Hiking is a recreational experience. As such, hikers expect it to be pleasant. Sometimes hikers can interfere with each others' enjoyment, or the enjoyment of other users of the land. Such interference can be minimized by hikers who follow good etiquette. Examples of such interference and etiquette include:
- When two groups of hikers meet on a steep trail, there may be contention for use of the trail. To avoid conflict, a custom has developed: the group moving uphill has the right-of-way. In other situations the larger of the two groups will yield to the smaller.
- Hiking in a group increases safety, but hikers may wish to hike at different rates. Being forced to hike much faster or slower than one's natural pace can be annoying, and difficult to maintain consistently. More seriously, walking unnaturally fast causes dramatically increased fatigue and exhaustion, and may result in injury. If a group splits between fast and slow hikers, the slow hikers may be left behind or become lost. A common custom is to encourage the slowest hiker to hike in the lead and have everyone match that speed. Another custom is to have an experienced hiker sweep up the rear, to ensure that everyone in the group is safe and nobody straggles.
- Hikers often enjoy the silence and solitude of their surroundings. This enjoyment is disrupted by loud sounds, such as shouting or loud conversation. Some hikers purposely avoid loud sounds, out of deference to other hikers. Staying quiet will also increase the likelihood of encountering wildlife. (This is a hazard if dangerous animals are present; see "Personal safety hazards".)
- Hikers sometimes trespass onto private property. Such trespass can alienate the property owners and close down hiking rights-of-way. To maximize hiking opportunities for everyone, most hikers will understand where private property lies and avoid it — or get permission from the owner. Staying on trails will also minimize the probability of trespass.
- Often tree branches or other vegetation may hang low across the trail. A passing hiker may cause the tree branch to snap back in the face of the hiker behind. While it is courteous to warn the hiker behind you if a branch is likely to snap back, it is every hiker's responsibilty to allow enough space between himself and the hiker ahead to avoid the hazard.
Any outdoor activity entails many risks, even if participants do not recklessly place themselves in harm's way. These risks include bodily injury (sprains, falls, etc.), metabolic disturbances (such as hypothermia and heatstroke), simply losing the way, and other unsavory possibilities. However, with the correct precautions, outdoor recreation can be enjoyable and safe.