Playing Music on the Trail? Please, Use Earbuds.

Sharing is caring—but not when it comes to your tunes.

I forgot earbuds on my hike, so I played music out of my iPhone instead. Someone told me that’s noise pollution. Is that true?” –Rockin’ Out in Richmond

Dear Rockin’,

We like Journey just as much as the next person, but all good things come to an end—when you hit the trail, it’s time to stop believin’.

Even if you have the foresight to turn your music down or pause it when another hiker approaches, there’s an environmental impact at play, too.

Studies show that some species of birds and frogs have a hard time communicating—and thus finding mates—amid human-created noise. And they aren’t the only ones: There’s also evidence that bats might hate your music more than your college roommate did. Though man-made sounds don’t usually affect echolocation, the mammals will still flee from them, which cuts into their time to find food.

Still not convinced? The numbers show that wildlife—all kinds—is adversely affected by noise as quiet as 40 dBa. That’s about the volume of a humming computer.

Mountains majesty set to a soundtrack of 1980s ballads is some kind of beautiful, but what’s more important? Next time you go for a hike, skip the music. The animals will thank you—with their presence.

Your Penance

Blasting your music has social and environmental impacts. For this twofer, we prescribe five tech-free hikes. Yep, that means hiking without distractions, and in silence. When the lights do down in the city, and the sun shines on the bay, you just might prefer it. 

Got a confession? Get it off your chest at, then visit for more advice on reducing your impact.