Trail Etiquette: Who Has the Right of Way?
There’s no doubt that at some point when enjoying your hike and solitude on the trail, that you will be sharing that trail with others. The only question is, who has the right of way? Whether you’re sharing the trail with other hikers, mountain bikers, or equestrians, we have your trail etiquette covered.
Hikers going uphill have the right of way because they have a smaller field of vision while hiking on an incline, and they may be in a zone where they don’t want to break their pace. Occasionally, an uphill hiker may let those coming down pass to allow them to take a breather, but that’s the uphill hiker’s call. If you’re hiking in a group, you should be in a single-file line, never taking up more than half the trail space. If a group is sharing a trail with a single hiker, the single hiker is expected to yield and give the group the right of way.
Mountain bikes are considered to be more maneuverable than a hiker’s legs, which means hikers on foot have the right of way here. However, mountain bikers are usually moving at faster paces, in which case it might be easier for hikers on foot to move out of the way, especially if they are biking up an incline. Mountain bikers move faster, hikers should be aware of their surroundings when sharing trails. Mountain bikers should also call out if they are coming from blind corners, switchbacks, or steep slopes, and let you know if there are any other bikers trailing behind them.
Horses are the largest, slowest, and usually the least predictable creatures on the trail, giving them full right of way next to mountain bikers and hikers. If you see yourself sharing a trail with equestrians, keep calm, quiet, and give them as much room as possible to avoid startling the horses. If the trail is narrow and they are passing, move to the downhill side. If horses get spooked they are more likely to run uphill than downhill; you never want to be in the path of a spooked horse.
If you’re ever in doubt when sharing the trail with other hikers, mountain bikers, or equestrians, make sure to communicate and treat them and the trail with respect.