Sustainable Vail: Time to brush up on trail etiquette
Trail season is upon us and many of us are ready to enjoy the trails we are fortunate to have in the Eagle River Valley. On the trail, we may encounter a number of different user groups including mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners, equestrians and motorized.
Even though we may use different methods of travel on the trail, there’s a good chance we are all using the trail for some of the same reasons. Trails allow us to connect with nature, improve our physical and mental health, provide social engagement, adventure and plain old fun.
As we quickly move into spring it’s time to refresh our trail etiquette. Understanding and practicing proper trail etiquette minimizes your impact on the natural environment, on wildlife, reduces user-group conflict, and ultimately ensures sustainable trail access.
Good trail etiquette leads to a better trail user experience for all so please acquaint yourself with the key principles of trail etiquette:
- Treat others as you would like to be treated: When approaching other trail users, smile, say hello, say thank you if you are passing, and say have a great hike or ride. You are outside recreating in our beautiful piece of paradise we call the Eagle River Valley, it’s a happy place!
- Know before you go: Only use open trails. This includes staying off of trails that have seasonal wildlife closures, muddy trails, and trails that may have crews working on them. Check vvmta.org for updated trail conditions and for seasonal wildlife closures.
- Muddy trails are closed trails: The damage from hiking, running, or biking on muddy trails creates a bad user experience for all and in the end must be fixed by volunteers who could be focusing their time on more impactful projects.
- Yield: Hikers and bikers yield to equestrians and bikers yield to hikers. As a biker, when you approach a hiker or equestrian, please slow down and allow safe passage. Bikers — please remember that the uphill rider always has the right of way. And finally, communication is key. Let the hiker or downhill rider know if you are alone or have others coming behind you.
- Keep singletrack single: Do your best to stay on the trail. To let someone pass, find a safe spot on the trail and move to the side. If you have to stop on the trail for a mechanical, grab a snack, or a drink of water, or for any other reason, please move to the side of the trail and do your best not to affect the surrounding natural environment and other trail users.
- Safety: No one wants to get hurt on the trail. It is on you to control your method of transportation, slow down at blind curves, and always look ahead. If you use headphones, please keep them at a volume that you’d still be able to hear someone come from behind and ask to pass.
- Respect the Wild: Wildlife are an integral and beautiful part of our environment. Please don’t taunt, chase, or for that matter get too close. Please keep your dog on a leash to avoid them chasing and harassing wildlife. We are playing in their home. Take the Respect the Wild pledge on our website.
- Leave no trace: This does not only mean clean up after yourself but rather leave the trail better than you found it. If you see a piece of trash, do your part and pick it up, put it in your bag, and throw it away at the trailhead. This also means staying on the trail, don’t impact the natural surrounding environment, and please clean up after your dog.
- Let us know what you see: Did you come across a downed tree? Is there signage missing or damaged? Is there a trail that is starting to widen? Does a bridge need to be repaired? Let us know so our Trail Conservation Crew can put it on their list and get out there to fix it! Visit vvmta.org and send us a note.
- Turn your headphones volume down: Every year we see and hear (pun intended) about more people on the trail with headphones in. We personally prefer listening to our natural surroundings and the sound of our feet or tires on the trail. But if you do use headphones on the trail, turn down the volume so you can hear if there is another trail user behind you or in front of you. Please and thank you.
As a trail user, it is on you to understand and practice proper trail etiquette. If we all do our part, we will enjoy an improved trail experience, be healthier, happier, and ultimately this will lead to a stronger trails community.
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The VVMTA’s mission is to connect our community to the outdoors through sustainable recreation. The VVMTA advocates for soft surface trails, manages trail stewardship programs, maintains and builds trails, coordinates and trains volunteers, educates outdoor recreational users, and creates opportunities to access the outdoors. Through trail access and experiences, our community will improve its mental and physical health, quality of life, and economic vitality.
Ernest Saeger is the executive director of the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance. The Discover Vail monthly sustainability column is a project of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, which is responsible for marketing the destination during the non-winter months.