It’s my favorite time of year in Colorado- trees are turning from soft pink to vibrant green, festivals and farmer’s markets are lining the streets on weekends, and the warm sunshine is beginning to melt snow away from my favorite alpine hiking trails. Like many Coloradans, reaching the summit of the state’s 53 majestic 14,000-foot peaks is high on my bucket list. With more people than ever getting out and exploring Colorado’s 14ers, it’s important that everyone is practicing the correct trail etiquette and is aware of how to properly share the trail. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker in need of a refresher or are new to the outdoor scene, below are some of the ‘common laws’ of the trail. Follow the guidelines and share them with your fellow outdoor companions on the trail this season.
1. HIKERS RIGHT OF WAY
Hikers going up-trail have the right of way over other hikers. Be courteous, and don’t break the rhythm of uphill hikers.
2. BIKERS ON TRAIL
Technically, mountain bikers are supposed to yield for hikers. It’s often easier for hikers to step out of the way though. That said, bikers need to be cautious when riding fast down the trail, making sharp turns and should never expect hikers to move over.
Horses and other livestock, which can often be unpredictable, always have the right of way. Step aside and try not to make any sudden movements or noises that could spook the animals.
4. GROUP SIZE
Limit the size of your group. In Colorado, most trails allow no more than 15 people per group.
5. LEAVE NO TRACE
Pack it in, pack it out. Simply put, everything that you start the hike with should return with you.
Bonus Points: If you find trash, take it with you.
Extra Bonus Points: Bring waste bags to dispose of your and your pet’s waste. Otherwise, follow Leave No Trace guidelines for appropriately burying your solid waste at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites.
Your music is not everyone else’s music. Everyone has his or her own reasons for being out in Mother Nature. For some, that reason is enjoying the peace and solitude. Be respectful and wear headphones if you want to listen to music. Note: If you do choose to listen to music on the trail, it’s best to use earbuds. Keep one ear bud out so you can hear oncoming hikers, bikers or equestrians as well as approaching wildlife.
7. TRAIL ALIGNMENT
Always stay on the right hand side of the trail, pass on the left, and walk single-file when in a group.
8. TRAIL PRESERVATION
Trail crews, several organizations and volunteers work hard to maintain Colorado’s trails. Do your part to preserve the trails and gentle ecosystems around them by staying on them. Do not cut corners, switchbacks or make your own shortcuts.
9. PET OWNERS
Pet owners need to be aware of what trail restrictions are in place for their pets ahead of time. While Colorado has several dog-friendly trails and parks, many are leash-only or do not allow pets at all.
10. TRAIL COURTESY
When you pass by another hiker, look up, make eye contact, maybe smile and start up a little conversation. Ie. “Hello! Good morning!” “What are the trail conditions like up ahead?” “Keep up the good work, almost there!”
Not because you have to, but because that’s just what we do here in Colorado.