Love on the Rocks

A Hiking Couple Shares Do’s and Don’ts of Trail Romance

One of the delights of living in the Appalachian mountains is the natural beauty all around, and with so much scenery to explore a hike in the Blue Ridge is the perfect way to discover if a new relationship has a chance to gain any long-term traction.

Admittedly we’re amateur hikers who didn’t meet on the trail. But regular hikes by the New and Roanoke Rivers and trips to the Cascades in Giles County, Va., allowed us time to really get to know each other, free from distraction, and we’re celebrating two years this coming spring. 

During trail time together, we’ve often laughed about bad hiking dates from our pasts, and we’ve realized that an afternoon in the woods can tell you a lot about the chemistry you could have with a prospective partner. With that in mind and Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we’ve compiled tips on what to do and what not to do on a first hike with a potential love interest. This advice, though trivial for some, is actually general trail etiquette that applies to all who want to cultivate a romance in the great outdoors.    

Be Reasonable with Chatter

The sign of a start to a good relationship is having the ability not to talk. On a hike, you are surrounded by the sounds of nature. Don’t talk over the chattering of birds, the water gurgling under frozen brooks, the sounds of your footsteps crunching through the frost together. It’s a hike: Not the dissertation of why you and Brenda at work no longer get along.

  To really put someone off, read every single trail sign out loud. Nothing says “I respect you,” like assuming they can’t read it for themselves. Morgan Freeman, you are not. 

Be Mindful of Pace

It is not the destination but the journey. John Muir wrote: “I don’t like the word hike. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not ‘hike!”

  A romantic walk in the woods shouldn’t be a test of athletic prowess where you challenge each other to full-tilt it up a mountain. Don’t make your date play keep-up. It’s not fun nor impressive that you walk fast. Also, if you’re not happy with the pace, doing the “pause and sigh” is not a good look, and it is antithetical to the whole “date” part of the “hike.”

It’s best to let your date set the pace even if you want to be the one leading the way. Leaving the other person in the dust screams, “I’m rude and I don’t care,” and combined with the “pause and sigh” lets them know what they are in store for later on.

Choose the Right Route

On a similar note, the degree of difficulty is also something to consider. Trying to knock out a 15-mile circuit or tackle a 3,000-foot ascent might be a little much for a first-date hike. Choose a moderate yet enjoyable trail that’s conducive to getting acquainted. 

Put Away the Phone

Be present. Having your phone on your person is perfectly fine, especially for safety reasons. But stopping every half-mile to take an unimportant call implies that the person you’ve invited is even more unimportant. Also, selfies are the heroin of narcissists. They are a nice memento, nothing more, nothing less. Documentation of each step demeans the experience. 

Phone abuse is real; let’s stop it already.  

Gain Perspective from the Summit

So you’ve reached the summit or a cascading waterfall, or the vista overlooking the majesty of a forest of swaying trees. Those are best-case scenarios. But, if the view you’ve ultimately found is not what you expected, it is all okay. A bad date looks for what is wrong, and a good date sees what is right. If your date at this point is unimpressed then that means something, because the view is secondary to the company you are sharing it with.

The bottom line is a hike is a chance to learn about each other through some mild exertion which can lead to taking the relationship to the next level. Even if the rain pours down on the two of you it is still okay. Reaching the summit means you achieved a goal together. Walking home wet can be the most memorable of unplanned things that could ever happen on a date-hike. We once found walking in the rain down a mountain supplied an impression of each other’s character, and we still joke about it to this day.

Places to Go, Things to See: