Aspen is home to some of the most scenic trails and hikes in the world. While we can get wrapped up in the surrounding beauty, it’s important to always be aware of the written and ‘unwritten’ rules that come with trail etiquette. We’ve gathered some important tips and rules from expert local trail riders to ensure we maintain a respectful right to the great outdoors. Happy hiking!
- A general rule of thumb to follow is that the bigger object always has the right of way. For example, bikers must yield to hikers and horses since they have the most momentum, and hikers must yield to horses. Another similar rule to follow is that uphill traffic always has the right away. Erik Skarvan, owner and instructor of Sun Dog Athletics, suggests “pull(ing) over to the edge of the trail for uphillers as they need to keep their momentum going and are working harder. Pull over when safe to do so”.
- The “Leave No Trace” rule aka the don’t leave trash on the trail rule. A clean trail is a happy trail and it’s important to ensure that every hiker has the same enjoyable scenery that you do. If you’re packing a picnic on a hike be sure to pack your trash away when leaving. For hikers that bring along their furry friends, a doggy bag and leash are definite necessities.
- Keep it friendly. Aspen has always had a welcoming vibe and the same goes for encounters on the trail. Be sure to give a friendly “hello” to hikers passing by or Erik recommends saying “passing on your left” to avoid startling a nearby hiker. Extra karma points are awarded for words of encouragement to uphill climbers on challenging hikes!
- Minimize your impact. Aspen trails are shared by many active people every day, so it’s important to respect the trail and others you encounter on it. If you want to listen to music during your hike it’s important to wear headphones to not disturb others tuning in to the peaceful sounds of nature. If you’re a pet owner, a leash is necessary especially when the trail is extremely crowded.
- Trail Alignment. Especially when traveling in large groups, it’s important to stay on the right-hand side of the trail and pass others in a single file line. To maintain the preservation of the trail, everyone is advised to stay on the trail and not cut corners for your own shortcuts.
- Safety precautions-Know before you go. This applies for every trail, no matter how easy or challenging the hike may be, and should always be taken seriously. Climbing and hiking at high elevations put you at a higher risk for danger. Make sure to always plan and prepare, and do your research ahead of time. You can always reach out to the many resources in Colorado such as a local guiding company, the US Forest Service, or Colorado Mountain Club.
- When in doubt about any rules, Erik recommends sticking to the Golden adage, “do onto others as you would have done onto you”. As long as trails have a respectful vibe, everyone is sure to have great experiences hiking in Aspen.