Everyone that uses trails should be mindful and follow the rules of the land and the trail rules. This information is usually available on the land manager’s website, a park brochure, and in many cases it is posted at the park’s entrance or at trailheads. Trail courtesy (or trail etiquette) is also important to ensure everyone on the trail is safe. Below are a few tips to help ensure your trail experiences are positive:
- Know the Risks. As humans entering wildlands, it is your responsibility to know what types of animals you may encounter, how to reduce those encounters, and what to do during an encounter. Because you are entering “wild” land, your safety can never be guaranteed.
- Follow the Rules. Understand the park rules (such as hours of operation) and trail regulations (such as speed limits, passing priorities) and follow them.
- Be Trail Aware. If someone calls to you announcing they will be passing on your left; you need to be able to hear them, so ensure your eyes and ears are on alert. In other words, don’t be consumed by your favorite tunes.
- Be Prepared. Most people carry their cell phones with them at all times. In case of emergency this could be your lifeline. Keep your phone charged, know your surroundings (park name, trail name), bring the 10 essential items, and report any problems you encountered to the land manager immediately.
- Pack It In, Pack It Out. Whatever you take into the natural area, you should take out. Littering has become an increasing problem. Don’t throw your plastic water bottles, wrappers or tissue out on the trail. Bring the appropriate trash bag to take it out. If you can, pick up trash along the trails as well. This allows you to become a good role model and helps keep the parks clean.
- Go in Groups. To be safe, you should always be on the trail with a buddy or two. If you must go alone, be sure someone knows where you are going, when you are leaving/returning, and that they call the authorities if you don’t check-in on time.
- Report Trail Problems. If you notice a trail is overgrown or dangerous, please report it to the land manager. It is never okay to take matters into your own hands and create your own trail or expand an existing one.
Everyone should have a positive and safe trail experience, but it is everyone’s individual responsibility to ensure their own safety and ultimately that relates to the safety of others.