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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Trail etiquette 101: Welcome! Now please move to the left…

July 14, 2022 Updated Thu., July 14, 2022 at 12:45 p.m.

On most trails bikes yield to hikers and everyone yields to horses.  (Courtesy of the National Park Service)
On most trails bikes yield to hikers and everyone yields to horses. (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

On a recent run on Coeur d’Alene’s Tubbs Hill, I was reminded of the fact that proper trail etiquette is not a given.

“On your left,” elicited confused looks, stumbles and – perhaps of most concern – steps to the left leading to a near collision or two.

All of which is a reminder of the importance of proper trail etiquette. While it’s always important to recreate considerately, it’s never been more vital with the ever-growing population of the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area.

So here is the most basic of primers – although it’s never a bad idea to follow Washington Trail Association’s Holly Weiler most general advice – “Everyone should just be nice to everybody else.”

Trail etiquette 101

  • Know what kind of trail you’re on. Are bikers or equestrians allowed? Is it primarily a hiking trail? This determines who has right of way.
  • On most trails, all users yield to equestrians. In general, it’s good for bikers to yield to hikers and runners.
  • If you encounter the same kind of trail user as yourself – for example, hiker to hiker – the downhill user yields to the uphill.
  • When passing other users call out, “On your left,” signaling your intention to pass on their left. If you hear, “On your left,” step to the right.
  • Listening to music? Please wear headphones. Wearing headphones? Keep your eyes up and stay aware of who might be behind, or in front, of you.
  • Obey all relevant signs and trail closures, particularly in popular areas. Hoping to get a nice photo of some wildflowers at Rainier? Don’t step off the trail. While one person may not have much of an impact, hundreds will.

Planning a hike?

  • We’re blessed with a number of local guidebooks. Consider buying Rich Landers’ book “Urban Trails: Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.” It’s available online or at Auntie’s Bookstore.
  • Consider where others are going. We have plenty of hiking, biking and running options in town, so there is no need to congregate at the same two popular trailheads. In Spokane County, you can check trailhead web cams online at

spokanecounty.org/4214/Trailhead-Web-Cams-List

  • Consider the time of year. Is it hunting season (fall, generally)? Wear orange. Springtime? If the trail is muddy/wet, don’t go.
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