Indiana has more than 4,200 miles of public trails. That number continues to grow as more people discover the many benefits of public trails. Some of those trails are single-use, and many are multi-use. Multi-use trails can be enjoyed by a variety of different user types. Public trails in Indiana range from wide, flat, paved trails to winding, narrow natural-surface single-track trails. No matter what type of trail you are on, you are likely to encounter others. All trail users deserve to have a safe and enjoyable experience, regardless of age, ability or activity. Help them do so by doing the following:
General Trail Etiquette
Know & Follow the Rules
- Stay on the marked trail and do no trespass.
- Follow all trail signs.
- Do not use trails that are closed or do not permit your user type.
- Travel in single file or take up no more than half the trail.
- Step off the trail when taking a break.
- Travel at a safe and controlled speed.
- Be mindful of space and noise level.
- Keep children close by and teach them to be courteous trail users.
- Always yield to slow users, uphill traffic and HORSES.
- Give an audible warning before passing and if necessary, communicate how to pass.
- Don’t tune out. Always be alert and able to hear other trail users.
- Use proper hand signals when verbal communication is not effective.
- Greet fellow users with a smile, nod, wave or a friendly hello.
- Common phrases used on the trail.
- Keep pets on a leash and under control at all times..
- Keep pets close by when other trail users are close or passing.
- Pick up after your pet.
Be a Good Steward
- Dispose of all waste properly.
- Do not disturb wildlife and their habitats.
- Respect all trail infrastructure or natural and cultural resources.
- Leave what you find for others to enjoy.
Trail Etiquette for Specific Trail Types
- Stay on marked trail. Do not cut switchbacks or take shortcuts.
- If on a one-way trail, travel in the proper direction.
- Avoid using wet or muddy trails.
- If on a multi-use trail, be alert and anticipate other user types.
- Yield to slower users, uphill traffic and HORSES.
- Slow down, possibly stop, and always communicate before passing.
- Communicate how you will pass, when it’s safe to pass, and how many are in your group.
- Communicate to your group about upcoming trail users or hazards.
- When traveling in a group, consider letting individuals, pairs or smaller groups pass. This will allow for more time-efficient trail use.
- More-agile trail users should consider stepping off the trail when passing on narrow or single-track trails because the agile users will likely have more mobility off-trail than other users.
- VIDEO: Trail Etiquette
- Slow down and/or stop.
- Move downhill of the trail.
- Motorized-vehicle users should turn off their engine.
- Consider taking off your helmet or backpack to help the horse identify you as human.
- All dogs should be immediately next to their owner, preferably farther from the horse.
- Greet the rider in a calm voice.
- Follow all instructions provided by the rider.
- Continue to communicate until the pass is complete.
Tips for Riders
- Do not attempt to school “green” horses on popular trails.
- Maintain control of your horse.
- Know your horse’s temperament and tendencies. Let users know if they present a danger.
- Take the lead when passing other users by providing them with specific instructions.
- Be prepared to inform other trail users about horses and horse-trail etiquette.
- Pick up after your horse. Keep trailhead and trail clear of manure.
Trail Safety Tips
- Know before you go. Be prepared for weather, bugs, hunting seasons, etc.
- Walk, run, or ride within your limits.
- Use the buddy system whenever possible.
- When traveling alone, tell others of your plans.
- Wear a helmet and other applicable safety gear.
- Stay hydrated. Bring clean water or know the closest reliable source of clean water.
- If you use a motorized vehicle, bring tow ropes.
- VIDEO: Wear Your Helmet!
Common Phrases Used on the Trail
Trail users must clearly communicate with other users in order to effectively share the trail. Communication can take many forms.
- On Your Left - Alerts other trail users you are coming up behind them and will be passing them on their left in a little while. The user being passed can then continue going forward or move farther to the right to make the pass safer. The user being passed should NOT move left.
- Slowing - Used when riding in a group to alert users behind you of a fairly sudden change in speed. This phrase helps users avoid running into each other and alerts others in your group of upcoming areas of potential hazard.
- Stopping - Used when riding in a group to alert users behind you of a fairly sudden stop. This phrase helps keep users from running into each other and alerts them of upcoming areas of potential hazard.
- Up - Tells others about something ahead of you on the trail. For example, “hikers up” means that there are hikers ahead on the trail. This is usually a warning to those in a group that you will either be slowing down, stopping or pulling off the trail.
- Back - Tells others about something behind you on the trail. For example, “bikers back” means bicyclists are coming up behind you. This is usually a warning to those in a group that you will either be be slowing down, stopping or pulling off the trail.
- Safe To Pass - Tells another user who is waiting to pass that doing so is safe. Passing on the trail should only be done when it is safe for both the user passing and those being passed. Sometimes users may need to step off the trail, get to a wider section, be clear of any hazardous areas, or turn a horse around to safely pass.
- More - Tells those you’re passing how many are in your group. For example, “two more” means there are two more users in your group after you. This allows other users to clearly know how many to wait for before continuing. It’s particularly useful when the trail does not allow for the entire group to be visible due to trail design, foliage, gaps and large groups. The first and last users in the group should always know their position and how many are in the group.