Trail etiquette is an important part of any functional trail system. Following a few simple guidelines ensures that our trails remain fun and accessible for other bikers, hikers, and wildlife.
Our friends from Mountain Biking BC have a great article about trail etiquette on their website. It’s a great read for newbies just getting into the sport, but also for seasoned riders who may need a brush up / reminder on some of the finer points of conducting oneself on the trail. Check it out here.
We thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the more important points from the article, as well as add a few points that are more relevant for riders here in the Bow Valley.
Mind the Wildlife
Wildlife is one of the biggest issues that we here in the Canmore and the Bow Valley contend with. We are extremely fortunate to be able to recreate in an area so rich with wildlife and it’s of utmost importance that we as responsible trail users do everything we can to preserve it. Here are some things you can do to ensure a happy and peaceful co-existence with our furry friends.
GIVE THE ANIMALS SPACE
The best thing you can do for our wildlife is to avoid encounters all together.
- If you see a bear in the distance on a trail avoid traveling in its direction.
- If you know a bear or other wildlife are in the area, ride somewhere else.
- Respect trail closures and warnings.
- Make lots of noise to help the wildlife avoid you.
We all know how thrilling it is to witness one of these magnificent creatures out in the wild. But seeking out encounters puts both you and the animal at risk. Everyone remembers the tragic story of Bear 148 and the ugly side of human – wildlife interaction. It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure something like that never happens again.
Here in Canmore, in addition to wild animals like bear and elk, we also share certain trails, like the G8, with horses. Like other animals horses should be respected and given space as they can be easily spooked. If you see a horse on the trail give it and its rider lots of space. If you do end up in a closer encounter, stop, remain calm and talk calmly to the horse and the rider to let the horse know you are not a threat.
BE READY FOR AN ENCOUNTER
There are times when wildlife encounters are simply unavoidable despite best intentions. Riders should expect that they will encounter bears and wildlife and should be ready for it when it happens.
- Be aware of your surroundings, keep your head up and don’t listen to music with headphones in
- Bear call and make lots of noise to avoid scaring the animals in a surprise encounter
- Carry bear spray at all times, ensure it is accessible and know how to use it
- If riding (or hiking) with dogs ensure they stay on-leash at all times
Respect the Trails
It’s important that we as trail users do the best we can do preserve the longevity of our trails so that locals, visitors, and future generations alike get to enjoy the same great trails we love. Sometimes this unfortunately means not riding them.
BE MINDFUL OF TRAIL CONDITIONS
We all know the thrill that comes with April and the thought of getting out for some early spring riding as soon as the snow melts. But at this time the trails are still very wet and riding bikes on them runs the risk of damaging the trail. Exercising some restraint ensures that trails stay in the best possible shape for all of us. Some things you can do:
- Ride where it is dry. If you’re not sure where that is pop into one of the bike shops and ask. Staff at the shops always has a great handle on current trail conditions and will happily give you recommendations. Trailforks and Facebook Groups such as Ride-the-Rockies Trail Reports: Calgary and Area Mountain Bikers are both great resources to check trail conditions.
- Do something else. Go for a run or break out the road bike.
RESPECT TRAIL CLOSURES
Trail closures happen. It’s a total bummer when you run into a closure but always remember that it’s done for a good reason. Whether it’s to protect the trail, humans, or wildlife it’s never a good idea to disregard a trail closure. Do the right thing and ride where it’s open.
SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE TRAILS
Unfortunately trails do not maintain themselves and require constant work to keep those trails in good riding shape. This work almost always comes at the hands of faithful volunteers. Whether you’re riding here in the Bow Valley or somewhere else consider throwing a few of your hard earned dollars towards those who help to maintain the trails that you are enjoying for free. Things you can do are:
- Purchase a membership with the local mountain biking association.
- Earn some Trail Karma by donating a few bucks to the local trail association through Trailforks.
Know the rules of the Trail
Equally important as respecting wildlife and the trails themselves are respecting and watching out for other trail users. It’s important, especially on busy trails, to educate yourself about the “rules of the road” to ensure safe usage for you and your fellow trail users.
KNOW WHEN TO YIELD
Knowing when to yield to other trail users is crucial for maintaining safety for all on the trail. Here are some quick guidelines to follow:
In general bikers yield to hikers. The exceptions to this rule are:
- If the trail is a designated bike only trail then the hiker should yield.
- If the biker is climbing the hiker should yield.
- In either case bikers should not expect the hiker to yield and be ready to stop.
- Bikers should always yield to horses.
- Bikers should yield to other bikers when descending, ie. whichever rider is going up gets the right of way.
LET ‘EM KNOW YOU’RE THERE
Making lots of noise on the trail not only lets the wildlife know you’re in the area, it lets other bikers and hikers know too. When ascending making noise is a good idea to let riders who may be descending quickly know you’re there so they can adjust speed accordingly. Likewise when descending making noise gives riders and hikers who may be climbing the trail a heads up to be on alert that you may be coming down quickly.
PARK IN DESIGNATED AREAS
When driving to a trail to ride it’s important to park in the properly designated areas to avoid any disruption to the local residents of the area. For example the designated parking area for the Prospector trail is by the Exshaw Legion. Riders need to park there and pedal up to the start of the trail.
We hope these guidelines will be of use to you and help you and others to enjoy a safer and more enjoyable time on the trail. Be sure to share your thoughts with us on Facebook and suggest your own ideas about good trail etiquette.