When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, striving to respect the land and those around you is important. Whether it be enjoying the local park or wandering around a large national forest, taking and applying the 7 trail etiquette principles will make the experience much more enjoyable for current and future explorers. Following the trail etiquette, these best practices will help prevent potential issues, especially in bigger groups. The ecosystems and animals will also appreciate your effort toward maintaining their homes.
Trail Etiquette Rules:
Know where you are going– In order to get to the destination and avoid getting lost, before leaving look online for trail accessibility resources. Then when arriving, check local park signs to best guide the excursion. Trail closures due to unsafe trail conditions can also occur, so making sure to take in all the signage before embarking is important for everyone’s safety.
Who has the right of way– It is important to know where to step and when. As a good rule of thumb, hikers coming down the trail yield to those going up the trail. Mountain bikers should yield to hikers when possible. Be cautious of your speed when rounding corners and when coming to the end of the trail as this is where the most populated part of the park will be. Bringing a dog? Yield to hikers and bikers. Be sure to keep your dog on a leash and pack dog waste into a trashcan. Please don’t leave it on the side of the trail. Right of Way, Washington Trail Association.
Leave no Trace– When going to any nature spot, the 7 leave no trace principles should be applied to make sure to minimize the impact on plants and wildlife. As they say, “Pack it in, pack it out.” Bring a trash bag and leave extra space in your pack to accommodate waste. Trash and human pollution can become a real issue in natural areas with limited trash receptacles.
Respect the wildlife– Chances of encountering wildlife on a trail are a real possibility. While being able to experience wildlife in a real-life setting is exciting, it is important to keep your distance. Quick movements or loud noises can scare them and cause stress. They may be cute but resist feeding wildlife. Human food can cause a host of problems that include but are not limited to, harming the animal, teaching animals that humans are a source of food where they become aggressive, and transmitting disease from humans to wildlife.
Stay on the path or trail– Unless stepping off briefly for a moment to yield, it is important to stick to the trail. Walking or biking into an untouched area creates a disruption to the local ecosystems. These environments are crucial to maintaining the balance and beauty of outdoor spaces. Further, off-trail conditions have the potential to be dangerous!
Keep noise low– Most seek nature to get away from the sounds associated with urban areas like car engines, horns and yelling. In order to maintain the peaceful environment outside, keeping the volume down on a trail is a must. Conversations and music on the path should be kept to a minimum so people can enjoy the natural world.
Be kind and respectful of other people– As the golden rule says, treat people as you wish to be treated. Saying hello or flashing a smile to a passerby creates a warm and welcoming space for all to enjoy the great outdoors. If you notice someone intentionally harming the area, please notify the managing agency to ensure the space is correctly taken care of.
Knowing the specifics of the surrounding landscapes can lead to greater knowledge and appreciation for them. If you are looking for ways to understand and enjoy the outdoors, Recreation Northwest in Bellingham, WA offers weekly experiences that teach environmental stewardship and fun! Learn about local hotspots like Fairhaven park, Whatcom Falls Park, and Big Rock garden. These areas are the perfect setting for the immersive experiences that Recreation Northwest offers.
Co-authored by, Lauryn Haywood, Recreation Northwest Spring 2022 WWU Communications Intern
Todd Elsworth is one of the many “Mossy-haired lunatics roaming the dripping peninsulas”, described in “I’m Here for the Weather” by Tom Robbins. As executive director, he works to fulfill our mission to teach the health benefits of nature, promote outdoor recreation, and steward the places where we play.