Published on May 31st, 2013 | by Pat0
Share the Trail this National Trails Day
National Trails Day is upon us! It’s the one day a year outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes can come together to support and celebrate our unparalleled trail networks. Because the National Trails System is used for a variety of activities, we at Trekalong thought it worth a minute to brush up on some best practices on how trailblazers of all kinds can share the trail:
Share the Trail
Regardless of your “vehicle,” there are a few rules that everyone should follow:
OPEN TRAILS ONLY
Respect trail and road closures (ask if not sure), avoid possible trespass on private land, and obtain permits and authorization as may be required.
STAY ON THE TRAIL, IN THE MIDDLE
There’s plenty to be said about taking roads less traveled and such, but when it comes to nature trails, it’s best to stick to the beaten path. Better yet, it’s best to stick to the middle of the trail, and to challenge yourself (when safely possible) to go over obstacles rather than around them. This prevents (further) habitat damage and noxious weed dissemination, and, in general, “bushwhacking” or “switchbacking” flies in the face of the next rule…
LEAVE NO TRACE
Thankfully, this mantra is becoming more and more common. Aside from the more obvious versions of this rule (leaving flora & fauna be, responsible waste depositing, etc.), it’s easy to forget how weather conditions during your trailblazing can also impact the environment. Especially after even a short rain, soil is much more sensitive to displacement and damage. For more on leaving no trace, check here.
Communication is key on the trail. This rule applies more readily to bicycles and equestrians, in that they will generally be moving more quickly than anyone on foot. However, walkers and runners are not exempt from the necessity to make your presence known on the trail. When approaching a fellow trail user from the rear, give a polite but audible call “On your left/right,” well in advance, so as not to startle them. Also — like servers in restaurants — calling your corners is courteous and helps prevent injury-causing collision.
Like on the road, a general rule of thumb is the faster vehicle yields to the slower. On a bike? Yield to a trotting horse or jogger/walker. This is true unless the trail is clearly marked for a particular vehicular use. Similarly, those going uphill on the trail have the right-of-way over those traveling downhill. Step/pull to the side, and let your fellow hiker pass.
Etiquette on Foot
Here are a few thoughts for the walkers/joggers out on the trail:
TRAVEL IN SMALL GROUPS
This also applies to cyclists, but it’s a less obvious rule of thumb for trail-runners. Not only can a large group of runners be intimidating to a solitary walker, but many trails have instated group-size limits. Split large groups into smaller groups, and run in a single-file line (this will also help keep your impact low).
KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH
Hiking with your pooch is a great way to enhance your hiking enjoyment and to bond with your companion. However, your dog will not inherently abide by all the trail-respect rules you do. A leash is the best way to keep everyone — especially Fido — safe on the trail. Also, dogs are prohibited on some trails, so make sure before setting out that your dog is welcome to come along.
Etiquette on Bike
Just a few notes that pertain specifically to the bikers among us:
CITY OWNED TRAILS ONLY
Federal and state wilderness areas are almost always closed to cycling. Utilize city operated biking trails instead.
CONTROL YOUR SPEED
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get as gravity pulls you down a steep grade. However, there’s even more power in harnessing that velocity. Inattention for even a second can lead to disaster, and excessive speed can maim and threaten people.
BUY A BELL
Or, some other device with which you can communicate with other trail users out of eye-shot. Be sure to utilize a bell with a modest tone, however, so as not to disturb surrounding wildlife too severely.
However you decide to hit the trail tomorrow, it’s most important that you enjoy your time outdoors! By following these simple tips, you can make sure others will, too.
For more guidance on putting your most polite foot forward while on the trail, our friends at Menasha Ridge Press and Wilderness Press have you covered!