Sharing the Trails
Some of the trails you'll visit on the forest are multiple-use, meaning that hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and off-highway vehicle riders may all share the same trail. A basic etiquette rule is Wheels Yield to Heels. Keep this in mind when approaching other trail users. Bicyclists or motorized vehicles yield to all other users while hikers, walkers, yield to horseback riders.
During hunting season:
- Hikers should wear at least one article of hunter orange viewable from all directions such as a hat, jacket, or vest. Cover your backpack with orange.
- Horseback riders should wear a hunter orange vest and helmet cover. Use a hunter orange vest or rump sheet on your horse.
- Dogs should wear hunter orange or other visible color, like a vest, leash, coat, shirt or bandana.
Safety on the Trail
It is every trail users responsibility and right to ensure their own safety and expect safe practice from other trail users. Exercise caution at all times, follow guidelines and rules of the trails. Preventing accidents or injuries is the first step, acting responsibly if something does happen is the second. Always think clearly!
What is Trail Etiquette?
Trail etiquette can be described as the polite way to use trails. It outlines guidelines for the many users that ride, walk, hike, or bike trails.
If you have never considered trail etiquette to be one of the more important aspects of trail use, you may want to reconsider. Trail etiquette should be a major part of any trail users experience.
Trail use is a privilege that cannot be abused or disrespected, so making trail etiquette a priority allows everyone to enjoy the outdoors and have a good time while being safe and courteous. Also remember everyone is out there for the same reasons, to enjoy nature and to enjoy what they are doing.
When travelling multi-use trails, you may encounter many different forms of trail use, such as hikers, bikers, off-road vehicle users, horseback riders, etc. Therefore the user must adjust to different regulations (who passes first, who slows down, who gets the right of way).
If trail users conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, respect the environment and the other users, the trail experience will only get better. Keep safety and etiquette in mind when you are participating in trail use, this way trails will stay in good condition and the privilege will remain accessible for everyone.
Basic Trail Etiquette
- Be aware of other trail users.
- Stay to the right of the trail (except when passing).
- Slow down at corners.
- Always clean up after yourselves.
- Obey all the trail rules.
- Give a clear warning signal when passing: call out passing on your left.
- Always look ahead and behind when passing.
- Travel at reasonable speed.
- Keep pets on a leash in congested areas.
- Move off the trail when letting others pass.
- Yield to other trail-users when entering and crossing trail.
- Do not disturb wildlife.
- Stay on the trail (respect the environment, do not venture off the trails).
- Do not litter.
- Do not drink or contaminate water sources (wash 100 feet away from any nearby water source).
- Use provided toilet facilities (if you are unable to find a facility, dig a hole 6 inches deep at least 200 feet from any open water).
- Do not make fires in new fire rings (use picnic areas and existing rings if provided).
- Respect wildlife. Your surroundings are home to many plants and animals: you are the visitor.
- Obey all posted signs. These indicate special restrictions that apply to the trail you are on.
Hiking with Animals
- Clean up after your animals.
- Keep them on a leash or lead where required or in crowded areas.
- Give larger animals right of way.
- Do not let your animal disturb wildlife or others.
- Keep them on the trails.
General Trail Etiquette for Certain Activities
Hikers, Walkers, Backpackers
- Move off the trail whenever possible for other trail users.
- When meeting someone riding a horse, step off the trail to the downhill side and speak calmly. That allows the horse to recognize you as human.
- Dogs can potentially frighten horses. Be sure to keep your dog quiet, close to you and still when sharing a trail with horseback riders.
- AVOID SPREADING SEEDS: Help keep weeds out of our forests. Noxious weeds threaten our healthy ecosystems. Stay on trail, drive on designated roads, use weed-free hay, check your socks, for hitchhikers when you get back to the trailhead. Let’s keep our forests strong and clean.
- When hiking in a group, hike single-file, never taking up more than half the trail, and stay on the trail itself. Over time, off-trail use can badly erode switchbacks and destroy drainage diversions. When a group meets a single hiker, it’s generally preferable for the single hiker to yield and step safely to the side.
- Hiker v. hiker: hikers going uphill have the right of way. On occasion an uphill hiker may let others come downhill while they take a breather, but remember that’s the uphill hiker’s call.
Mountain Bikers, Bikers
It is important that you let your fellow trail users know you’re coming - a friendly greeting is a good method. Anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists must yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, we ask that bikers make each pass a safe and courteous one.
- Know your ability, equipment and the area.
- Move off the trail for less mobile users, including hikers and horseback riders.
- Do not ride under conditions where you leave evidence of passing, i.e. after rain.
- Stay on the trail.
- Do not ride through streams.
- Make presence known at corners or blind spots.
- Control your bicycle.
- Always yield trail.
- Conscientious mountain bikers will call out as they come down steep slopes or blind switchbacks, and should also let you know if there are other bikers following them.
- Bikes should never pass a horse from behind. Call out that you want to pass, so the rider can turn the horse around to face the bike. When a horse is coming towards you, bikers should stop, move to the downhill side of the trail and say "hello." If the animal appears anxious, bikers should consider taking off backpacks or helmets and dismounting bikes.
- AVOID SPREADING SEEDS: Help keep weeds out of our forests. Noxious weeds threaten our healthy ecosystems and livelihoods. Stay on trail, ride on designated roads, check your socks, and bikes for hitchhikers when you get back to the trailhead. Let’s keep our forests strong and clean.
- Practice minimum impact techniques.
- Observe speed limits.
- Always clean up after your horse.
- Avoid campsites used by other trail users.
- Keep horses in campsite only long enough to unpack or pack them.
- Stock tied to trees ruins trees and turf: do so only for a short time. Use tie lines.
- Never tie horses within 200 feet of lakes, streams or springs.
- AVOID SPREADING SEEDS: Help keep weeds out of our forests. Noxious weeds threaten our healthy ecosystems and livelihoods. Stay on trail, use weed seed free hay, check your socks, clothing and horse tails for hitchhikers when you get back to the trailhead. Let’s keep our forests strong and clean.
ATVs, Motor vehicles, electric bicycles, off-highway vehicles
- Approach pedestrians slowly, pull over and turn off your engine.
- When passing someone, follow at a safe distance until you reach a safe place to pass: pass slowly.
- Minimize noise with proper care and operation of your vehicle.
- Respect trail closures.
- Stay on the trail.
- Do not ride on areas that are either wet, have loose soil, steep slopes, meadows or swamps.
- Motorized vehicle riders should stop their vehicle, turn off the engine and let horseback riders pass. Additionally, motorized users should allow the horses to move a considerable distance down the trail before starting the engine back up.
- AVOID SPREADING SEEDS: Help keep weeds out of our forests. Noxious weeds threaten our healthy ecosystems and livelihoods. Stay on trail, drive on designated roads, check your vehicle for hitchhikers when you get back to the trailhead. Let’s keep our forests strong and clean.