A typical trail courtesy sign.Understanding the basics of trail safety are fundamental to understanding the role, impacts, and responsibility we each have when recreating. Outdoor enthusiasts should learn the “rules of the road” when it comes to trail safety—both in terms of trail etiquette and general safety tips to keep yourself, others, and the natural environment safe.

Would it be okay to run red lights because you disagreed with the traffic signal? No, it would jeopardize your life and that of others on our roadways. The same applies when trail etiquette is not followed. Major and minor incidents occur on our trails all the time.  These incidents impact our trails, natural lands and wildlife as well as land managers, public safety personnel, and other trail users. Please follow trail courtesy and park/trail rules to provide the safest experience for everyone.

Before you head out on the trails, get affirmative answers to these questions:

  • Are you (the public) allowed on the land?
  • Is the park or protected area open when I plan to be there and what are the visiting hours?
  • Are the weather conditions suitable for outdoor activities?
  • Are the trails I plan to use open to my specific user group (such as bikers, hikers or equestrians)?

Additionally, understand who has the right of way on a trail:

  • Bikers and hikers yield to equestrians, and
  • Bikers yield to hikers.

Please also consider what items you may need on the trail to keep yourself healthy and safe. The Safe Trails Coalition encourages all trail users to be prepared, including dressing appropriately with the proper footwear. Bringing enough water for each person is critical. Numerous trail safety lists exist that help trail users bring the “10 essential items.” For example, REI, Backpacker, GearX, and others all have examples of the 10 essentials list.  Do your homework before hitting the trail.

Finally, rescue personnel have identified a charged cell phone as another helpful tool to keep park visitors safe. Keeping your phone in airplane mode extends the life of the battery.  It may also be helpful to know how to access the GPS coordinates from your phone to help provide a location should rescue personnel be needed.

Always be courteous to others and be safe on the trail!