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Jun 18, 2020

To the Trails!

If we look for the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of them is people are getting out to enjoy their local wild places, seeking the outside to escape the mundane indoor entertainment. They are discovering new parks in their neighborhoods that they have lived near for years but never ventured inside.  With so many people out enjoying the unpaved trails, trail etiquette is paramount to ensuring safe and positive experiences for all.  Trail etiquette can be confusing even for seasoned visitors, so here are some general guidelines to follow.

  • Be aware of other trail users.
    • If wearing headphones, keep the volume down so you can hear others announce themselves.
    • Announce yourself if you are coming up behind another user, especially if you intend to pass. Passing on the left is customary, but may not always be possible so communicate with each other.
    • Travel at a safe speed and always under control. Announce yourself as you are coming around a blind turn.
    • Keep dogs leashed as you do not know when you will encounter another user and which direction you will need to go to pass each other.
    • Be friendly and say “hello.” During this time do your best to maintain social distancing guidelines as you pass.
    • Respect the wildlife. You are a visitor in their neighborhood.
  • Many of the trails are multi-use which means they are open to hikers, bikes, and horses, so make sure to know who should yield to who.  General guideline is WHEELS YEILD to HEELS.
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    • Bikes usually yield to hikers and horses. Hikers yield to horses.
    • Use common sense. If someone is travelling uphill give them the right of way as it is harder to go up than down.
    • If approaching a horse, talk to the rider so the horse can identify you as a human and not a threat.
  • Follow the signs
    • This starts with the Trail Open or Closed sign.  If the Trail signs says “Closed” that is for all users.  In the Midwest this is especially important as our trails are dirt. When the trail is wet and someone/something makes tracks, the water will catch in the tracks and lead to trail damage and washout. You can check www.qcforc.org for local trail status.
    • Often trails are open to certain users such as hike/bike trail and horse-only trail. Make sure to read the signs. The trails are designed and maintained for certain users and not following the restrictions could lead to trail damage. Also other users will not be expecting to come up on users not allowed which can scare them and cause an accident.
    • Some trails are one-way and it is important for all users to follow the signs to be safe.
    • Stay on the marked trail. Travelling off of the trail causes damage to the nature you came to enjoy. Even if you come to a muddy spot, try to stay on the trail. If you go around it you can actually widen the trail and cause more damage.
  • Leave the trail in better condition than you found it.
    • Do not litter.  If you bring trail snacks in, make sure the wrappers leave with you.
    • Clean up after your dog or horse.  Do you really want that on your shoe or water bottle?!
    • If you can, bring a bag to take out garbage that you do find.

So now you know more about the rules of the off-road and you can be much more comfortable sharing the trails. Check out www.qctrails.org to find trails for all kinds of outside adventure in our area. What are some of your favorite wild places in the Quad-Cities?