Trail Etiquette

Are there rules to hiking and trail running? No...but yes.

No one should try to gate-keep access to the trails, or activities like hiking and trail running. The trails are meant for everyone. But, while out on the trails, there are certain written (and unwritten) guidelines people should adhere to so that everyone can enjoy themselves and hike safely.

Table of Contents

Leave No Trace

One of the main rules while enjoying the outdoors is to leave no trace. This helps to ensure that the trails last as long as possible, and as many humans can enjoy them as possible. While out for a hike, run or ride, ask "what can I do to reduce my impact on the environment and on the experiences of other visitors?"

Pick up the poo!
  • Take your trash with you, no matter what it is. "If you packed it in, pack it back out."
  • If your pet takes a poo, it is your responsibility to take it back out with you. Don't leave that pile of poo where someone can step on it. Bring a poo bag. And DON'T leave the poo bag on the side of the trail and expect a park ranger or another hiker to clean it up. In the immortal words of Billy Madison, "You gotta think - you've got a pet, you've got a responsibility!" Take the poo with you!
  • Don't take a souvenir. You might think that small cactus or piece of drift wood might look nice in your living room, and you might be right, but it looks nicer where it is so leave it be!
  • Stay on the trail. Help preserve the trail by staying on the path provided. Going off trail can damage or kill certain plant or animal species, and can hurt the ecosystems that surround the trail.

For more information about the "leave no trace" mantra, visit

Hike/Run Quietly

For many people, enjoying the sounds of nature is a huge benefit of hiking or running trails. The trails offer an excellent opportunity to be mindful and enjoy the intrinsic sounds of nature.

As such, maybe the biggest no-no to avoid while out hiking or trail running is blaring your favorite tunes from your cell phone speaker. That new Taylor Swift song might give you all the feels, but trust that NO ONE likes hearing music blare from your cell phone while they are traversing the trails. If music is a requirement for you while hiking or running, please use your ear buds or headphones.

Note: if you choose to use ear buds or headphones, please keep safety in mind.

Along the same one wants to hear your loud conversation with your deaf Gam Gam, either. She might be hard of hearing, but that's no reason to scream into the phone while you're out for a hike. Call her back after your hike, please and thanks.

Right Of Way

Whether it be hiking, trail running or mountain biking, the trails are there for humans to share and enjoy in a variety of ways. But who has the right of way???

Good question. While hikers and runners are used to sharing the trail, it's also common to encounter someone on a bike or horse.

Horseback riders

Horses are a common site on some Phoenix-area trails. Horseback riders definitely have the right of way beyond everyone, for obvious reasons. Horses can be spooked easily, or can lose their footing on a narrow trail, so hikers and runners should get out of the way and let the horses and their riders pass by. Plus, horses are photogenic, so step aside and snap a picture as they move past you.

Mountain bikers are technically supposed to yield to hikers and runners, but sometimes that just isn't possible. Depending upon the trail, mountain bikers might have a hard time slowing down, so hikers and runners should always be on alert. In these scenarios, if it's easier for you, as a runner or hiker, to get out of the way for a second or two, why not do so? MTBers are usually pretty nice, and communicate well, so step to the side and let the pass if it makes more sense.

Beyond that, hikers (and runners and bikers) going uphill have the right-of-way. If you are hiking downhill, yield to uphill hikers (and runners and bikers). This is because hikers and runners traversing uphill have a more narrow field of vision, and might not see you coming.Hikers and runners going downhill have a wider perspective, and can adjust their pace and route easier. Plus, uphill hikers and runners are working against gravity, so help their cause.

Keep Your Pets On A Leash

For dog owners, walking their furry companions is a regular activity that can consume several hours each week. So, it's an obvious choice to bring their doggos along while hiking the Phoenix trails.

Majority of the trails in Phoenix allow dogs, but before you head out on the trails with your dog, there are a few things to consider.

Dog on a leash

First, make sure the trail you choose is dog-friendly. If dogs are allowed on the trail, you will want to make sure the terrain is something they can handle. You'll also want to remember that many of the trails can include encounters with other wildlife like javelina, coyote and snakes.

If the trail is dog-friendly, it might be wise to double-check the leash laws in Phoenix, too, as some areas require leashes. Keeping your dog on a leash helps prevent unpleasant interactions between other dogs and other humans. Only allow your dog off leash in areas where it's permitted, and only if your doggo is well trained.

Speaking of other humans, remeber that if you are hiking with a dog, trail etiquette dictates that you yield right of way to other hikers and bikers.

Another important thing to remember is to make sure to take a poo bag on your hike with you, and make sure to take the poo bag back out with you if you use it. Don't leave the poo bag on the side of the one else is going to dispose of it for you!

Additional Etiquette Tidbits

  • Be friendly.
  • Make yourself known when passing others.
  • Read the guidelines posted at the trailhead.
  • When taking a break from your hike, find a good spot where you aren't obstructing others'; ability to pass.
  • If hiking in a group, don't take up the whole width of the trail.