Trail Etiquette sign

The recent Leave No Trace week in Colorado Springs was a reminder of how to be nice to our public lands. While Leave No Trace principles are mostly about being a good steward of nature and wildlife, the Seventh Principle is "Be Considerate of Other Visitors," and is a good segue to a conversation about trail etiquette.

The basic rules:

Right of way: It’s pretty simple. When two hikers meet, the one going uphill has the right of way. Let them pass. The uphill hiker may choose this as a good time to stop for a breather and let the downhill hiker pass, but that’s their choice. Unless they signal you down, always let the uphill hiker have the trail.

Cyclists always yield to hikers, regardless of direction of travel. After all, the cyclist has a mechanical advantage. But if you’re hiking downhill and see a cyclist huffing and puffing and straining to get up that steep hill, it’s a nice gesture to let the cyclist keep going. It’s the hiker's choice, and the cyclist should yield unless the hiker indicates otherwise.

We share a lot of the trails with horses, and equestrians are a friendly bunch of people. The rules for horses on trails are simple. Everyone yields to horses. They’re big and can’t just step to the side of the trail to let someone pass. So give them a lot of space. And don’t make sudden moves to spook them. And keep your dog leashed when horses approach. Trail etiquette around horses also extends to the parking lots. Don't park too close to horse trailers!

Clean up your mess, and your dogs’ mess. Finished with that bottle of water? Good, you’re staying hydrated. Now don’t be a slob and toss the disposable bottle on the ground. Take it with you and throw it into the trash. Even better, instead of throwing it in the trash, recycle it, or take it home and refill it. Best yet — buy a hydration pack and ditch bottles altogether.

Going hiking with Fido and Rover? Nice. Bring some plastic bags and pick up your dogs poop. Picking it up also means taking it with you and throwing it out. There aren’t any dog poop fairies out there picking up the bags left behind, so be a good dog owner and do it. If you can’t, then leave the pups at home.

Follow the rules. If a trail is closed, it’s closed. You may think you know a shortcut, but shortcuts and rogue trails cause damage and result in more work for others. Many of those “others” are volunteers, and likely to be your neighbors. Give them a break and stay on the trail. If a park's rules are for dogs to be leashed, then leash your dog. Yeah, I know your argument: Your dog is friendly and won’t hurt anyone. But, you don’t know how another dog or wild animal will react, or how someone who is genuinely frightened of dogs will react. As for those little tiny dogs; they look absolutely delicious to the hawks, coyotes and mountain lions that are looking for a snack. Want your dog to run loose? Here's a list of places.

Tone down the tunes! While it's not safe to have both ears plugged with noise- (and ambient sound-) cancelling ear buds, you can still listen to your favorite tunes without disturbing anyone else's peace. You can use just one earbud, or bone conducting headphones that leave your ears open so you can still hear what's going on around you. If, for some reason, you need to have music playing on a speaker, no one should hear it 10 minutes before they actually see you.

And finally, just be nice to others. Say hi. Wave (use all of your fingers...). Help people find their way. Support the volunteers and parks staff who build and maintain our trails.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced Oct. 20 the creation of Colorado's 43rd state park at Sweetwater Lake, in the White River National Forest in Garfield County. The United States Forest Service acquired the 488-acre parcel in August of 2021, and subsequently entered into an agreement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to manage it as a state park. Along with the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a management plan will be developed to eventually build-out the park. You can find more information at the CPW news release, and the governor's news release, and find the Forest Service's Sweetwater Lake Area Regulations here.

Work on the 30th Street corridor near Garden of the Gods Park is slated to start Oct. 22 and will include a rerouting of Foothills Trail. On Oct. 25, users will be sent to the realigned trail, and on Nov. 4, the section of 30th Street between Mesa and Gateway roads (the entrance to the park across from the visitors center) will be closed until the spring of 2022. During that closure, the only way to access the visitors center or the park's main entrance will be from the south on 30th Street from Fontanero Street. The visitors center and the Gateway Road entrance to the park will remain open for the duration of the project. For more information, go to the 30th Street Corridor Project web page.

Be Good. Do Good Things. Be Nice to Each Other.

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