Hiking with Kids in the Santa Monica Mountains

Trail Etiquette and Hiking Safety
Page 2 of 6   |  

Trail Etiquette

To keep damage to a minimum, please observe a few elementary rules when hiking.

1. Pack out your trash. It shouldn't be necessary to remind anyone of this. Still, every backcountry traveler has come across soft-drink cans, film containers, candy wrappers or worse on the trail. If you can carry it in, you can certainly carry it out. Some hikers, in fact, make it a point to carry out more than they carried in, cleaning up after their less thoughtful fellow travelers.

2. Be respectful toward your fellow foot-travelers. Let faster-moving parties pass, keep noise to a minimum, acknowledge the desire for solitude that sends many people into the wilderness in the first place. Obey regulations, which in many areas prohibit pets, vehicles (including bicycles) and firearms or other weapons on the trails.

3. Leave everything as you found it. It is illegal to disturb plants or wildlife in most areas under federal or state jurisdiction, or to remove archaeological artifacts, dead wood, fossils or other geological features. If you must carry away a memento of your visit, make sure it's only a photograph. This is particularly important on the Channel Islands, where there are many exposed archaeological sites and where the rare, native plants are desperately vulnerable to damage. Wildlife in the islands is also uniquely susceptible to disturbance, and all rules must be rigidly enforced if the fragile ecosystems there are to remain in their remarkable state.

Hiking Safety

Even if you plan to spend no more than a few hours on the trail, you should observe a few elementary, common-sense precautions. Few of these trails will take you far from civilization, but each year hikers in these relatively tame wildlands become lost, suffer from exposure and require rescuing because they misjudged their abilities or failed to prepare.

1. Tell someone where you're going. Leave a precise description of your route with someone at home, and tell them when you plan to return. Do not deviate from that plan. If you get in trouble, searchers won't be able to find you unless you're where you were supposed to be.

2. Don't hike alone. Wilderness travel is always a risky undertaking; a misstep and a badly twisted or broken ankle can turn even a short day hike into a life-threatening experience. If you have a companion, one of you will be able to seek help. Solo travel has its charms, but it is only for the most experienced and self-reliant of backcountry travelers.

3. Prepare for the weather. Conditions change rapidly in the mountains, and a soaking fog can rapidly close in on travelers along the coast. Although conditions are unlikely to become life-threatening, it is always prudent to carry extra clothing that will keep you warm when wet. Conversely, some of these hikes traverse countryside that is torrid in the summer, in which case light-colored clothing and a sun hat will be more useful. On trips to the islands, visitors may encounter soaking sea spray, howling winds, dense fog and blistering sunall on a single day trip. Dress in layers and be prepared for anything.

4. Know where you're going. You'll get more out of your hike if you study your route beforehand, carry a guide with you and bring the appropriate topographic maps. The map and a compassplus the ability to use themwill help you identify landmarks visible as you travel, which adds greatly to the enjoyment of a hike. They'll also help to keep you from getting lostsomething that detracts greatly from the enjoyment of a hike.

5. Don't overdo it. Hike like the average hiker in decent physical condition, not a triathlete or a marathon-runner. Set a comfortable pace and you'll get where you're going without any problem.

6. Equip yourself properly. Pack snacks for quick energy. Carry plenty of wateran average person needs a gallon a day in hot weather. Carry a first-aid kit. Dress appropriately for the weather.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »