A trail in the area of the Sangre de Cristo range. Photo Credit: Spencer McKee.

A trail in the area of the Sangre de Cristo range. Photo Credit: Spencer McKee.

Few things can break the natural feel of Colorado's outdoors quicker than passing someone on a trail that's blasting the latest hit single through a tiny speaker. Don't be that person.

Here's a number of reasons why you shouldn't play music out loud while hiking:

1. Music may skew the predator-prey balance

The more noise pollution that is present in a natural environment, the more difficult it may be for a prey species to avoid an approaching predator. This can lead to the decimation of a prey population, which could then have a negative impact on the predator species as they've depleted their typical source of food. Granted, noise pollution comes in a number of forms, including cars driving through an area and planes overhead. That being said, you should still do your part to #leavenonoise.

2. Music limits your awareness

Inviting distractions into your outdoor recreation experience can put you at risk. You'll be less likely to hear other traffic on the trail and wildlife that may pose a threat. Distractions can also increase your chances of getting lost.

Yes, we know that biker blasting down the trail should really be paying attention to what's ahead of them, but they might not be. By not playing music, you're more likely to hear them coming and more likely to avoid the risk of serious injury.

3. Music annoys other hikers

While people enter the outdoor space for a number of reasons, many enter it to escape from the hectic nature of modern day life. Unsolicited music can break the peace for others on the trail. Out of respect for your fellow hiker that doesn't want to hear your playlist from five years ago, please pop a headphone in instead (but leave one ear open for the sake of awareness).

Remember, even though you think your volume might be on "low," in the absence of unnatural noise, it can become much more noticeable from much further away.

4. Unnatural noise can disrupt animal communication

While it might not seem like much when birds are chirping in the trees, this is often a form of communication between members of a species. Whether an animal is sending out a mating call or warning those nearby of an approaching predator, it's important that these animals are able to communicate successfully. Music adds to the clutter, making this more difficult.

5. Noise pollution can impact entire landscapes

With negative side effects like muffling communication and making a species more susceptible to predators, it's no surprise that noise can change animal behavior, often causing them to leave an area altogether. When animals leave an area, this can have a lasting impact on the environment due to things like less pollination taking place. Even if a single species leaves an area, it can have a noticeable impact.

6. Noise pollution often means less nature

Whether animals are leaving an area due to noise pollution over time or they're simply fleeing from your music in the moment, more noise pollution often decreases your chances (and the chances of other hikers) of seeing wildlife. Keeping your music off will likely make your hike a more natural experience. Imagine your favorite trail with no birds, no squirrels, no larger game – this often happens over time as noisy hikers continue to pass through a formally quiet space.

Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. He's on a mission to summit all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners and has already climbed more than half.


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(5) comments

L Distin

Why would anybody NOT want to hear the sound of a rushing river, birds singing or wind in the trees?


How do bear bells (on bikes or people) fit in?


Wouldn’t it be more dangerous to wear headphones as it renders the user unable to hear approaching wildlife, bikers, equestrians etc.? The detriments of playing through a tiny speaker while hiking seem to be absurdly overstated here. I’d rather alert an animal to my presence than chance stumbling upon them, catching them off guard wherein they may become defensive.

Mountain woman

There is a very definite etiquette of the backcountry and noise other than soft, occasional conversation has no place in it!


Your article about blasting music. I bet those people probably don’t care about disrupting wildlife or are totally clueless and are just complete jerks. They need to handed severe penalties/fines and be banned for life from the backcountry.

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