From Canada’s Banff National Park to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, North America has a wealth of amazing hiking experiences. But whether you’re new to the game or an experienced hiker, it’s always good to stick with a group.

People love the peace and quiet they find on hiking trails, and it’s true that hiking is a good way to relieve stress, explore new parts of the world, and unplug for a bit. But, hiking alone is not the best way to enjoy a trail because of the dangers that can arise when you are alone in the great outdoors. It is much better to hike in a group and take the necessary safety precautions. The following tips will ensure you enjoy your time on the hiking trail as safely as possible.

  1. Choose an Experienced Group Leader

Even if you’re hiking with friends, you want to make sure that someone is the designated group leader. Ideally, this person is a natural strong leader and has outdoors experience. The group leader should have an objective in mind that is appropriate for all members of the hiking group, so be sure to choose a leader who knows the skills and abilities of the hikers and avoid pushing anyone too hard. The leader also should be prepared to divide jobs and gear equally based on interests and skills. And, to make sure that everyone enjoys the hike, the group leader should be someone who explains decisions, gets consensus from the group, and keeps tabs on every group member individually to ensure they’re not overstressed or exhausted.

  1. Keep the Group Together

The point of hiking with a group is to ensure everyone’s safety. So, one of the most important hiking safety rules is to stay together. Most likely, group members will have varying abilities, so some people can hike faster than others. However, the safest bet is to hike at a pace that everyone finds comfortable and allows the group leader to see everyone at all times. Of course, you’ll want to stay on the trail as a group and be aware of your surroundings in order to be aware of impending storms, potential trail hazards, and wild animals.

If you have trouble keeping a good pace for everyone, put the slowest members in the lead. They will take breaks that will give everyone an opportunity to rest and stay hydrated, especially if you’re hiking in especially warm areas of the country.

  1. Make Sure All Group Members Understand the Rules of the Trail

Hiking should be an enjoyable experience for everyone on the trail including fellow hikers who are not part of your group. That’s why it’s important to make sure that all your group members understand the rules of the trail and proper hiking etiquette. If you are hiking with an extremely large group on an especially busy trail, split your group into smaller groups and hike in single file to give other hikers room to pass you. If your group encounters single or paired hikers, keep in mind that they have the option of stopping and waiting for your large group or continuing on their way.

Get a feel for the particular hiking trail on which you travel to know whether your large group should yield to a single hiker or smaller groups of hikers. There is some debate about whether large groups cause too much damage to plant life near the trail when they stop off to allow others to pass. In some cases, single hikers and small groups of hikers may yield to you because it is easier for them to make way for your large group. Another way to make sure that your group is hiking responsibly is to follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

You are sure to enjoy your hike and have a safer time on the trails if you choose an experienced group leader, keep the group together, and make sure all group members understand the rules of the trail.

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