Warmer weather, green hillsides and blooming flowers make spring a popular season to visit the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Most trails within the Landmarks are multi-use trails – shared by hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians – and sharing the trails is everyone’s responsibility. With Spring Break in full swing for many, the potential for more people out on the trails means it’s even more important to practice responsible trail etiquette.
Communication and awareness are key to trail etiquette. Hikers and bikers should communicate with equestrians when their paths cross to determine the safest way for all parties involved to pass one another on the trail, and a biker should slow down and call out to hikers when approaching them from behind to allow hikers to step to the right and give room for the biker to pass. Hikers should be aware of their surroundings, watching and listening for other visitors traveling in front of or behind them. Practicing trail courtesy better guarantees all visitors’ safety and enjoyment while exploring the land, especially during events such as Wilderness Access Days that traditionally draw larger multi-use crowds.
The next Wilderness Access Day is in OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve on Saturday, April 2. During Wilderness Access Day: Limestone Canyon, visitors can explore designated trails on their own from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Also during Wilderness Access Day, the East Loma trail – a popular route to The Sinks that has been closed while OC Waste & Recycling worked on a project at the Frank R. Bowerman Landfill – will re-open for the first time in more than a year. Due to limited parking capacity, pre-registration is required for this event. Visitors looking to learn more about or register for Wilderness Access Day: Limestone Canyon can do so by clicking here.
Following the proper rules of trail etiquette is especially handy in open space park areas open daily for self-guided use. The City of Newport Beach’s Buck Gully Reserve and designated trails within the City of Irvine’s Bommer Canyon and Quail Hill are open to the public from dawn to dusk. Visitors can also explore the outdoors on their own at OC Parks’ Santiago Oaks, Peters Canyon and Irvine regional parks, as well as OC Parks’ Whiting Ranch andLaguna Coast wilderness parks and California State Parks’ Crystal Cove State Park. (Click the titles above to learn more about these locations, or see a complete list of parks open daily here.) When exploring these areas on your own, you’re likely to encounter trail traffic so it’s good to keep these pointers in mind:
- Call out to others on the trail courteously, giving them enough time to react after you alert them to your presence. Never assume people know you’re approaching from in front or behind.
- Step to the side if needed, but stay on the trail. Going off-trail creates erosion, damages native habitat (in turn hurting the local wildlife), and could lead to illegal trespassing.
- Stay alert and listen for others on the trail. If using headphones, keep the volume low or use one earbud to ensure you can still hear what’s happening around you.
- When in doubt, give others the right of way. People may be new to the trails and still learning proper etiquette; be kind when correcting other trail users. It’s more important to be an ambassador for trail etiquette than an enforcer.
For Walkers, Hikers and Trail Runners
- Stay single-file to help avoid collisions with less-cautious trail users and keep a path open for mountain bikers or fast-paced hikers.
- When approaching an equestrian, call out to let them know you’d like to pass. Give them time to wave you on or stop.
- Prevent collisions for other trail users by avoiding sudden stops. Never step to the left without first looking behind you.
For Mountain Bikers
- Travel at a speed that allows you to watch for trail hazards and pedestrians.
- Allow time for pedestrians to move aside. Newer trail users might be unaware they should step to the right, so call out “on your left” as you approach to give them time to allow you to pass safely. Be prepared to stop and yield if needed.
- If you’re in a group, let the hikers you pass know how many riders are behind you.
- Take special care with equestrians, avoiding bike bells that may startle the horses. Horses may not be accustomed to having bikes ride by, so make sure you stop and call out to the equestrian to see if they prefer to stop and allow you to pass or wave you on.
- Slow down for blind turns, and always be alert for oncoming traffic.
- Help the bikers and hikers yielding to your horse by being clear and courteous about how you want them to pass. Know your horse and communicate clearly whether you prefer to stop and let others pass, or vice versa.
- Keep your horse safe by desensitizing them to being passed by hikers or bikers. Making sure your horse is prepared to travel on multi-use trails is critical to their safety just as much as it is to the safety of yourself and other trail users.
- Be prepared to instruct other trail users on how to act around your horse, especially children.
- If you have less experience trail riding, follow other “trail-wise” equestrians who have more experience.
For additional tips to make your time exploring the Landmarks more enjoyable and safe, go here: http://letsgooutside.org/activities/trail-tips/.