Common sense and manners make trails better for all |

Common sense and manners make trails better for all

Caleb Case, The Park Record

It’s that time of year again. Park City citizens are taking to the mountains in droves. Whether on foot, on bikes or horses, there are many ways and many trails to enjoy. However, ‘popular’ trails means ‘shared’ trails, and for everyone to stay happy and safe, it’s important to adhere to the trail-etiquette guidelines.

Basically, says Charlie Sturgis, Executive Director of the Mountain Trails Foundation which builds and maintains Park City’s trails, it comes down to "10 seconds of kindness." When passing another trail user, just "slow down, smile, and be safe. It only takes five to 10 seconds" says Sturgis. Whether on a bike or on foot, just taking the time to respect other users makes a huge difference in everyone’s experience.

In addition to simple respect, there are some guidelines trail users should know. First: uphill travel generally has the right of way. Bikes, however, never have the right of way when encountering pedestrians or equestrians, and should always yield. However, many kind walkers will move to the side of the trail to let bikes pass, and bikers should acknowledge this courtesy with a thank you, at least.

Besides respecting other people on the trail, it’s important to treat the trail itself well to keep it in the best shape for everyone. When yielding, bikers should lean and plant one foot off the trail. doing this instead of riding off the trail, the single tracks are preserved and kept from widening. Bikers should also avoid skidding, especially around corners, as this permanently damages the trail. Hikers, runners and horse-back riders can also help by staying on the trail at all times — especially by not taking short-cuts on switchbacks.

For everyone, it’s important to use trails only under appropriate conditions. Using muddy trails leads to more wear and worse conditions for all. As a general rule, Sturgis says, "If it sticks to the heels or wheels turn back."

Bringing a pet along raises additional concerns. While Summit County has enforceable leash laws, off-leash dogs have been tolerated in the past because their owners were responsible and courteous. Irresponsible or disrespectful owners both make the trails unsafe and unpleasant for other users, and threaten the privileges of more respectful dog owners. Being responsible includes picking up dog waste, keeping dogs leashed at trailheads and around bikes and horses, and maintaining control of pets at all times.

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Ultimately, Sturgis says, "90 percent of the problems we see are because the user has a sense of entitlement. Whether it’s leaving dog bags on the side of the trail, going too fast, or damaging the trail, problems come from people who feel entitled to use the trail however they want. It’s a big sandbox we share, and we all have to play in it."

More information about the Mountain Trails Foundation, including more trail etiquette rules, can be found at