Our public lands and trails are open to quite a few different kinds of visitors. Ok ok, usually, some areas and trails are restricted as to who can use them.
But most of the time, like it or not, we have to share.
Some of the different types of visitors you may see out on the trail include mountain bikers, horse back riders, hikers, trail runners, and in some places, even ATVers.
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On top of using common sense and practicing common courtesy to those around you, there are actually some set guidelines in place to help reduce user conflict and accidents on the trail.
For example, horses and livestock always have the right of way, because these animals can be a little unruly at times and could be difficult to control if say, they are spooked by an oncoming mountain biker suddenly speeding towards them.
If you are hiking or mountain biking and see a horse or livestock on the trail, the best practice is to step off to side, the downhill side if you’re on a hill, and quietly let them pass. Again, the idea here is not to spook or surprise the animals.
Another rule of thumb is that bikers must also always yield to hikers. Now, in practice, if I’m hiking along and I see a mountain biker, I will step off to the side and try to let them keep their momentum going and just let them pass me. But the point is, as a hiker, I may not always see or hear a biker coming. They may come cruising around a bend and I won’t have the time react or get out of their way, or if they’re coming up behind me, I may not know they’re there at all! – so it is the bikers responsibility to yield to the hikers and make sure they don’t hit us, and just let us know politely if you want to pass. Like I said, truly, if you are sneaking up behind me on the trail I probably don’t even know you’re back there! So just say something!
Ok now let’s break down some of the ‘common sense’ ways to be considerate of other visitors. As much as I hate to say it – usually larger groups can be super annoying and disruptive to solo hikers and couples who are out looking some seclusion in the wilderness. So if you are part of a large group or organizing a large group, consider splitting into smaller groups of 3 or 4 to hike and camp, and maybe just set designated meet up points through out the trip, like maybe have everyone meet up halfway to do an activity and then split up again.
Noise is another big point of contention between hikers – if you must listen to music or podcasts or whatever out on the trail, first of all I totally get it, sometimes you really need that upbeat music to push you through the big mile days or long climbs, but for the love all that is good out there, use headphones.
If you hike with a dog, or a few, make sure they are always always always under your control, if that means keeping them on leash 100% of the time, then that’s fine, but your dogs, no matter how friendly should never be allowed to run up to strangers or other dogs.
Simply acknowledging that there may be other people out there on the trail, and understanding that they may be trying to enjoy themselves in a different way than you are, can go a long way here.
Check out these posts for more info on Leave No Trace and trail etiquette:
- Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints
- What To Do With Trash, Food and Human Waste
- How To Hike With Dogs Without Going Crazy
- How To Minimize Your Impact While Hiking
If you have any questions, or more ways to share the trail – leave them in the comments below!