Most trails within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are multi-use trails – they are shared by hikers and bikers, and many are shared with equestrians as well. Sharing a friendly "hello" as you pass along the trail is a common occurrence, but many trail users aren't sure about other aspects of trail courtesy.
Basic trail etiquette ensures both a safe and enjoyable time in the local open space. Similar to road traffic, trail traffic guidelines depend on your mode of transportation. Hikers yield to equestrians, whose horses have natural instincts of their own that may affect their behavior. Fast-moving bikers yield to both equestrians and hikers, who may not have time to react if not given enough notice to clear the way for the biker.
· Speak courteously and call out appropriately to others. Give them time to react after you alert them to your presence, and never assume that they know you are approaching.
· Stay on the trail. Creating your own paths, using unmarked trails or creating switchbacks creates erosion, damages habitat and could lead to illegal trespassing.
· Respect other users; expect other users. When in doubt, give other users the right of way.
· Keep your ears open for approaching trail users. If using headphones, keep the volume low or use one earbud.
· Don't assume your fellow trail users know trail etiquette – they may be new to trial use and still learning. If someone acts in error, be kind and courteous in suggesting a correction, stressing safe shared trail use. Be an ambassador for trail etiquette, not an enforcer.
For Hikers and Runners
· Stay single-file. Even on wide double-track trails, staying in line on the right will help avoid collisions with less cautious trail users. It also keeps a passing path open for faster movers.
· If you are approaching an equestrian, call out to let them know you would like to pass. Then give the equestrian time to wave you on or stop.
· Don't stop suddenly or step to the left without looking behind you. Riders or runners coming up will not be able to anticipate an unexpected move, which may lead to a collision.
· Travel at a speed that allows you to watch for trail hazards as well as pedestrians. If you are too focused on the trail, you may not see pedestrians ahead.
· Allow time for pedestrians to move aside. Some newer hikers may not be accustomed to the protocols of shared use, so call out "on your left," and slow down to allow them time to react and allow you to pass.
· If you are in a group, let hikers know how many riders are behind you as you pass.
· When approaching equestrians from either direction, stop and call out to the rider. Their horse may or may not be accustomed to having bikes ride by, so they may prefer you to stop and allow their horse to pass. If they prefer to stop and allow you to pass, wait for them to waive you on.
· Avoid using bells to alert equestrians – bells or horns may startle the horses.
· Slow for blind turns and always be alert for oncoming traffic.
· Bikers and hikers yield to your horse. Be courteous and clear about how you want to manage the passage. Does your horse prefer to stop and let others pass, or vice versa? Know your horse and communicate clearly with other trail users.
· Be sure your horse is prepared to travel on multi-use trails. Desensitizing them to passing or being passed by hikers or bikers is critical to their safety.
· Be prepared to instruct other trail users on how to act around a horse. Especially small children, who may approach your horse.
· Less experienced riders should follow more "trail wise" equestrians.
Ready to put these tips into practice? Register for upcoming activities at www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.