A reminder of trail etiquette.

“It is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.” —the Dalai Lama

While it seems we harp on etiquette every season—despite what some readers claim—summer is a great time to revisit things. We all love the trails; the system around Bozeman is great, isn’t it? So, please, for the love of God, show some respect and responsibility when using our shared spaces.

Dos & Don’ts
DO: Pick up your dog poop if she goes right at the trailhead or on the trail. No, it’s not somebody else’s job.
DON’T: Leave a full green baggy on the side of the trail to remember on your way back down. Unsurprisingly, most people forget. Carry it or double-bag it and stash it in your pack.

DO: Yield to people and groups (especially horseback riders) when you’re in a position to do so. Yes, you’re an adult, and can use discretion.
DON’T: Die on the hill of the trail-courtesy triangle. Yes, it’s a good rule of thumb, but as a hiker, it’s often easier to step out of the way of a couple bikers than it is for them to move their bikes to the side.

DO: Smile, wave, and make pleasant small-talk with different parties. “It’s a great day, isn’t it?”
DON’T: Accost different user-groups for no reason. They have just as much right to be there as you.

DO: Stay on the trail, especially in steep sections.
DON’T: Cut the switchbacks in high-trafficked areas. When it rains, erosion will ruin the trail.

DO: Take a photo now and then for memory, not forgetting to enjoy the beauty of Montana’s mountains, forests, and rivers. Unlike your Instagram, nature offers quality experiences, should you allow it.
DON’T: Take selfies at every switchback, blast music around other people, and worry that you’re phone is going to die—it would probably be for the better, anyway.

trail etiquette bozeman montana

When & How to Confront Someone
It’s never fun to have a confrontation out in the wild, but sometimes it’s necessary. And if you wax charismatic, the teaching moment will be well-received. However, depending on the situation and your personality, a more puckish approach may be in order.

Situation: You see a person litter, intentionally or not.
Friendly Response: “Oops, looks like you dropped something there.”
Roguish Response: “Hey, the county’s litter-eating robot is on the fritz, you gotta pick up your own trash for a while.”

Situation: Someone’s dog craps right at the trailhead sign. It’s clear that the owner has no intention of picking it up.
Friendly Response: “They always go in the most inconvenient places, don’t they? Need a bag? I’ve got an extra.”
Roguish Response: “Are you not familiar with Montana’s new ‘housebroken’ law? A police officer can legally rub your nose in that and then push you into the outhouse.”

Situation: A group is playing music at the mountain lake you hiked into.
Friendly Response: “Mind turning that down a bit? The songbirds are great up here.”
Roguish Response: “Did you guys hear that huffing noise, over in the trees? Kinda sounded like a grizzly.”

For More Information
On etiquette, trail or otherwise, see any of these past articles, available on the O/B website (use the search bar, hit the “etiquette” tag, or go to “The Magazine” on the “More” tab):

“Put-In Etiquette,” Summer 2005, p. 54
“Rules of the Road,” Fall 2006, p. 70
“Rules for Entering Montana,” Summer 2007, p. 15
“Wave of Change,” Summer 2008, p. 68
“The Rules: When Your Car’s the Rest Stop,” Fall 2008, p. 32
“Responsible Trail Use," Spring 2009, p. 72
“Forgive Me, O/B for I have Sinned,” Winter 2010-11, p. 16
“Ridge Rules,” Winter 2010-11, p. 18
“Here’s Dust in Your Eye,” Summer 2011, p. 20
“Please, Leave a Trace,” Spring 2012, p. 64
“Poach This,” Fall 2013, p. 21
“Private Access,” Fall 2013, p. 27
“Share the Snow,” Winter 2014-15, p. 45
“Mind Your Manners,” Spring 2015, p. 29
“Release ‘Em Right,” Spring 2015, p. 30
“Ethical Appeal,” Summer 2015, p. 20
“The Pillory," Summer 2015, p. 28
“Unintended Consequences,” Summer 2015, p. 82
“Heads-Up Hunting,” Fall 2015, p. 34
“Impaired Parking,” Winter 2015-16, p. 30
“Fishin’ Fouls,” Spring 2017, p. 30
“Outdoor Offenses,” Summer 2017, p. 36
“Hunt-Holes,” Fall 2017, p. 32
“Hunt Right,” Fall 2017, p. 90
“Duty Bound,” Spring 2018, p. 40
“Home-Trail Advantage,” Spring 2018, p. 114
“The Montana Wave,” Summer 2018, p. 38
“Get the Green Light,” Fall 2018, p. 76
“The Pillory: Sloppy Skaters,” Winter 2018-19, p. 37
“Your Name is Mud,” Spring 2019, p. 33
“Should You Stay or Should You Go?,” Spring 2019, p. 67
“Continuing Education,” Spring 2019, p. 80
“Collective Bargain,” Summer 2019, p. 10
“Waste Land,” Summer 2019, p. 29
“Droppin’ Bodies,” Fall 2019, p. 29
“A-Holes Among Us,” Fall 2019, p. 86
“Lead Astray,” Fall 2019, p. 116
“Test Drive,” Winter 2019-20, p. 31
“Pillory: Boat-Ramp Bozos,” Spring 2020, p. 27
“Oh, Behave!,” Summer 2020, p. 32
“Pillory: Acoustic Invaders,” Fall 2020, p. 24
“Gettin’ Ruffed Up,” Fall 2020, p. 27
“Code of the West,” Winter 2020-21, p. 24
“Backcountry Bozos,” Winter 2020-21, p. 28
“Easy Does It,” Spring 2021, p. 48
“Pillory: Careless Crappers,” Summer 2021, p. 25
“Friends with Benefits,” Fall 2021, p. 36
“Like a Good Neighbor,” Fall 2021, p. 96
“Handle with Care,” Spring 2022, p. 76

Note: this is a partial list, reflecting only those pieces specifically about outdoor etiquette; many others address the topic, but within the context of a larger article or essay.