Trail Etiquette & Safety

What is Trail Etiquette?

Trail etiquette can be described as the polite way to use trails. It outlines guidelines for the many users that ride, walk, hike, bike, or ski trails.

If you have never considered trail etiquette to be one of the more important aspects of trail use, you may want to reconsider. Trail etiquette should be a major part of any trail users experience.

Trail use is a privilege that should not be abused or disrespected, so making trail etiquette a priority allows everyone to enjoy the outdoors and have a good time while being safe and courteous. Also remember everyone is out there for the same reasons, to enjoy nature and to enjoy what they are doing.

When traveling multi-use trails, you may encounter many different forms of trail use, such as hikers, bikers, horse back riders, snowmobilers, etc. Therefore the user must adjust to different regulations (e.g., who passes first, who slows down, who gets the right of way, etc.).

If trail users conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, respect the environment and the other users, the trail experience will only get better. Keep safety and etiquette in mind when you are participating in trail use, this way trails in Nova Scotia will stay in good condition and the privilege will remain accessible for everyone.

Take only memories - leave only footprints!

Safety on the Trail

It is every trail users responsibility and right to ensure their own safety and expect safe practice from other trail users. Exercise caution at all times, follow guidelines and rules of the trails. Preventing accidents or injuries is the first step. Acting responsibly if something does happen is the second. Always think clearly!

Basic Trail Etiquette

A basic etiquette rule is wheels yield to heels. Keep this in mind when approaching other trail users. Cyclists and ATV users must yield to all other users, while hikers, walkers and skiers must yield to horseback riders.

All trail riders should:

  • Read trailhead signs noting permitted uses and trail rules
  • Observe posted trail rules; these indicate special restrictions that apply to the trail you are on
  • Be aware of other trail users
  • Stay to the right of the trail (except when passing)
  • Move right to let others pass
  • Give a clear warning signal when passing. Call out "Passing on your left"
  • Always look ahead and behind when passing
  • Travel at a reasonable speed
  • Slow down at corners
  • Always clean up; do no litter
  • Keep pets on a leash and clean up after them
  • Yield to other trail users when entering and crossing a trail
  • Do not disturb wildlife
  • Do not venture off the trails; respect the environment
  • Do not drink or contaminate water sources; wash 100 feet away from any nearby water source
  • Use provided toilet facilities; if you are unable to find a facility, dig a hole 6 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any open water
  • Do not make fires; use picnic areas and grills if provided
  • Respect wildlife; your surroundings are home to many plants and animals. You are the visitor
  • Respect private property

 Trail Etiquette for Different Trail Users

Hikers, walkers and backpackers

  • Walk on right when possible, move further right to enable others to pass in safety
  • When meeting someone riding a horse, step off the trail and speak calmly
  • Avoid ski tracks in the winter time

Hiking with animals

  • Clean up after your animals
  • Keep them on a leash or lead
  • Give larger animals the right of way
  • Do not let your animal disturb wildlife
  • Keep them on the trails

Cyclists and mountain Bikers

  • Know your ability, equipment and the area
  • Move off the trail for less mobile users
  • Do not ride under conditions where you leave evidence of passing (i.e. after rain or snow)
  • Stay on the trail
  • Do not ride through streams
  • Make presence known at corners or blind spots
  • Control your bicycle
  • Always yield trail
  • Equip your bicycle with a bell or horn, and use it to alert others of your presense when approaching


  • Practice minimum impact techniques
  • Observe speed limits
  • Always clean up after your horse
  • Avoid campsites used by other trail users
  • Keep horses in campsites only long enough to unpack or pack them
  • Stock tied to trees ruins trees and turf; do so only for a short time
  • Use tie lines
  • Never tie horses within 20 feet of lakes, streams, or springs

ATVs and four Wheelers

  • Approach pedestrians slowly, pull over and turn off your engine
  • When passing someone, follow at a safe distance until you reach a safe place to pass; pass slowly
  • Minimize noise with proper care and operation of your vehicle
  • Respect trail closures
  • Stay on the trail
  • Do not ride on meadows, swamps, or areas that are wet, have loose soil, or steep slopes
  • When camping, ride directly to and from your campsite or turn off your vehicle and push it

Cross country skiers

  • Ski on the right side
  • Yield to those coming downhill or who are faster.
  • To step out of the track, lift your skis so you don't disturb the track
  • When breaking trail, keep skis wider than normal


  • Operate at appropriate speeds
  • Do not ride on tracks made for skiers
  • Avoid running over vegetation
  • Respect trail closures
  • Avoid late night riding near populated areas or lodges


This website was made possible by the generous financial support of the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.