Trail Etiquette for Hikers, Bikers and Horseback Riders


It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year in Colorado—time to get out on one of Colorado’s many trails to enjoy our state’s beauty, get some quality time with Mother Nature, and take advantage of an outdoor workout. Whether you’re out for a hike, a bike ride, or even on horseback here’s some trail etiquette to follow when on Colorado’s trails so that everyone can enjoy their time in the Colorado sun.

1. Leave no trace

Please follow the leave no trace principles and carry out any trash you create while on the trail including biodegradable items such as banana peels or apple cores. Be sure to dispose of human waste in holes dug 6-8 inches deep in soil that’s at least 200 feet from any water source. It also doesn’t hurt to leave a negative trace by taking out any trash you discover even if it’s not yours.

2.  Right of way

While it’s possible that you’ll have a trail all to yourself, it’s much more likely that you’ll be sharing it with many others especially on a beautiful day. Here’s what you need to know when you encounter others:

  • Hikers going uphill get the right of way from those going downhill so they don’t have to break their rhythm. Some hikers going uphill will step aside to take a breather to let those going downhill pass, but that’s up to their discretion.
  • Horses or other animals always have the right of way. When you encounter equestrians, step aside and be mindful not to spook the animal.
  • Bikers are technically supposed to yield to hikers, but it’s often easier for hikers to step out of the way when they encounter a biker. Regardless, bikers should always assume they must yield until they see hikers letting them pass.
  • Stay on the right-hand side of the trail and pass on the left. 


3. Mind your music

If you choose to listen to music while on the trail, use earbuds since not everyone will share your style of music or your preference for having music at all. It’s important to leave one earbud out so that you are aware of your surroundings and can react to others on the trail.

4. Groups

It’s best to keep your group size under 15 people when on a Colorado trail. Be sure to stay single file and keep your voices low so you’re not disruptive to others.

5. Stay on the Trail

Even when you step aside to let others pass or pause to take a break, be sure to stay on the trail. This is critical for the trail’s sustainability and helps preserve the work volunteers do every year to ensure trails stay in top condition for others to enjoy. For the same reason, walk through a puddle rather than around it.

6. Pets

Not all Colorado trails welcome your pets, so be sure to know what the rules and regulations are for pets on the trail you are visiting. Some parks and trails welcome pets, others allow pets only on a leash, and others don’t allow them at all. Also, be sure to pick up your pet’s waste.

7. Keep Wildlife Wild 

Don’t feed wildlife or otherwise interact with wildlife on the trail. Stay aware on the trail and make some noise to avoid startling an animal. If you are hiking on a pet-friendly trail, but sure to keep your pets close to you and within your sight at all times.

                Bears: Tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. If you see a bear, but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly but do not run away. If the bear sees you, avoid sudden movements. Show the bear that you’re human by talking in a normal voice and waving your arms. If a bear charges you, it’s usually a bluff. Stand your ground until the bear stops and then slowly back away.

                Coyote: If you encounter a coyote, maintain eye contact and slowing back away. Don’t run. Make yourself look bigger by holding a jacket or backpack above your head as you back away. If the coyote shows signs of aggression, yell loudly and throw rocks or dirt in its eyes.

                Mountain lion: Face the lion and maintain eye contact. Don’t run or allow your dog to run. Make yourself look large. If attacked, fight back.

                Snakes: Stay on the trail. If you see or hear a snake, stop. Slowly back away and give the snake plenty of room to cross the path. Don’t approach the snake or try to move it. If a detour is available, take that. Keep in mind that your chances of being harmed by a snake are very slim.

8. Leave what you find

Don’t take any souvenirs from the trail with you. All you should leave with are fabulous memories and the photos that you took along the way.

9. Be respectful

Above all, be respectful of others, wildlife, and the trail.

Suggestions for Front Range Trails

Colorado has many incredible trails including 58 that are classified as 14ers, mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet. With millions of acres of wilderness, the hardest part of going out on a Colorado trail is figuring out which trail to try. Here are a few to check out:

Roxborough State Park: Near Littleton, Roxborough State Park has several trails that are great for hiking with gorgeous views of red-rock formations. Bikes, horses and pets are not allowed at the park.

Castlewood Canyon State Park: Pets are welcome on most of the trails in Castlewood Canyon State Park, south of Denver near Franktown, and there’s enough trail variety to keep everyone happy.

Chautauqua Trail, Chautauqua Park: A favorite trail near Boulder is Chautauqua Trail near the base of the Flatirons. Hikers wanting a bit more challenge can continue their adventure on the Bluebell-Baird Trail.

Lair o the Bear Park: This park is a great destination for families. You can start a hike within the park and then continue for a 12.6-mile round-trip along Bear Creek Trail.

We are on a mission to help our clients move well, feel well, and live well. Call or text us at 303-472-6743 to learn how a Pilates or functional fitness class can help you do just that.

What Colorado trail would you add to our list?