I’m sure my fellow nature enthusiasts enjoy their fair share of solitude when they head out to the trails, but odds are you eventually run into someone else also looking to enjoy the outdoors. Whether on foot, on horseback, or a bike, remembering good trail etiquette keeps everyone moving along their path in a safe way.
Most of the trails throughout Texas, specifically in the Texas Hill Country, allow multiple access to the land. This means while out on a hike, you could cross paths with mountain bikers, pack riders, and people with dogs. You could be one of the latter ad cross paths with a hiker.
Depending on your mode of transportation and companion, there are a few common courtesies of sharing the trails. The National Parks Service offers several guides to trail etiquette, but the golden rule will always be to treat others the way you want to be treated.
However, there are a couple of other courtesy rules you should know before hitting the trail. The most important is how to share the trail.
Right of Way
Hikers vs. Hikers
Most commonly, you will cross paths with other hikers. While most of the time, the trail is wide enough for everyone to pass each other just fine, there are a few times when you might question the right of way.
First, hikers going uphill have the right of way. This is for several reasons, the first being scientific. Hikers making their way up an incline have a smaller field of vision. Second, most can agree that you get into a rhythm or zone when trudging uphill and may not want to break pace.
Second, when coming up on another hiker from behind, announce you are there with a “hello” before continuing to pass. You don’t want to frighten your fellow hiker while they are zoned out.
Finally, understand group trail etiquette. It’s even more essential to implement good trail etiquette when you are hiking with others. Try to walk single-file or take up less than half of the trail width. This helps prevent erosion and allows other hikers to pass if needed. Typically groups get the right of way over individuals.
Hikers vs. Bikers
Mountain bikers are the next most common traveler you will cross paths with while out in the Texas Hill Country. Technically speaking, mountain bikes are considered more maneuverable than hikers. However, bikes usually travel at a higher speed, so it’s often easier for hikers to yield the right of way, especially when a mountain biker is tackling an incline.
Mountain bikers should remember that hikers are never expected to yield to bikes. It’s essential to remain aware of your surroundings whether you are on a bike or foot. Conscientious mountain bikers will have a bell on their mountain bike or vocally call out to other trail users when approaching them, coming down slopes or switchbacks, and notify people that other mountain bikers follow.
No matter what way you choose to move along the trail, always remember to use common sense. During the heaviest traffic times of trail use, it may be best to assume others on the path are novices and do not know proper trail etiquette.
Horses vs. Everyone Else
Lastly, while out on the trail, you may encounter pack riders. As the trail’s largest and potentially least-predictable users, horses and mules get the right of way in all situations.
No matter the trail’s width, always move over as much as possible and wait for the rider(s) to pass. When in narrowers areas of the path, try to move off the trail completely. Finally, when moving off the path, stand on the downhill side if possible. Equestrians are more likely to move uphill when they spook or lose their footing.
Hiking with Dogs
A vast majority of the trails in the Texas Hill Country allow hikers to bring their dogs. Always check online with the rules ahead of time. If animals are not permitted on the preserve or trail, leave them at home.
Very few trails in Texas allow dogs off-leash. As a courtesy to other trail users and other dogs, follow the leash laws. It is very popular to let pets off-leash to swim in several of the watering holes along the trails in the Texas Hill Country. You know your pet best. Use common sense when areas are heavily populated, or other animals are present.
Bring dog bags and other necessary items when hiking with your pets to help keep the trail clean for others. Several trails have garbage cans at the entrance to the park and along the route.
Other Trail Etiquette Reminders
Always do your research before heading out, especially to new areas. Keep your safety and others’ safety in mind while on the trail. A few other etiquette tips:
- Stay on the trail – Try to prevent erosion whenever possible
- Do not disturb wildlife
- Be mindful of trail conditions – Avoid hiking during or immediately after bad weather conditions
- Communicate your plans to others before hitting the trail
- Be friendly and courteous – Say “Hello” or nod to fellow trail users
- Watch children carefully – don’t allow young children on trails without supervision
- Leave no trace. Pack out your litter
- Don’t use routes after dark
- Use the buddy system
- Bring a fully charged phone and identification
- If using headphones, wear in one ear only so you can remain aware of the sounds around you
- Bring plenty of water and sunscreen
Living in the Texas Hill Country opens the doors to nearly endless trails. Travisso neighbors the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.
For a list of all the trails near Travisso, read our previous blogs: