Trail Etiquette 101: Who Has the Right of Way?

Unwritten rules abound in the great outdoors. The solitude and quiet that come with hiking are what draws many people onto the trails, but what happens if you’re sharing the trails with mountain bikers and equestrians?

While these unspoken rules aren’t clearly posted, there are general guidelines for sharing the trail that will keep all parties happy.

Hikers Encountering Hikers

If you’re out on the trail and you run into another hiker, the hiker going uphill has the right of way. There’s a good chance the hiker facing the uphill battle is in the zone, and it generally takes more energy to climb a slope than to descend one. Be polite and step aside unless the ascending hiker stops to take a breather.

If you’re passing another hiker from behind, say “hello” so they know you’re coming and pass on the left side.

Hikers Encountering Bikers

Bikers should yield for hikers. However, if you see a biker struggling up a steep incline, be nice and move over so they don’t have to stop. Bikes move quite a bit faster than legs so depending on the situation, it may be easier for the hiker to yield.

If you’re hiking, be aware of your surroundings. Considerate mountain bikers will usually call out if they’re coming around a blind switchback or down a steep slope, but not everyone takes into account that there could be other people on the trail.

Hikers Encountering Horses

Horses always have the right of way. Both hikers and bikers should yield for equestrians. Give them plenty of room, step off the trail on the downhill side, and greet the rider so the horse knows you’re a human and not a threat.

Hiking With Dogs

When hiking with your dog, you should always yield to other people on the trail. Not everyone loves dogs, so make sure to step off the trail and keep your dog close. If you encounter a horse, yield for the rider and keep your dog calm. Make sure you and your dog are visible, greet the riders, and stay put until the horse has passed.

Hiking In A Group

You should always hike single file in a large group and only take up half of the trail. If a group runs into a single hiker, it’s usually easier for the lone hiker to yield and let the group pass.

Tech On The Trail

You can use your phone pretty much anywhere these days, but just because you can that doesn’t mean you should. Go ahead and snap a few photos but try to limit your use. Nobody wants to wait around for you to make a phone call or share a status update on social media. Phones are great in case of an emergency, but otherwise keep them in your pack and enjoy your time in the great outdoors.

Overall, just be friendly and respectful on the trail. And don’t forget to cleanup after yourself, whatever goes in must come out!

Looking for a new place to hike? Check out these awesome camping adventures on Camp Native.

Jessica Goehring title: Administrator
Jessica is a freelance writer. She resides in Minnesota with her husband, dog, and 6 cats. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, and being President of the Introvert Club.