It’s important to remember that there will likely be other trail users no matter how far out you may go. There are no doors to hold open for others or the correct fork to eat your salad with, but there is still proper etiquette to have while out on the trail.
Don’t worry. There’s no need to go through a formal Queen’s dining training. There are simple rules, and as more people start to use the trails, the more important trail etiquette becomes.
These trail rules will adjust for hikers, bikers, equestrians, and users with their best pups along for the ride.
Leave No Trace Principles
Many experienced hikers are familiar with the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. These seven general guidelines apply to any use of the outdoors so that we can all enjoy nature at its finest.
The seven LNT principles are:
- Plan Ahead & Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
One thing that can often be forgotten is properly disposing of waste. Hikers with dogs will pick up after their dog, but we all see bags sitting at the side of the trail. From one dog lover to another, please pack it out with you.
For most people headed out into the backcountry or front-country, trail etiquette’s primary focus is the final principle: Be considerate of other visitors.
Right of way
The more users on the trail, the more often we find ourselves butting heads and unsure of who yields to who. Every park can differ, but most parks follow similar guidelines for right of way.
Hikers that come across other hikers have specific trail rules.
Hikers headed downhill will yield to others coming uphill. Proper hiking etiquette is this way because hikers going uphill are focused on the ground immediately in front of them, one step at a time. Downhill hikers have a much broader perspective and are working with gravity rather than against it.
If you are walking uphill and want to pass another uphill hiker, ask to pass rather than barging past them off of the trail. This helps everyone be polite and helps the trail to stay in good condition.
Solo hikers that come across bigger groups should always yield. This is an easy way to maintain the trail and have fewer boots step off the designated trail. Let the group pass (on the left, just like in your car) and keep moving forward.
Hikers with Dogs
Generally, hikers with dogs are asked to keep their dogs leashed while on the trail. This prevents any aggressive dogs from running at other dogs, horses, or other hikers.
Due to the unpredictability dogs can bring, hikers with dogs should yield to others on the trail and focus on keeping them under control. If there are two dogs encountering each other, one party should yield, step off the trail with the dog on the inside and the owner as a barrier between the dog and the other party, and the other party should pass.
As mentioned before, trail etiquette comes down to respecting others. Please pick it up after your dog and take it out with you.
Mountain bikes are typically considered to be more maneuverable than hikers and equestrians. Any biker riding at their proper skill level should be able to make a quick stop and yield to oncoming hikers or horses.
When you are out biking, especially desert mountain biking, you need to be careful of the different wildlife on the sides of trails. If there is an oncoming hiker, stop and step to the side, paying attention to what life you may step on and be wary of cacti.
With these simple rules on trail etiquette, we can all share the trails while keeping them as pristine as possible. Show your love and respect for others as well as the wild lands we all love to explore.