Events > Etiquette Guidelines

This section contains etiquette guidelines for the conscientious Atlanta Outdoor Club participant. If you have any questions, please email us.

General Etiquette

  • Consideration and polite behavior are essential in order to ensure the enjoyment of all trail users and protection of the park resources. Trails are created to preserve precious outdoor resources. By staying on the trail, you lessen your impact and disturbance of wildlife. The only time to step off-trail is when you encounter many other users or are resting. Step to the side and stop walking. This prevents the trail from being widened excessively and limits impact on adjacent vegetation.
  • Find durable spots when resting off-trail. For example, find lichen-free rocks, a fallen tree or a sandy area. Stay as far to the right side of the trail as is comfortable.
  • Pets on trails: Dogs can easily become overheated due to their difficulty in dissipating heat. It is recommended to hike with your pet during the cooler times of the day and to bring water for your pet. Extreme care should be taken to avoid conflicts between dogs and horses.

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Hiking Etiquette

  • ALWAYS stay on a designated trail and avoid trailblazing. Shortcuts can be dangerous and may increase erosion.

  • Learn to share the trails with all other users. Bike riders yield to both hikers and horseback riders; hikers yield to horseback riders.

  • Walk, ride and cycle in single file to lessen trail widening, erosion or braiding.

  • Use common sense and courtesy while on the trails. Announce your intentions and slow your pace when passing someone on the trails.

  • Downhill yields to uphill. Always stay to the right.

  • Do not litter. 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, cigarette butts 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.

  • Do not chase or harass wildlife.

  • Do not break off tree limbs, remove broken egg shells, or pick or damage plants growing along the trails.

  • Avoid putting your hands and feet anywhere you cannot see.

  • Be respectful toward your fellow foot-travelers. Let faster-moving parties pass. Obey regulations, which in many areas prohibit pets, vehicles (including bicycles) and firearms or other weapons on the trails.

  • 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 where there are rare, native plants which are desperately vulnerable to damage. Do not break off tree limbs or pick or damage plants growing along the trails. "Ordinary" (and not just geologically significant) stones or rocks should not be removed as they often provide shade/shelter to smaller organisms and/or plants.

  • Trail closures may at times be necessary due to wet conditions. Muddy trails should be avoided for several days after heavy rains. Using muddy trails will widen trails and accelerate erosion.

  • Remember the 3 Cs: Courtesy, Communication, and Common Sense.

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Mountain Biking Etiquette

  • Cyclists should never travel alone, should carry proper tools and spares and should wear a helmet.

  • Excessive speed is out of place on the trails.

  • Be sure brakes are in good working order, and observe all hazard warning signs.

  • Excessive sliding should be avoided to preserve trails.

  • Cyclists should always keep an eye out for approaching users and expect another user at each approaching corner.

  • Cyclists should pass other trail users slowly and considerately.

  • Cyclists should travel slowly and carefully. Allow wildlife to move off the trail before passing. Signal your approach well in advance when passing hikers and indicate the side you intend to pass on. Pass slowly and with care. Dismount if approaching a horse and stand on the downhill side when possible.

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Primitive Camping Etiquette

  • Overnight camping is permitted only in the designated primitive camping area. Camp within camping area boundaries.

  • As much as possible, please avoid disturbing the ground cover and topsoil. Locate your camp to take advantage of natural drainage and topography. Do not rearrange landscape; do not construct your campsite. Never cut branches, saplings, or trees. Bed sites or tents should be pitched on naturally flat ground. Do not dig or level an area for a bed site. Please remove all traces of your camp when you leave.

  • Be careful not to park over dry areas as fires can be started by vehicles with hot tailpipes.

  • If you build a campfire, make sure that you do it properly and safely. See this video from About Travel.

  • There is seldom water suitable for drinking along trails or in primitive areas. However, drinking water is available in most developed facilities in the park for filling containers before you take off on the trail. You should carry water for all your drinking, cooking and washing needs. Do not wash dishes or bathe in the creeks or ponds.

  • Sanitation:

    • Solid waste: Without exception, pack all litter and garbage out of the area for disposal in trash receptacles. Burying garbage is not permitted.
    • Human waste: Some primitive/backpacking areas have composting toilets. In all areas where one is not available, follow standard field disposal practice for the disposal of human waste. Do not deposit waste within 100 feet of any open water. Attempt to pick a spot that is basically flat. Bury waste in a biologically active topsoil zone, not deeper than 6" or less than 3" below the surface. If possible, try to replace the ground cover over your pit. Completely cover your waste. The next person will appreciate your consideration.

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