Top six rules of trail etiquette

Compiled by Staci Matlock
Posted 5/22/19

It really is going to warm up soon around Northern New Mexico (recent snowstorm not withstanding) into perfect hiking, biking, trail-running and horseback riding weather. So what should you keep in …

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Top six rules of trail etiquette

Posted

It really is going to warm up soon around Northern New Mexico (recent snowstorm not withstanding) into perfect hiking, biking, trail-running and horseback riding weather. So what should you keep in mind before trekking or riding to stay safe?

1. Tell someone where you're going.

Whether you travel solo or in a group, leave a note on your vehicle or a message with a family member or a coworker saying where you've gone and when you expect to return. Otherwise you could end up in a bad spot like the real-life guy portrayed in the flick "127 Hours" who has to saw off his arm with a pocketknife after he's trapped by a boulder. No one wants to do that.

2. Go prepared.

Even if you go for a short hike, take water and some snacks along with a raincoat. One slip on a rocky path could leave you with a busted ankle and stranded in the brush or forest with quite a wait till someone finds you.

3. Who has the right of way?

Mountain bikers should give way to hikers and runners and both should give way to horseback riders. That often doesn't happen as anyone can attest who uses trails. Hikers and runners often find themselves quickly trying to step out of the way of a fast-moving biker so they don't get run over. To some degree it makes sense; it's easier for people on foot to step out of the way than for a bicyclist to stop and get off, unless it's a steep mountain or canyon trail with a drop off. At the least, bikers should yell out as they come around a curve or down a hill to alert anyone ahead that they are coming.

Getting out of the way for equestrians just makes sense - horses are big animals and can be unpredictable. Equestrians should likewise call out when the trail ahead is hidden and they hear people coming; that alerts others. Above all, be courteous to others on the trail, no matter their mode of travel.

4. Pack it in, pack it out.

No one wants to hike, run or ride through a dump. So whatever you take with you on trails and to camp, pack it out again. It really doesn't take much muscle to stick that empty can or plastic wrapper back in your backpack and carry it back where you came from. Be courteous and pick up after yourself.

5. Keep dogs leashed or under voice command.

Just because you know your best four-legged friend wouldn't hurt a flea, that doesn't mean others know it. No one has the right to cause others on the trail to be scared by their loose dog. Keep your canine buddy close to be courteous to others and to protect wildlife.

6. Stay on marked trails.

This is especially important in areas with a lot of human use. People pack down soil and that leads to erosion after rain and snow. Developed trails take into account human impact and are designed for it.

Want to help keep your beloved trails in good shape? Sign up with your local hiking group or public lands agency to help maintain trails on National Trails Day, June 1.

- Compiled by Staci Matlock

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