spring & summer trail etiquette
Spring is here! We can finally feel it, smell it, and see it blooming all around us. With this warm weather comes new life to the forests and fields that we know and love, both in the natural sense, and in the return of the visitors who have been less encouraged to get outside these past winter months. We hope everyone finds time to get outside and explore the extensive trail network within Saratoga County and beyond, but before you do, be sure you are aware of the proper trail etiquette that is expected of all users throughout the warm-weather hiking season:
1. carry in, carry out
This might seem like a ‘no-brainer,’ but sadly parking areas, trails, beaches, parks and just about anywhere else that people visit are commonly left in less than ideal conditions at the end of the season. It’s important to come prepared when venturing out into nature, and that includes bring plenty of snacks and water… but please be sure to take those wrappers and bottles with you when you leave!!
2. be prepared
Speaking of being prepared, let’s not forget those few important items that every hiker should have on them whenever they venture out into the wild: bug spray, sunblock, water, snacks, first aid kit, compass, whistle, change of socks, utility knife, flashlight, and perhaps most importantly, a buddy!! There certainly is something therapeutic about being out in the woods alone, but we do encourage everyone to always have a hiking companion with them whenever they go out into the deep woods. It’s also important to know your own limitations when engaging in any physical activity.
3. yield in traffic circles
Okay, we certainly hope that you don’t encounter any traffic circles when hiking! However, there are rules about yielding when on trails, especially multi-use trails. Always hike in single-file when part of a large group, and for wider trails, stay to the right side. Stay alert for those who are bigger and who are moving faster than you, as in those on bikes and horseback. If possible, step off the trail when horses are approaching, and quietly greet the rider as he or she passes. If you are unsure of where you are standing, ask the rider if you are alright where you are. Bikers will commonly pass hikers on the left, so be sure to stick to the right side of the trail and listen for bikers calling out “on your left” which means that they intend to pass you on your left side.
4. take photos, but leave everything else
Be sure to take time to “stop and smell the roses,” but please don’t try to take them with you when you go! All the beauty that you enjoy when you are outdoors is there because everyone who came before you left it as is. Don’t break that chain! We are sure that your grandmother would enjoy a nice picture of wild daffodils just as much as the real ones, which would probably wilt in the ride home anyway! The same goes for rocks, critters, and just about anything else you may find.
5. hike quietly
Many people go hiking to enjoy the peace and serenity that nature provides. Don’t spoil it with the clicking of your phone while taking selfies, or by yelling down the trail after your dog..
6. bring your 4-legged friend
The best way to ensure that you aren’t yelling down the trail after your dog is to make sure that s/he is leashed at all times! You may have the best behaved, most cuddly dog on the planet, but for the hiker who is not as sure-footed, or for the horse that is easily spooked, a dog off leash has the potential of turning a nice day in the woods into a disaster. Please keep your dogs leashed and under control! We recommend using those long leashes that extend and retract so that your furry friend can explore a good distance around you, but can also be reined back in when others are approaching. Leashing your dog is important, which brings us to another important point regarding pets on trails…
7. clean up after your dog
Nothing ruins a nice hike like stepping in a big pile of pet-owner laziness. It doesn’t take much, if you don’t have baggies on you, then at least find a stick and flick your dog’s leavings off to the side of the trail; it’s just simple curtesy.
8. be friendly
Not only is it polite, but it also lets those who might not have noticed you that you are there and that you are alright. If you can, take a minute to make some small-talk, chances are other hikers may know of some neat spots to check out that you might otherwise miss.
9. stay on the trail
We understand that many people might want to go off exploring, but the best way to minimize your impact while in the woods is to stay on the beaten path, and to try your best to not widen that path! Trails can be muddy, but what do you expect when venturing into nature? Try not to step around mud and large rocks (that how trails get wider, and wider, and wider), and don’t cut through the woods, making your own trail.
10. if you see something, say something
Unfortunately, vandalism happens. If you notice any vandalism, or even just areas of a preserve or trail that can be improved, kiosks that need to be re-populated, or parking areas that need to be cleaned, be sure to report it to the proper management organization/agency.
Can you think of other important hiking tips? Feel free to leave comments with suggestions for other ways to keep hiking a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone!