Sure, I completely understand that. You're curious and eager to explore the area, even to leave the paths and walk through the forest.

Nevertheless, I have to tell you: don't do that. Stick to the official paths. Otherwise, there is always the risk of damaging small plants or scaring animals.

When small plants are damaged, they die. Additionally, you have to assume that not only you will come up with the idea to walk through nature, but also other hikers.

When many people walk on the forest floor, small plants die and the soil erodes.

If you forge your path, you unfortunately contribute to damaging ecosystems, even if you just walk around a few trees.

If you stray further away from the official paths, you also put yourself in danger. If you get injured, it will be much more difficult for a rescue team to find you.

8. Do not deface trees and rocks

The best thing is - and this applies to Bushcrafters as well as hikers: undertake your hike in such a way that no one can find out afterward that you were there.

The biggest no-go is to burden the environment, damage nature.

For this reason, as a hiker, you should apply the "Leave No Trace" principle (also known as the Leave-no-Trace principle). So do not leave the designated hiking trail. Leave the nature around you as it is.

But the most outrageous offense is deliberately defacing or destroying specially protected areas.

That includes scratching something into the bark of trees (which kills trees), leaving traces on rocks, or defacing sacred, protected, or historical sites.

The penalties depend on the federal state and the country, but you can face fines of up to 50,000 euros or more and up to three years in prison.

Damaging plants, trees, and animals is a no-go
Damaging plants, trees, and animals is a no-go

9. Keep control of your dog

Do you have a dog? As a proud dog owner, you naturally want to take your dog out into nature.

But always make sure that your chosen hiking trail is dog-friendly. National parks (like in Berchtesgaden) are usually not, by the way.

But even if it is dog-friendly, that doesn't mean you can let your dog run off-leash.

And even if it is explicitly allowed, you should have your dog under control so that he obeys you unquestionably.

Your fellow hikers may be afraid of dogs. Or they may have their dogs with them, which can lead to conflicts.

Keep in mind that the domestic dog is not a natural part of a forest environment. Your dog can scare wild animals such as wild boars, deer, and rabbits, and its scent can confuse smaller mammals.

If you go hiking with your dog, it's better to keep him on a leash
If you go hiking with your dog, it's better to keep him on a leash

Please keep in mind that your free-roaming dog is exposed to pathogens, especially in the water.

Or he exposes himself to the danger of larger animals, such as wild boars, or smaller predators like vipers or nasty insects, such as ticks.

And this may surprise you, but it's damn important: never leave your dog's poop bag in the forest. Seriously - if you forgot, turn around and get it. It's garbage that is harmful and toxic to nature in every way.

Read also: Bushcraft with Dog - what do you absolutely need to pay attention to?

Conclusion: To enjoy nature, there are things you should avoid while hiking

Hiking is a great way to connect with nature. However, there are some things you should avoid for your safety and the safety of others.

I am convinced that only in this way peaceful and harmonious coexistence on the trail is possible. You have to consider that we often walk through the living rooms of wild animals. How would you feel if someone barged into your living room and loudly made themselves at home, leaving behind trash in the end?

A great gesture would be if you even pick up trash that other people - who didn't know any better - have left behind.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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