Travel restrictions, social distancing, closed gyms and other pandemic related issues have changed our lives. Fortunately, we are still welcome on the magnificent walking trails across the country. Reportedly, usage of hiking trails and camping increased by about 60% since the pandemic’s start. Furthermore, a spokesperson for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says the number of people enjoying nature on multi-use trails is 200% more than before lockdowns.
Multi-user trails offer a temporary escape for families. Hikers or walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, bicyclists are welcome. Furthermore, pet owners can enjoy nature with their leashed pets. Trails welcome anyone who wants to enjoy the outdoors away from vehicle traffic. However, some of those who have always enjoyed the trails’ social connection and solace says many newcomers are unfamiliar with trail etiquette. Responsible use by everyone is crucial. Let’s share some of the RTC tips for responsible recreation on walking trails.
Be visible while using the trails
Dress in bright colors or reflective clothing to be visible for other trail users. During the winter months, you might want to wear a headlight. Similarly, bicycles must have front and backlights, and some reflectors would further increase visibility. Cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers must travel at safe speeds, even if they use the necessary visibility measures.
Be friendly and courteous to other users of trails
The typical mood of trail users is friendly. People greet each other, make friendly comments, and always smile at those they encounter. Being cool and distant can spoil the happy moods of others. Furthermore, stand to the side if necessary to let others pass while keeping a safe distance.
Keep to the right of the trails and pass on the left
Use the same walking and passing rules as you would when driving on the highways. Stay on the trail’s right-hand side, leaving the left clear for those passing you, regardless of their modes of transport. However, trail etiquette requires friendly warnings as you come upon the left of others. Call out or ring your bicycle’s bell to avoid catching them unawares.
Trail etiquette requires downhill walkers to yield
People who are going uphill work extra hard as they fight gravity. Furthermore, their field of vision is narrower than for those heading downhill. Maintaining momentum and pace navigating up a steep hill make the climb easier. For these three reasons, trail etiquette requires downhill trail users to yield for those trekking uphill.
Leave no Trace on trails limits the human impact
You can become familiar with the Leave No Trace philosophy here. The framework of the philosophy is Leave What You Find and Dispose of Waste Properly. The aim is for trail users to have minimal impact on the natural surroundings. Essentially preserving the beauty and health of all organisms and life forms that live in areas surrounding the trails. Similarly, leaving no trace will preserve nature for all future visitors.
Do not leave the trail
This etiquette rule deals with another critical Leave No Trace matter. Imagine thousands of hikers venturing off the trail to explore other areas further afield. It will ruin the trail’s attraction of meandering through undisturbed nature. Building’ inukshuks’ or rock cairns are also a big No-No. The furthest you can move off the trail is to stand aside to let larger groups pass or to avoid holding others up while you stop for any reason.
Mind your mobile phone manners
Muting the sound of mobile phones is preferable. However, if you must listen to music, keep it at a low volume and use only one earbud. Using both might prevent you from hearing approaching cyclists, runners or hikers. Similarly, do not make loud phone calls. Why not use your time on the trail to separate you from your phone altogether?
Pet owners’ etiquette
Only in zones marked as off-leash areas may pets be unrestrained. Even the best-trained and well-behaved pets and those with friendly demeanors must be on leashes. Always clean up after your pets, and take your doggy poop bags with you. Never leave unpleasant surprises for other trail users.
While we’re on the subject
If you are new to spending several hours walking the trails, you might be unsure about the correct ways to relieve yourself. You can get the necessary information here.
Should you wear a mask?
Rules vary, and wearing masks might be mandatory in parking areas, but not on trails. The best way to deal with mask requirements is to call ahead and ask about regulations.
The bottom line, have awesome times on walking trails but do nothing that might spoil it for others.