Trail Running Etiquette

Trail Running Etiquette |

If you read my rundown of Last Week’s Workouts, you saw I had an annoying trail run on Saturday.

I know there’s a lot of people venturing off road these days. That’s great but just because it’s off road doesn’t mean there aren’t unspoken and spoken rules. In an effort to not so “Get off my lawn!” way, I thought I’d share some basic trail running etiquette. Granted, the people that I encountered on Saturday were NOT trail runners but this applies to runners, hikers, bikers and horses.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Just because you are out with nature doesn’t mean it’s time to shut everything out with your Airpods. Staying aware of your surroundings is a safety concern. You want to be able to hear if someone (or something) is coming up behind you to be able to move out of the way. There’s nothing more annoying than being stuck behind someone with their music turned up so loud that they can’t hear you yelling, “On your left!”

Trail Running Etiquette |

Share the Trail

In the age of social distancing, this can be a little trickier especially on single track. The basics of sharing the trail means getting way off the trail to let others pass. It also means using common sense and not being a jerk by purposely speeding up so someone can’t pass you. When you have a wide multipurpose trail that is a Class IV or snowmobile trail, it’s easy to pass others with no problem. However, singletrack is only wide enough for a single user, so when two people meet on a singletrack trail, someone is going to have to yield. Here’s some common “rules” for who should yield when.

Mountain Bikes: I’ve always followed the rule of yielding to whomever is faster. A person on a mountain bike is faster than me running so I’ve always stepped aside for them except when going uphill, which sometimes means a runner is faster. I especially followed this rule when running the VT50k last year. I’d pass a mountain biker slogging up a hill and then I’d step aside on the downhill when they came flying by.

Trail Runner: If you come upon another trail runner who is running slower than you, kindly say “On your left!” before you pass to alert them. If you’re running towards each other and there is no room to pass, the runner who is running uphill passes while the downhill runner steps aside.

Horse: I’ve never encountered a horse on a trail run but it can happen on certain trails. This one is a no brainer – everyone yields to the horse since they can spook easily.

Hikers: Hikers generally are moving slower than a runner therefore the hiker yields to the runner. The same approach and alert of “On your left!” before passing is appropriate. If approaching each other, the hiker should move to the side unless the hiker is the one going uphill at the moment. The runner should then let the hiker pass by moving aside.

Sometimes trails will have signs to let you know who yields to who.

Trail Running Etiquette |

Pick Up Your Trash

This one is a no-brainer. There aren’t trash cans out on the trail so you are going to have to pack everything out with you. That means every piece of trash that you can accumulate on a run (gel wrappers, toilet paper, tissues, dog poop, etc). And if you do pick up your dogs poop, don’t leave the bag on the side of the trail for someone else to pick it up. It’s your responsibility to get rid of it!

Dog Etiquette

As a HUGE dog lover, this is still one of my pet peeves. Don’t let your dog run off leash if it’s going to come barreling at every human or canine it sees. There’s nothing fun about a dog charging full blast at you growling and barking with no human owner in sight. And it’s not fun when your dog attacks my dog on a leash and I’m the one that has to try to break it up. Not every person is a dog lover. Your dog may be friendly but you never know what can happen. If you are going to have your dog off leash, make sure it stays near you and responds to voice commands easily.

In full disclosure, I’ve been on both sides of this. I was able to run with my old dog, Cooper, off leash with no problems. He stayed with me and responded quickly to voice commands. With Max, I won’t let him off leash. He wants to run too far ahead and I don’t trust his recall yet. I would LOVE to let him off leash but it’s not the safest option yet.

Stay on the Trail

I know with maintaining social distancing, you are going to have to go off the trail at some point if you have to pass or be passed by someone. That’s ok, just step gingerly. When I say stay on the trail, that means not cutting the trail to make a short cut. If you do it once, someone else may follow and then a new trail that shouldn’t be there is formed. The new trail might cause erosion or destroy the plant habitat.

Be Nice

For the most part, the majority of people I’ve ever encountered on a trail has been super friendly. It seems that since the pandemic and stay at home orders started, a lot of people are afraid to make eye contact or say ‘hello!’ or ‘have a good day!’ to others while out on the trail. Maybe it’s because they are new to the trails and are apprehensive about their surroundings or just the world around us right now. I don’t know. Just because I have a buff over my nose and mouth as I pass you doesn’t mean I’m scary. It’s ok to respond to my ‘good morning!’ We’re in nature, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Be nice!

What trail etiquette rules would you add?

Linking up with Runners’ Roundup

16 comments on “Trail Running Etiquette

  1. While I totally get your frustration most trail guides and even running magazines disagree. The faster person on the trail yields to the slower person. You announce “on your left” and go around. The slower person could have injuries or instabilities and having an expectation that they’ll move over doesn’t always work. Sorry to be “that person” on your post!
    Kristen recently posted..Monday Morning Coffee Break: Two in a Row!My Profile

  2. I don’t know much about trail running rules but being aware of your surroundings seems most important to me. Knowing what you would do in case of emergency/injury. Never thought about the mountain bikers-good to know. Thanks for the great tips and for linking up

  3. Yes!!!! to all of these points. We especially need them right now with so many more people using the trails.

    One of my pet peeves is running in a trail race behind someone with their music up so loud, I can’t hear anything else.

    I was attacked and bitten by a dog once while running so now I am very wary of dogs I encounter off-leash.

    Most trail runners and hikers are friendly and conscientious. One of the things I love about trail running!

  4. Hi very interesting post. Well i would say something like “on your left” has nothing to do with any etiquette, in fact even anti etiquette. “Hi, Could You move to Your left, please ?” kindly and calmly, do You see the difference now ? Other people running outside are not your enemies, who you must destroy. They are very interesting people, and you can have opportunity to get know them, talk to them, maybe learn something from them. The first rule is just “Be nice and kind to everyone you meet”. Thats just my opinion. Godbless and stay healthy.

  5. Thank you for sharing these! I know I said this in your weekly workout post, but it really does amaze me how people do not realize that downhill runners/hikers yield. It just makes sense to do so!

  6. Trail running etiquette is so important. Definitely the passing rules of the trail especially now in the times of social distancing. And yes, to always picking up trash. We need to keep our trails clean and pretty!
    Sandra Laflamme recently posted..Podcasts for RunnersMy Profile

  7. I’ve experienced so much rudeness when I encounter others on the trails. Mostly walkers tho. They will not move over! I’ve had to run off the trail to get around them. I’ve also seen gloves and masks littering the trail. I’ll be glad to get back to a time when we can have the trails to ourselves again!

  8. I think you covered all the big ones. We don’t have a lot of trails around here, so I’m not often in the situation where I would need these, but being aware of your surroundings is important in all situations.

  9. I think all dogs should be on a leash. It’s the law in most places and even if your dog responds well there are dangers (like snakes) that you can’t always anticipate. The “new” rule that is being broken the most now is people not wearing their masks. Our city requires it, I wear my buff and pull it up whenever I see another person and it makes me mad that other people don’t respect MY health enough to do the same.
    Debbie Woodruff recently posted..Benefits of Running, the Pandemic VersionMy Profile

  10. I don’t run on trails, but I have hiker friends, and sometimes hike on trails. I have always been told that the downhill people get the right of way because going downhill is more dangerous than uphill (more injuries happen on the downhill).

  11. I don’t know much about trail running rules but being aware of your surroundings seems most important to me. Use Air-pods listen music and running with pets great idea you can also use black-pods

Comments are closed.