This guide does not cover all of the situations that will arise during the planning and conduct of a hike. Also, some of the items listed below will not apply to all hikes. Hike Leaders must use their best judgment to decide what is best for a given situation.
Before the Hike
- Scout the hike for trail conditions, parking and significant obstacles
- Be aware of options to cut the hike short and the shortest exit routes
- Prepare driving directions
- Answer prospective hiker phone calls
- Screen hikers on the phone to determine whether they are capable of handling the hike
- If you can’t lead your hike for any reason, try to locate a substitute. The club’s email can be a good source
- Check the weather forecast on the day of the hike. Cancel if weather dictates.
- Pack the Essentials for a Day Hikers Pack.
Hike Activities at the Meeting Place
- Arrive at the meeting place at least 15 minutes before schedule time
- Complete sign-in sheet with name and emergency phone number
- Evaluate preparedness of hikers for this hike. Do not hesitate to turn away unprepared hikers.
- Physical fitness
- Food and water
- Make announcements about the expected weather and recommend weather related gear, e.g. rainwear, sunscreen etc.
- Make announcements about the trail: distance, elevation gain, hike rating, terrain, stream crossings, rock scrambles, bushwhacking, view points and other special features
- Make announcements about the hike: estimated time, pace, regrouping points, bailout points, places of interest and special instructions
- Make announcements about driving: encourage drivers to follow you. If directions are complex or the trip is long, arrange an intermediate stopping point. Discuss parking at the trailhead, shuttle arrangements, car pool fee and park entry fee.
- Arrange car pools
- Assume four people per vehicle and extra vehicles as needed for a shuttle
- Let car pools be formed voluntarily
- Ensure that each car pool has the driving instructions
- Try to balance the number of people in each vehicle
- If some hikers have Park passes, try to have one in each vehicle
- Describe shuttle arrangements
- Provide a conservative estimate for returning to the meeting place
Hike Activities at the Trail
- Tasks at the trailhead
- Take a head count and make sure that it agrees with the sign-in sheet
- Brief hikers by repeating important points
- Assign a Sweep. The Sweep should be a reliable person who knows the trail and will never leave anyone behind.
- Caution hikers to stay between the Hike Leader and the Sweep
- Explain trail marking conventions such as arrows noting direction of travel
- Indicate where and when lunch will be
- Lead the hike
- Control the pace of the hike to keep all hikers within reasonable sight.
- Take appropriate trail breaks for clothing adjustments and personal needs.
- Take a cell phone if you have one. They should not be relied upon as a primary method of contact because they frequently don’t work in remote areas.
- Take the sign-in sheet
- Take periodic head counts
- Don’t lose anyone
- Wait at all trail junctions
- Discourage people going ahead or going back alone.
- Stop the hike and return to the trailhead if storms, darkness etc. threaten the group’s safety.
After the Hike
- Account for all hikers at the conclusion of the hike. Do not leave the trailhead until all the other cars have left or at least started their engines.
- Mail or email the sign-in sheet, hike description (optional) and photographs (optional) to the Historian within one week of hike completion
This material was adapted from a presentation by Ed Brimberg, Northern Virginia Hiking Club.