Trail Rules: Common Courtesy and Common Sense

You’ve all been there before: some guy barrels down a hill while you’re climbing and has the audacity to yell at you to get of of the way. You’re thinking wait, I have the right of way; I’m climbing! You are correct, however, being right isn’t going to save you an argument with another trail user, or worse.

Unlike when you’re riding your bike on the road, there are no laws dictating trail use. And even if there were, there are no police on the trails to enforce them. So when you’re in the great outdoors, use common sense and exercise common courtesy to stay safe.

You’ve seen it on the signs before: horses have the right of way (always), hikers are second and mountain bikers are supposed to yield to everyone on trails. But what happens when two mountain bikers encounter one another? Even though everyone knows that uphill climbers have the right of way, it’s still a grey area.

When traveling in groups, whether or not you’re riding uphill, it’s common courtesy to yield the right of way to an individual or smaller group. But on the other hand, if you, as the person coming downhill have plenty of room to navigate around a group coming uphill or time to stop, you should yield.

When approaching a blind corner, always use your bell well in advance of the turn. This can save you from a head-on collision.

If you must use your iPod on the trail, never use BOTH earphones. Always leave one ear open so that you can hear others approaching! Better yet: if you really have to have music on the trail, get a set of speakers for your backpack. It will serve two purposes: everyone will enjoy your music and trail users will be able to hear you coming.

Hikers: stay off the “line” when mountain bikers around. If you simply look down you’ll see what we’re talking about. It’s that nice smooth path through the middle of all those ruts and rocks on the trail.

Bikers: stop for horse riders and wait for them to tell you it’s OK to pass.

Bikers: make sure hikers know you’re coming. A bell works wonders. Don’t ring the bell near horses.

Hikers: get out of the way! It’s a lot easier for you to step to the side than it is for us to find a path around you!

Generally speaking, when traveling on a trail, stay to the right but if that’s not possible, just make sure to have eye contact with the person you’re approaching.

Everyone: Don’t take up the entire trail by riding or walking side-by-side. If you do, the person on the wrong side should drop back to form a single line when approaching others.

While climbing, leave room between yourself and the person in front of you just in case they have to stop. Leave even more room while descending.

While climbing, if you can’t make the climb, get off the line!

Never stop in the middle of a trail. And always look at the bushes before putting your foot next to or in them to check for snakes.

There are no hard fast rules of the trail out there, but if you follow these simple words of advice, you’ll find your dealings with others on the trail more enjoyable. And if you encounter somebody who doesn’t know these tid bits of common courtesy, inform them, but don’t be a jerk about it and insist upon your “rights” because in reality, neither of you have any more right to use the trail than the other.