Throngs of people are discovering the great outdoors, thanks to COVID-19 dictating that we spread out from one another and ditch enclosed spaces for fresh air. And one of the most popular new outdoor activities is day hiking, which went up 8.4 percentage points during April, May and June 2020 versus the same period in 2019, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. (Several state parks also have reported big increases in visitors this year over last year.) But rangers and others are noticing an alarming trend as hordes of inexperienced trekkers descend upon America's parks and trails: Overused paths, a soaring increase in litter and graffiti, and a spike in search-and-rescue calls.
Since it's likely that many first-time hikers will continue to enjoy wandering through the woods even after the coronavirus is vanquished, it's important to learn the proper hiking etiquette and safety rules. For just as with any sport or activity, hiking involves certain accepted practices. Here are some of the main ones to know: