Hiking Trail Etiquette

Hiking and Biking Trail Etiquette

Engaging with other trail users in positive ways benefits everyone.

Getting outdoors for many of us means hitting the trails on foot, bike, or horse. With vast tracts of public lands within our reach, the opportunities to enjoy our favorite outdoor activities are nearly endless.

While on the trail, it is paramount to remember that proper trail etiquette goes a long way in creating harmonious interactions with other trail users. At the same time, a good understanding of trail etiquette works to maintain our beloved trails.

Here is some basic trail etiquette to ensure that you and others enjoy your outdoor experience.


Get mentally prepared to encounter other trail users. You could come across hikers, runners, bicyclists, and horseback riders. And in all cases, a dog may be present.

Uphill hikers have the right of way.

If you see people hiking up a trail, step aside and let them pass. A cordial greeting always helps.

Bicyclists and hikers yield to all pack stock.

Horses and other pack stock can be skittish, so hikers and bicyclists need to give them a wide berth by slowly stepping off to the downhill side of a trail. If you approach a horse from behind, use a calm voice to let the rider know your presence. You and the horse rider can then calmly communicate a plan to let you pass.

Bicyclists yield to hikers and all pack stock.

The general rule for bikers is to pull aside and let all other trail users and pack stock pass. However, because getting started from a full stop can be difficult for a bicyclist, a common courtesy shown by a hiker is to step aside and encourage the biker to keep riding.

Downhill bicyclists yield to uphill bicyclists.

It can be tough to interrupt the thrill of a downhill trail ride, especially on a flow trail, but be courteous to uphill riders. It is always prudent to maintain a controllable speed and keep a lookout for other trail users.

Acknowledge one another. Be nice!

A friendly gesture such as saying hello, giving a nod, or even smiling helps create a friendly experience for everyone.

Stay on the trail.

Stepping off a trail can damage vegetation and cause erosion. Stay on the trail unless you are yielding to another user. Even then, tread lightly. And never cut switchbacks!

Never disturb wildlife.

Part of the fun of hiking is viewing wildlife. Feel free to enjoy them at a distance but give them space.

Be a listener, not a loudspeaker.

Wildlife and other trail users enjoy peace and quiet. Wildlife depends on it to survive. If you must use an electronic device, be respectful by keeping the noise down. Remember, listening to nature is a big piece of why many people come to the outdoors.

Dogs on the trail.

Using the trails should be enjoyable for all involved, even your dog. But before you bring your dog on a hike, be sure dogs are even allowed in the area and that your dog is trail ready. If your dog has the compulsion to be aggressive, bark, lunge at people, chase wildlife, or not heed your commands, it needs more training. Always pack out your pal’s droppings.

These hiking etiquette guidelines are just that, guidelines. Ultimately, we’re all out to enjoy ourselves while using the trails, even if we travel them differently.

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