We follow the rules of etiquette all the time. You can scream and holler at a football game, but you have to reign it in on a golf course. You can stand up and sing along at a rock concert, but doing the same thing at a choir concert is taboo. Believe it or not, there are rules of etiquette to follow when you’re using a nature trail. While these rules are less enforced, following them will help keep the trail experience safe and enjoyable for you and everyone around you. Read on to learn the rules of the road when it comes to hiking, biking, or riding on trails.
Right of Way
Any hiker has probably had the awkward experience of having to squeeze past other people or bikes on a narrow trail. While people hiking on foot can easily step aside or off the trail, it can get complicated when you add horses or mountain bikes into the mix. Whether you’re traveling on foot, wheels, or hooves, you should be familiar with the rules of right of way to avoid any unfortunate collisions.
Hiker Trail Etiquette
Hikers should yield to horseback riders because they maneuver slower than other trail users. Make sure to greet the rider in a calm tone so that the horse can be put at ease. Intermountainhealthcare.org also urges hikers to step off the path on the downhill side because horses tend to bolt uphill if startled. If you’re hiking alone or in a small group, you should yield to larger groups. Also, downhill hikers should move aside for uphill hikers since they’re usually exerting more energy. Although mountain bikers should always yield to others, hikers should be mindful and aware in case the biker doesn’t see you coming. Colliding with a mountain biker could do you a lot of harm.
Biker Trail Etiquette
Bikers should be prepared to yield to all other trail users because bikes present the most danger to others. Although hikers and equestrians should always keep an eye out for bikers, it’s important that bikers be hyper-aware and quick to yield to other trail users as well. Just like when you’re driving on a road, a biker should try to pass others on their left side. While doing so, they should shout, “On your left!” Also, give a warning and be vocal when turning corners or when passing someone on the trail. You can do this with a verbal command or a bell. Give others as much time as possible to prepare for your bike to pass by in case they have to wrangle children or pets. If you encounter another mountain biker coming from the opposite direction, downhill bikers should yield to uphill bikers since they can’t afford to lose their momentum.
Equestrian Trail Etiquette
Equestrians have the right of way in most situations because horses aren’t as simple to control compared to boots or a bike. However, if you have enough warning, it’s a good idea to move your horse to the right side of the trail to accommodate mountain bikers or trail runners. Be sure to pay attention to trail markers to make sure that you’re heading down a trail that allows horseback riders. If your horse is easily spooked by people or loud noises, avoid high traffic trails. A jumpy horse and a narrow path are not a safe combination for other trail users to encounter.
A tree! A bird! A plastic bag? Littering is never a good idea, but leaving trash on a nature trail is especially frowned upon. While carrying around your granola bar wrapper or empty water bottle might seem inconvenient, leaving trash on or around the trail harms the environment and takes away from the hiking experience for other nature enthusiasts. Resist the urge to spit your gum out into a bush or to drop your apple core into the dirt. You should aim to leave the trail even better than you found it. For that extra step, keep a trash bag in your backpack and clean up trash along the way.
Try not to create new trails or clearings as you explore. Whenever possible, stay on the beaten path and respect the untouched ecosystems around you. Bring everything you need before you hit the trail so that you don’t have to deplete natural resources. Similarly, resist the urge to take home anything you find in nature. Rather than snagging souvenirs, take pictures.
If you encounter any sort of wild animal on the trail, don’t approach or attempt to interact with it. This is for your safety and for the animal’s safety. If you have a dog with you, make sure that you have them on a leash and keep them from chasing after or disturbing wild animals. You’re visiting these animals’ home, so make sure to respect their ecosystem as much as possible.
Whether you’re a lone wolf or traveling in a pack of other hikers, hiking can create a special sort of comradery as you pass other nature-lovers on the trail. Don’t hesitate to greet others and be friendly. If you see a fallen biker, a lost hiker, or someone else in need, stop and offer your assistance. Do what you would want someone else to do for you. Call for help, show them your map, or offer to help them get where they need to go.
When you’re hiking, refrain from talking loudly or playing loud music. Besides the disturbance it causes to wildlife, others might be heading out on the trail to enjoy the peaceful aspect of the outdoors. Respect your fellow trail travelers by not drawing too much attention to yourself. Being quiet will also help others hear incoming bikers or cries for help.
Trails are a great way to be active and enjoy the great outdoors. Following these rules of trail etiquette will help ensure that you can continue to enjoy hiking, biking, or riding on trails for years to come. Now that you know the rules of the trail, check out our recent blog post to determine which hiking trail is right for you.
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