An Open Letter About Hitting the Trail

Dear hikers:

The time is now. The skies are blue. The desert is green. The mountains are ripe for climbing. Urban trails across the state are teeming with people — locals and visitors alike — eager to bag a peak. Go forth and hike, friends. But before you do, brush up on a few tips to keep your climb from going downhill:

1. Pack water. More than you'll think you'll need. Starbucks doesn’t count, so if you’re trying to climb Piestewa Peak with your latte in hand, reconsider. Chances are good that you’ll feel the slog of dehydration before you’re halfway up.

2. Shoes matter. Vans, Toms and flip-flops may be fashionable, but they’re not built for the trail. Your soles and ankles will thank you if you spring for a good pair of trail runners or hiking boots.

3. Speaking of runners, if you’re a freight train coming down the mountain, please remember that uphill climbers have the right of way. Speed doesn’t translate to an inalienable right to run into and through the lesser mortals with whom you have to share the trail.

4. If you move at a slower pace, don’t fret. Enjoy the hike and the views. But try to stay to the right side of the trail. That way, faster climbers can maneuver past you. If you feel the breath of another hiker on your neck when the trail is narrow, just move to the side as soon as it’s safe. If you’re a neck breather, chill out, OK? Trailgating is not cool. Count to five and look for a place to safely pass. Then use the manners your mama taught you and say “hello” and “thank you.”

5. Save your selfie for the top. The middle of the trail is no place to take 16 test shots before settling on the perfect one. Nor is it a place to run the one through the Instagram filters (Slumber is the best!) and post it to Facebook. Fixing your hair, taking a phone call, applying lip gloss, searching your pack, eating a Slim Jim? Those activities should be reserved for the sides of the trail, too.

6. Music is great, but not everyone wants to hear what you’re listening to — especially if it’s Gino Vannelli, The Notorious B.I.G. or that jazz metal band you’ve been obsessed with lately. Keep your tunes in your ear buds and off your speakers. And for those of you who carry boomboxes in your backpacks ... well, that's just rude.

7. When most people sweat, it stinks. And it’s OK. There’s no need to pretend like your natural fragrance is Axe body spray — because no one believes you. Save the colognes and perfumes for after your hike. Climbing is hard enough. Gagging on Brut just makes it harder.

8. Even on urban trails, the principles of Leave No Trace still apply. Those three words should be self-explanatory. If you're not familiar, visit Also, just because things like orange peels and banana peels are biodegradable, it can take six weeks or more for them to disappear into the soil — probably longer on trails like Camelback and Piestewa Peak. The point is, trash is trash. Please pack it out.

Now hit the trail. And be safe and kind.

Photo: Phoenix's Piestewa Peak, as seen from Camelback Mountain. | Kelly Vaughn Kramer


Great posting - but you forgot to mention dogs. What is it with people leaving their little blue bags (or the actual deposits! ick!) along the side of the trail or in the middle of the trail. Who do they think is going to pick it up? And maybe you think your dog is cute and maybe he/she is - but that doesn't mean I want it sniffing me or rubbing up against me. I think people should have their dogs on short leashes.

And please pick up after yourself. Nobody wants to see your toilet paper on the trail, on the side of the trail, or anywhere on the ground.

As a dog owner, if it's an out-and-back trail, i'll leave the poop bags on the side of the trail and pick it up on the way back--there's no reason to carry it (and smell it!) for longer than necessary. Loop trails are, of course, different.

Wrong. It does not matter whether it is an out and back trail or not. The law says you must pick up and remove pet waste immediately. Not pick it up later after everybody else on the trail gets to view and potentially step in it. Polite dog owners respect the law and other people and carry it.

okay -such a fun subject but important. If you carry a zip bag-after scooping up the "stuff" zip inside a zip bag, and no more smell for the rest of the walk.

Good advice. All of it. Just one thing - why take a shot at musical preferences in #6? Exactly what does that add?

After humping it 8 Mikes from the trailhead, I don't want to hear your high volume favorite metal combined with your whiskey fueled howls of laughter and stupidity. If that's what you need to express yourself, go to a downtown club...

I love your humorous but pointed comments. It's always is amazing to me what people take along. Hair brush--no,no--put a hat on your head. Leave music at home. How can you hear your surroundings if you are attached to your I-pod? I would like to take your comments on perfume etc. to the gym also.

Not everyone loves your dog. Keep your dog on your right, keep yourself between your dog and fellow hikers.

And make sure it's on a leash! Unless the trail happens to be in the middle of a dog park, ALL trails that allow dogs REQUIRE that they are on a leash! Somebody else already tackled the "picking up after them" part so I won't repeat that one.

Kudos to those who keep their dogs on leash. Just FYI, in Phoenix at least, the leash must be six feet or under. Those retractable ones need to be kept short.

Even though this may sound good to you, dog training (and showing) is dog on the left. The short leash rule should be sufficient, but some people just suck and shouldn't be on the trails.

One rule of eiquette that I was surprised was not included was that the right of way should always go to the uphill hiker when the trail is too narrow for both. Step to the side and let them keep their pace going the more difficult way uphill. And of course a thank you is due for the consideration. #6 is my particular pet peeve. I don't want your playlist blaring on my hike.

Uphill right of way was mentioned as runners running down still must give to uphill right of way

Uphill right of way was mentioned as runners running down still must give to uphill right of way

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