GUIDELINES FOR HIKE LEADERS
Revised August 2022
The following guidelines for Indianapolis Hiking Club hike leaders are based on years
of experience and are intended to insure that everyone's hiking experience will be
safe and enjoyable. Leading a hike is a rewarding experience and all members are
encouraged to do so. New hikes are always appreciated. In-town, moderate distance
hikes are quite easy to plan and lead and that is where most new leaders start.
Longer out-of-town woods hikes require more preparation, but can also be more
rewarding. To be a good leader all you really need is common sense, a spirit of
adventure and sensitivity to the needs of others. Contact a Pathfinder or speak to
someone who leads hikes regularly for some good ideas.
- The leader is in charge of and responsible for the hike. However, each member
and guest is responsible for his or her own behavior and safety. As leader, you
may reroute, shorten or cancel a hike because of severe weather, air quality or any other
circumstance you deem appropriate.
- Contact the weekday or weekend Pathfinder to schedule your hike. About a
month before the new bimonthly schedule is published, the Pathfinders will
send an email request for hikes to all members who are enrolled in Google
Groups for Broadcast emails. This email includes the date when all requests
should be in. The Pathfinders will assist you with the hike description. Precise
directions to the meeting location, hike start time and contact information will be
required. Once all requests have been received, the Pathfinder will send a
Broadcast email to all members listing all of the requested hikes for the new
schedule. Any errors or changes need to be reported back to the Pathfinder
before the schedule is finalized. The finalized schedule is then submitted to the
Board for approval.
After the schedule has been approved and the mailed schedule has been sent
out, it is still possible to add or hikes to the new schedule; however the
pertinent information will only be included on the website and will not appear in
the mailed schedule. A good example would be adding a mall hike if the
upcoming weather forecast is for hot/humid conditions. You can also change
information for an already scheduled hike, like start time or meeting location.
Send your request by email (preferred) to the Pathfinder. Only individual hikes
may be added (i.e., no recurring hikes) and the request should be at least three
days before the hike's effective date. Assuming the Pathfinder okay's the
request, they will add the hike to the Club website calendar function, mileage
update screen and PDF copy of the schedule on the website. The Pathfinder
will also add a comment to the website home page news that a new hike has
been added or there has been a change to a previously scheduled hike. A
Broadcast email will be sent alerting all members of the new or revised hike.
- When developing the hike description (write-up) for the schedule, if your hike is
going to be challenging it should be described as such and not for beginners
or ill prepared hikers and that an accurate trail description be used including
length and terrain. The Pathfinder will decide if the hike warrents a Challenging indication at the beginning of the Hike Rating legend. It is okay to request an RSVP if you wish to have a dialogue
with hikers before the hike, in which case include your email address in the
- You should scout the trail or drive the route before scheduling a hike. Check for
parking and rest room facilities along the route and plan adequate breaks.
Estimate the mileage for the hike description as accurately as possible; round
up if .5 or greater. Don't overstate the mileage. If your hike involves a car
shuttle, you will be responsible for coordinating it at the beginning and end of
the hike and including that information in the description.
- If you decide to cancel a hike, you should access your hike on the website "Mileage" page
using the "Enter Mileage" link and mark the hike as
cancelled (option on the enter mileage screen). You should also send a
Broadcast email to all members notifying them that your hike
has been cancelled. If you are not enrolled Google Groups (all members with
email capability should be), please contact the Pathfinder or webmaster to send
the cancellation email for you and post the hike cancellation on the website
Home Page News. For out of town hikes try and make cancellation decisions
by 6 p.m. of the day prior to the hike (e.g., pending blizzard) and get the word
- If you are scheduled to lead a hike, but for some unforeseen reason are unable
to lead, it is your responsibility to find another member who will lead the hike on
your behalf or cancel the hike as listed above.
- If the hike you are leading requires an advance registration fee, such as the
Mini Marathon or the Walk for the Cure, your hike description should say so
and every participant should have registered and paid the appropriate fee and,
if applicable, wear their registration tag. Confirm this before the hike starts. The
Club does not condone "bandits", i.e., people walking without paying the
- Before the hike the leader should print out and become familiar with the sign-up sheet,
which is available on the Club website Forms page.
- Arrive at the hike venue at least 15 minutes early in order to welcome guests
and be available to answer questions.
- Before starting the hike, the leader should:
a. Have all members, guests and children write their names on the sign-up
b. Ensure that names are written legibly so mileage credit can be given
c. If conditions warrant, briefly describe the hike, its difficulty, estimated time of completion, and
the amount of water recommended
d. If concerned that a hiker(s) may have difficulty, discuss options with the
e. If applicable, explain multiple distance options and be certain everyone
indicates their desired mileage on the sign-up sheet
f. Introduce any guests
g. If any guests are preasent read aloud the liability release printed on the sign-up sheet
- Hikers are not permitted to start the hike ahead of the start time listed in the
schedule (i.e., everyone should start as a group). This applies to self-guided as
well as led hikes. The hike leader may waive this rule if the situation does not
lend itself to everyone starting together, such as the Mini-Marathon, a
Volksmarch, mall hikes or a charity walk.
- It is a Club tradition to start the hike on time.
- The hike leader or a designee should carry a cellular telephone and to know
the local emergency numbers. If in the woods, know the local park ranger
- Stick to the listed hike speed. A common complaint is that hike leaders go
faster than the speed listed in the schedule.
- Count everyone at the beginning of the hike and again periodically to ensure
everyone is still with the hike. Watch for hikers who are having difficulty and
wait if hikers become too separated from the main body. If appropriate,
because the hike is such that hikers might get left behind or lost, ask someone
who you trust and knows the way to bring up the rear (sweep).The leader must
maintain periodic contact with the “sweep.” If it makes sense because one or
more hikers are unable to keep pace with the main body, it is allowable to
break the hike into two or more sections each with a designated leader.
16. Use common sense when hiking on a road. Request that everyone stay on the
left facing traffic. Ask for single file if the road is heavily traveled and the
shoulder narrow. Use sidewalks whenever possible and cross at marked
crossings. Be alert for oncoming vehicles and warn those behind you of a "car
up". Have someone at the rear watch for vehicles coming from behind and
warn "car back".
- On a trail be courteous to oncoming and overtaking hikers, runners and bikers
and provide them room to pass. Warn the group via a "runner up" or "biker
back". If you encounter horses, be sure everyone stands off the trail and gives
them a wide berth.
- If the hike has shorter mileage options, you must be familiar with each option
and make everyone aware of each turnoff point. Unless directions are obvious,
ensure that at least one person who knows the way and who will not leave
people behind accompanies hikers choosing a shorter option.
- Although it is usually appropriate for all hikers to stay behind the leader (except
on self-guided hikes), the leader, at his or her discretion, may allow faster
hikers to go ahead as long as there is a clear understanding between the
leader and the faster hikers when and how they will link up.
- Adjust your pace to give consideration to other hikers, particularly if obstacles,
such as a stream or steep hill, slow the group.
- After completion of the hike, the leader should record mileage earned on the
Club website or arrange for mileage to be recorded. This is to be done in a
timely manner. The leader should then retain the sign-up sheet for the next 12
months, in case it needs to be retrieved and reviewed following an incident.
- Unless included in the hike description leaders may not award extra miles for
distances hiked before the hike offically starts or after the hike is completed. Some hikers may request this (e.g. I'd like to walk a couple
extra miles.), however this is not permitted.
- Remind everyone of the Club's intent to "Leave no Trace", especially if you see
trash being left behind.
- Hike leaders must contact a member of the Board of Directors as soon as
practical following any incident that concerns the leader on a hike or other Club
sponsored event. This may include, but not limited to, an accident, injury,
possible crime or property damage. The Board member may ask the leader or
anyone else involved in the incident to complete an Incident Report (available
on website Forms page) to capture relevant information while it is still fresh in their minds.