A wide variety of people, animals, and machinery populate the trails around Durango. They often end up approaching each other on long, narrow stretches of trail, which leads to the tricky dilemmas of who should pass whom first. An etiquette has developed over time that helps trail-goers solve these dilemmas quickly and wordlessly. This is a general courtesy that benefits everyone, and spares wasted breath and momentum.
What are the basic principles of trail etiquette that you should know?
Those heading downhill should step aside for those who are moving uphill. This is because those going up have a smaller field of view and are working against gravity - it can be frustrating to be constantly breaking your rhythm. Individuals heading uphill may choose a pass as an opportune moment to stop for a breather, but let them make that decision.
When two parties are moving in the same direction at different speeds, the slower party yields to the faster one as soon as it is safe to do so.
Any folks traveling on foot or by bike are expected to stop for those on horses, as they are large, slow to maneuver, and can make unpredictable movements. It is the responsibility of mountain bikers to yield to anyone on foot or on a horse, period. With that said, some hikers step out of their way to let bikers pass while maintaining momentum.
Motorized vehicles need to yield to everyone, whether on foot, bike, or horseback. When a faster party moving in the same direction catches up with a slower one, the slower party should find a safe place to get off of the trail.
This can be a lot to remember on the fly. Just keep in mind the underlying principle for these rules is that whoever has the most control over their movement is generally expected to stop for those others with less.
There is not a firm rule on the distance between you and other hikers, and some trails can be too busy for this to be a realistic concern anyway. If possible, put enough space between you so that you are not in earshot. If you can hear their conversations or footsteps, you are likely too close.
The same rule applies here as it does for most forms of traffic in the U.S. (streets, escalators, etc.): keep right but pass on the left. If you have to make a sudden stop during heavy traffic, step off the path to the right when safely possible so as to not block the trail.
Make sure you can properly control your bicycle on whatever trail you are riding. There are a variety of trail difficulties, so find something within your skill level, and search for beginner-friendly trails if you are new to the sport. Keep in mind that some local trails do not allow e-bikes or pedal assist.
Best practices for equestrian trail use include a few simple tips. Do not hit the trails alone. Always carry a cellphone, map, compass, and first aid kits for both yourself and for your horse. Attach tags to your horse in case you become separated. Finally, keep your horse’s health in mind, especially on hot days, long trips, or difficult terrain. They have their own limitations that need to be respected.
Be sure to contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife in regards to permits and registration for both in-and-out of state OHVs. Take a look at the Motor Vehicle Use Maps to be sure of which trails you are permitted to ride on, as not all permit motor vehicles.
There are a few final guidelines that apply to everyone. Stick to open public trails only. There are a lot of routes to take around Durango, but not all are accessible at all times. They can be closed due to general maintenance or blocked by recent weather. Some are also on private land that is not open for public use. Be sure to look for signage intended to inform you about any of these issues.
If we all abide by these guidelines everyone will be able to have a pleasant experience out on the trails. Be safe, have fun, and share the trails.