Knowing good trail etiquette can make or break an outdoor experience. On multi-use trails, you might find yourself held up in a traffic jam and wonder, who has the right of way? Whether you’re sharing the trail with other hikers, mountain bikers, or equestrians, here are the basics of trail right-of-way.
When compared to bikes and horses, hikers are likely the slowest trail users. What hikers lack in speed, they make up for in maneuverability, allowing them to easily find areas to yield to other trail users. Here are some pointers for meeting other hikers on the trail:
- When possible, hikers should give way to equestrians. Step to the downhill side of the trail if the conditions allow. Always communicate with equestrians and avoid sudden movements when the horse passes to avoid startling it.
- On the trail, bikers are generally expected to yield to hikers. However, because bikers are frequently moving much faster it is usually easier for hikers to yield the right of way.
- If you come across another hiker, the downhill hiker yields to the uphill hiker.
Mountain bikers are the fastest moving trail users on a descent, so staying ahead of the pack on the trail is good practice. Here are some guidelines and tips for riding on a multi-use trail:
- Mountain bikers should always give way to hikers and equestrians.
- Keep an eye on your speed around blind corners where you might encounter another trail user.
- Some equestrians may request that you dismount your bike as they pass in order to avoid startling the horse.
- Wait for the horses to pass completely before resuming your ride.
- If you come across another mountain biker, yield to the rider who is moving uphill.
Equestrians and their horses can be intimidating to other trail users. It's a good idea to communicate clearly with hikers and mountain bikers about the best way to yield on the trail. Here are some pointers for encountering mountain bikers and hikers:
- Though equestrians have the right of way when passing hikers and mountain bikers, there may be times when it is better to yield rather than pass. This is especially important when approaching mountain bikers from behind on a descent.
- Always communicate clearly with other trail users when passing to ensure they don't get in the way.
- If your horse is easily startled or nervous around bikes, politely request that mountain bikers dismount.
- If you come across another equestrian, find a wide area to yield and allow an uphill horse to pass.
Taking your dog on trails entails additional responsibilities not only to your pet, but also to other trail users. Here are some pointers and guidelines for taking your dog on a hike:
- When dog owners encounter other trail users, both the dog and the owner must yield to all other trail users. If the terrain makes stepping to the downhill side of the trail difficult or dangerous, move to the uphill side of the trail.
- It's best practice, and the law on some trails, to keep your dog on a leash.
- Even if your dog is friendly, keep your dog close when passing children, horses, or other dogs. Communicate with equestrians to ensure that the horse is not startled by the presence of other animals.
When in doubt, communicate clearly with other trail users and find the best solution for the moment. There aren't always ideal places to yield, but cooperating with your fellow trail users will allow everyone to enjoy the trail safely.
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