PATC Hike Leader Guide
Rush Williamson, Send Rush an email
The first stated purpose of PATC is "to support and encourage
the...proper recreational use of the Appalachian National Scenic
Trail and other trails...." This is done partly through
the sponsorship of hikes on the trails in PATC's area and on
trails in other areas. The Club has a wide-ranging hiking program
which includes both local area hikes and excursions into other
geographical areas and foreign countries. Hikes can range from
short, close-in day hikes to backpacking to extended excursions.
The PATC Council sets general hiking policy, and the Hikes Committee
monitors day-to-day activities and reports to Council periodically
on the status of the program. This Hike Leader Guide covers Club
policies regarding hikes in the local area. Other correspondence
available at PATC Headquarters sets policy for out-of-area excursions.
An "official" PATC hike is one that is advertised in
writing, either in the Forecast section of the PATC web pages,
the Potomac Appalachian newsletter, or in a chapter newsletter.
PATC has an umbrella insurance policy that covers hike leaders
for liability; if you plan to lead a Club hike, you must make
it "official" to remove any question about insurance
Hikes can be for physical conditioning, social interaction, nature
walks, history lessons, to reach a viewpoint, or any of a number
of purposes. The Club encourages a wide variety of hikes, and
provides training and support to hike leaders.
PATC Hike Leaders
The only official qualification is to be a member of the Club.
Leader Training is provided by PATC's Trail Patrol throughout
the year, and while attendance is highly recommended, it is not
required to lead a PATC hike.
New hike leaders should contact a member of the committee prior
to advertising their hike (see item #1below). All hike leaders
should print out and carry with them (1) a copy of this guide,
(2) the Hike Sign Up Sheet
and Liability Waiver form, and (3) the Incident
Report form. The latter two are available for download as
pdf files using the indicated links.
Responsibilities of the Leader
1. Advertise the hike. This consists of submitting your hike
to the PATC Calendar and/or to your Chapter newsletter editor in sufficient
time for publication.
2. Know the route. Except under unusual circumstances, the leader
should be familiar with the trail. It is best to have hiked the
route a few days or weeks in advance of the trip so that the
trail conditions are fresh in your mind. Locate the trailhead,
assess trail conditions, establish a lunch stop, and locate car
parks (at both ends if it is to be shuttle hike). It is also
a good idea to find alternate routes into your trail for use
in case of emergencies. (Note: there are circumstances in which
a hike leader will want to deviate from marked trails or known
routes. A bushwhack hike is an example; another, to find a formerly
used trail which is no longer marked. These hikes should be advertised
only by experienced hike leaders.)
3. Sign up hikers. Hikers contact the hike leader to sign up.
At this time, you should discuss the difficulty of the hike and
try to assess the ability of the hiker to handle your hike. Ask
leading questions such as: "Have you ever hiked with PATC
before? "Have you hiked this distance before? "Do you
have a medical condition that would preclude participation? Be
sure that the hiker has proper equipment and water appropriate
for the hike in question. You may want to establish a numerical
limit on the number of hikers depending on the type of hike and
nature of the terrain you will be hiking. In general, "wilderness
areas are less tolerant of large groups, and long-distance hikes
are more difficult to do when you have a large group size. (The
larger the group, the greater the likelihood that you will have
a wide disparity in hiking ability, which leads to wide separation
of the group during the hike.)
4. Establish the meeting place. Hikers normally assemble at the
meeting place on the morning of the hike and proceed from there
to the trailhead. Try to assemble at a spot accessible to public
transportation so that more can participate.
5. Watch the weather reports before the hike. Although trips
are seldom canceled, it can happen. Keeping the names and numbers
of those who sign up will help you if weather forces a cancellation.
6. Meet at the appointed time and place on the day of the hike.
At the meeting place, the hike leader:
- circulates the signup sheet, insuring that everyone signs up.
Point out the liability waiver. Their willingness to sign up
constitutes an agreement to hold the Club and you, the hike leader,
blameless in case of mishap.
- assesses the equipment and condition of the hikers, and if
someone does not appear to measure up to the level of difficulty
of the hike this is the time to inform them that they will not
be participating. (The hike leader always has the authority to
make this judgment.) Ask your hikers if anyone has a medical
condition that could limit his or her ability to complete the
- makes transportation arrangements (usually a carpool system)
and establishes a meeting time at the trailhead. (Alternatively,
hikers may elect to proceed directly to the trailhead and wait
for you there.) Drivers must volunteer to drive, and riders must
then make their own arrangements with the drivers. (The hike
leader, for reasons of liability, cannot assign drivers or riders.)
You should, however, make an effort to insure that drivers know
the way to the trailhead. Remember that, in the case of a shuttle
hike, you will need twice as many cars as with a circuit hike.
- insures that hikers know that riders must reimburse the driver
for transportation expenses (see notes).
7. Brief hikers about the hike at the trailhead. Be sure you
introduce yourself and ask the participants to introduce themselves
to the group. Discuss the route, pace, rendezvous points, lunch
stop, major intersecting trails, promontories and viewpoints,
and other necessary items. Show the group on a trail map where
they will be going, and approximately what time and place the
hike is scheduled to end.
8. Appoint a sweep hiker. The larger the group, the more important
it is to station an experienced hiker at the end of the group.
Hikers should not get behind the sweep.
9. Keep track of your hikers. On the trail, make periodic stops
to ensure that all hikers are still with you. It is your responsibility
to keep the group together and to find lost hikers. Do not adjourn
the hike until you can account for everyone. If someone gets
lost, alert authorities by dialing 911 (see notes).
10. Be prepared for emergencies. Carry a first aid kit. You should
be able to take care of minor cuts and scrapes, blisters, bee
stings, and so on. Know what to do for more serious problems
like broken bones, bleeding, or shock. PATC,s Hike Leader Training,
wilderness first aid, or other course is strongly recommended.
(American Red Cross first aid is nice, too, but in wilderness
situations it is sometimes off target.) Be sure to carry a flashlight,
map, and compass. In the case of an accident or altercation involving
any member of the group, be sure to fill out the PATC Incident
Report Form, follow up on the incident to be sure everyone is
OK, and send the form to Headquarters as soon as possible.
11. Offer nonmembers a chance to join the club. To further that
cause, carry some Club brochures/application blanks in your pack.
12. After the hike, mail the hike sign-up sheet to PATC headquarters.
Be sure to write the date of the hike, your name and phone number,
and the hike length in miles. If the trail was in bad shape,
fill out the trail condition report on the back of the form.
If there are serious problems, don't wait for the condition report
to makes its way to PATC headquarters; report the problem to
the Club at email@example.com
or 703/242-0693, ext. 7 (trails coordinator).
Estimating the hike pace
When advertising the hike, use the following scale:
Slow: less than 1.75 miles per hour
Moderate: 1.75 - 2.5 miles per hour
Fast: 2.5-3 miles per hour
Very fast: more than 3 miles per hour
Of course, the difficulty of the hike will depend partly on the
elevation gain and condition of the trail. Study the elevations
on the appropriate PATC map. If the trail is very difficult,
slow the pace a little.
There is no charge for PATC hikes, but the Club requests that
all riders reimburse the driver for reasonable costs. This is
variable because of fluctuating gas prices, variations in the
size and economy of the car used, etc. However, a good rule of
thumb is to assume that it costs the driver about $2.50 per hour
to operate his or her car (for gas and a very modest allowance
for wear and tear). This cost should be split evenly among the
riders (including the driver). If gas prices go up, or if the
vehicle uses lots of gas, adjust accordingly.
Permissible reproduction of PATC maps
A hike leader may elect to reproduce a portion of a PATC map
under certain conditions. Be sure to use the current copy of
the most recent edition of the PATC map. You may reproduce only
the specific portion of the map that your group will be hiking.
You should use an inset identifying the specific map and giving
credit to PATC (see below). You should also provide a bar scale
and a north arrow.
PATC Map____, Edition____
Photocopy made with permission of:
Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
118 Park St., Vienna, VA 22180
PATC Maps may be purchased at PATC's on-line store.
PATC encourages joint hikes with other clubs. If you lead a joint
hike, you can use the PATC signup sheet, or that of the other
club. Whichever you use, be sure to send a copy to PATC after
PATC Pet Policy
The hike leader has the discretion to permit a pet on a Club
hike. However, if the pet becomes a problem on the hike, the
hike leader can terminate the participation of the owner and
Emergency Contact Numbers
If you run into trouble, you may need to contact an emergency
service to find a lost hiker or rescue an injured one. Generally,
it is best to dial 911 and explain the problem.
The hike leader should know what jurisdictions he or she will
be hiking through, and should prepare emergency procedures in
advance, including knowing who to call.
Leave No Trace Principles
The PATC has adopted the following Leave No Trace Principles
for all activities:
1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
4) Leave What You Find
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
6) Respect Wildlife
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors
See you on the Trail!