By Bethany Diaz

With the cooler weather this time of year comes the natural gravitation to hit the trails and enjoy the beautiful outdoors right in our own backyard. Inevitably, those enjoying the trails will come across others doing the same and split decisions will have to be made on more narrow parts of the trail to allow for safe passing. So, with hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and horses all out there enjoying the trails in their own preferred way, who technically has the right of way? Here’s a handy guide to help you figure it out next time you’re hitting the trails.

Hikers, Trail Runners, and Bikers:
Hikers and runners technically have the right of way because it’s much easier for mountain bikers to maneuver safely. However, sometimes it’s easier for a hiker or runner to move on technical terrain because they’re going slower, and they can choose to yield their right of way. A biker should never expect to be yielded to, though.

Hikers, Trail Runners, Bikers, and Horses:
Not only do horses move the slowest, they can spook easily and buck their rider off. Therefore, simple enough: everyone yields to horses. In general, it’s good practice to stop a minimum of 30 feet away from a horse and allow the horse to pass or alert the rider to determine if they are okay allowing another trail user to pass.

Hikers and Runners:
A hiker or runner going uphill has the right of way but may yield that if they want to stop for a break. When approaching another person on the trails from behind, a simple “on your left” or “right behind you” can alert them that there’s a person that would like to pass. It’s also the courteous thing to move and allow them to pass.

Simply put, while every encounter will depend upon the actual placement and activity of users on the trail in addition to how wide the trail is, in general, the widely accepted three-way yielding system should be adhered to:
• Everyone yields to horses,
• Bikers also yield to runners and hikers,
• Horses yield to no one.

Additional helpful tips to keep everyone’s flow on the trails going smoothly:
• If listening to music, keep one ear bud out to hear the surroundings. This is helpful to hear others approaching as well as wildlife, such as snakes.
• It’s okay to yield the right of way if the situation calls for that.
• If stopping to chat with a fellow hiker, runner, biker, etc., move slightly off trail.
• If walking with a dog, ensure the dog is not in the middle of the trail to jump on a passerby.
• When hiking, running, or biking in a group, it’s helpful (though not necessary) to alert others as to how many are in the group that will need to pass.

Bethany Diaz is the co-founder of, an e-commerce company dedicated to helping individuals crush their next obstacle course race by providing custom running and strength training programs. She is passionate about the fast-rising sport and has achieved numerous OCR podiums. Bethany grew up in North Phoenix and is a third-generation Phoenician. To learn more, visit or email [email protected].