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Trail Etiquette

Hiking is just like most every other activity or sport—there are unwritten rules that when followed, make the experience much more fun for everyone. And likewise, when not followed, can either drive people crazy or in the worst case scenario, be dangerous. Because we’re in the business of inviting folks from all over the world to come and join us on the trail we figure we would be remiss if we didn’t give folks a few pointers. 

Bikers, Hikers, Horses oh my…
Aside from the gorgeous scenery, you’re probably going to notice real quick that on most trails, you aren’t going to be the only one using the space. You are going to have to share…gasp! Many trails are mixed use and have signs to let you know what is allowed.  

1.    When you encounter horses on the trail, they have priority. Step off the trail on the downhill side if possible to allow equestrians to pass safely, giving them plenty of room. Be friendly and calm and avoid startling the horse. Saying hello is perfectly fine and will probably let the horse know you are friendly. Since horses tend to bolt uphill when feeling spooked, keeping on the downhill side is the way to go.

2.    When you encounter a biker on the trail, the hiker has the priority and the biker should yield the right of way. That said, the hiker has the responsibility of being as aware of their surroundings as possible. Hiking with headphones on may be tempting, but should a biker call out to notify you that they are coming around a blind corner fast, and you can’t hear it… you know how this can end. 

Yield to Hikers Walking Uphill
Hiking uphill is hard work—particularly if you are carrying a pack—and having to stop to accommodate folks rushing downhill puts a grinding halt to one’s momentum. That said, we’re the kind of folks that more often than not, are pretty darned happy to stop for a break while heading uphill and in particular, when you see that the folks coming downhill are carrying a TON of gear and look like they just descended Everest. In a nutshell, let the folks heading uphill make the call. It’s the polite thing to do.

Like Driving, Pass With Care
Keep to the right side of the trail with hiking, and pass on the left. Just notify the person you’d like to pass them. A simple “On your left”  or “Hey there, can I get around you?” is totally fine too. We recently had a gal pass our daughter on the right on a steep cliffside trail. It was an insanely dangerous near-miss with our daughter being forced to wobble off on the cliff side while we nearly had a heart attack. Pass with care folks. Nobody needs to be in THAT big of a hurry.

Most of us have more and more technology in our lives, and this means there is a lot more technology that hits the trails these days too. This can be awesome when it comes to GPS and mapping apps, but it can be less than awesome when the person hiking in front of you is walking at a snail’s pace, Instagramming as they go, or like the hike we did this weekend, where a lady had her phone on maximum volume pumping Justin Bieber through the woods for all to hear, whether we liked it or not.

Phones are good to have on hand in case of an emergency and in many cases, for photography, but their use should be limited to such and done without impeding other folks on the trail. One of the wonderful things about hiking is the opportunity to escape the daily grind, and retreat into the sounds of nature. If you have to take a phone call, just step off the trail and do so quickly and as quietly as possible. 

Let the Cairns Be
Cairns are those little stacks of rocks that are created to help guide hikers through areas where the path might not be so clear. Do not destroy these (this may seem obvious, but I’ve met someone who toppled them because they were man-made and he believed, had no place in nature) but also do not add to the collection simply to make art (I’ve also seen this—a certain individual built them all along our hike indiscriminately). Cairns are there to be waypoints to help us stay on track only. File this under Leave No Trace—just leave the cairns as they are.

Leave No Trace

This is pretty simple really:

  1. Clean up your messes and pack out anything that you brought in. (This goes the same for your dogs )
  2. Stay on the trail. There’s no need to prove your awesome hiking prowess by cutting switchbacks or going cross-country when there is a perfectly good trail. This only causes erosion, hurts delicate plants and may loosen rocks that could hurt hikers below you.

Be Friendly, Have Fun and Respect Others

We believe that hiking is truly the great friendship accelerator. This can happen with the group you’re hiking with or the folks you meet along the way. Be friendly and simply respect the space and experience of others as you go.

Hiking With Dogs

When hiking with your dogs, you are also responsible for your dog’s behavior on the trail. This includes how they interact with other trail users: hikers, bikers, equestrians and other dogs.

  1. Be sure that you are only taking your dog on trails where dogs are allowed. Trails that do not allow dogs are likely trying to protect sensitive ecosystems.  
  2. In places where signed as such, dogs should be kept on a leash. If signage does not indicate that dogs must be leashed, please be sure your pup responds to your voice commands—at all times. This means that the dog will immediately heel when told and refrains from barking. If your dog isn’t that reliable (ours certainly isn’t) and you’re on trails where others could be impacted—keep Fido on their leash.
  3. When you meet other hikers or bikers on the trail, always yield the right-of-way, stepping well clear of the trail to allow the other users to pass without worrying about getting sniffed or licked.
  4. When meeting horses on the trail, hikers with dogs must step aside (downhill is safest if it is an option), giving a wide birth to the equestrian, and make sure the dog stays calm, doesn’t bark and makes no move toward the horse. Horses can be spooked by dogs, particularly if they perceive them to be aggressive. Give them as much space as you can.
  5. When meeting other dogs on the trail, give them ample space and do not assume that because your dog is friendly and wants to sniff and play, that all other dogs do as well. Before allowing your dog to approach others, ask the other dog owner if their dog is friendly and wants to sniff and say hello. 
  6. And last but not least, nobody wants to step in what your dog may leave behind. We all have to clean up our own dogs’ messes. No matter how gross it is to clean up and carry out, it’s way worse to find that surprise on our shoes or anything else.