Law enforcement rangers will begin patrolling the Santa Monica Mountains on mountain bikes and horseback for a 12-month educational campaign that aims to clear up confusion and educate visitors on proper trail etiquette.
The weekly patrols, which started October 1, aim to dispel the confusion that can often arise on the 500 miles of multi-use trails in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) that are shared by hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
“Let’s say you’re hiking on a trail and you come upon an equestrian coming up behind you and a mountain biker zooming downhill from the other direction. What is everyone supposed to do?” said Coby Bishop, Supervisory Law Enforcement Park Ranger. “Spending time in the outdoors should not be complicated and visitors are often unclear on who should yield and to whom. Yield means to slow down, establish communication, be prepared to stop, and pass others in a safe manner,” he explained.
“We will be out there in a way that makes it easy to have conversations with the public about trail etiquette and how we can all be respectful toward one another while recreating,” Bishop said.
The most basic rule on a multi-use trail is that the equestrian, sitting atop a very large animal that can sometimes become unwieldy or startled, does not yield to anyone, and always has the right of way.
- Upon spotting a horse, hikers and bikers should immediately stop and wait on the downhill side of the trail. Communicating with the rider is important. Say hello and ask how you should proceed. To a horse, a human voice registers to them that you are okay. Horses can perceive hikers wearing tall backpacks, big hats, or even trekking poles as threats.
- Individuals on bikes, in turn, should always yield to hikers and equestrians. Hikers should yield to equestrians.
- Listen for cyclists, runners, and equestrians approaching from behind. If one hears “on your left” from behind, they should move to the right and allow them to pass.
- When hiking in a group, hike single file on narrow trails or stay to the right side on wider trails. When hiking downhill, yield to those hiking up.
- Obey posted rules about dogs and keep them on a short leash (six feet or less).
- If hiking with a child, hold their hand when passing. Don’t approach or pet the horse without first getting permission.
- All trail users should observe the 15 mph speed limit.