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It’s one thing to strike out on a trail with a buddy in tow. In fact, having a friend along on a hike or ride is highly recommended for a slew of reasons spanning from safety to snacks. But it’s equally important to keep the engagement rolling beyond the friend group. When you’re out on the trail and see an unfamiliar face, reaching out can make or break someone’s day. Here are four ways to be a better friend on the trail, with your crew, and to strangers alike.

By Lucy Higgins • May 13, 2022

Be Prepared 

We all have the “mom friend” of the group—they’ve packed an extra water bottle, sunscreen, an energy bar for themselves and for you, and they’re happy to share. While we’re not saying you have to go full June Cleaver, a little extra preparation goes a long way. This can look like remembering extra layers and a med kit, but it also means checking out the weather forecast, the estimated time to complete your route, and even GPSing getting to the trailhead. Prepping for your day (or days) takes some stress out of the trip, allowing you to focus more on just having a good time. A huge bonus: If you run into a group less prepared than you or in need of some help, you’ll be able to extend a hand. 

Don’t Be a Grump 

It’s really that simple. Energy is contagious, and a sour attitude can quickly shift a group dynamic from functional to failing. Likewise, if you notice someone in your party is starting to get cranky, it may be time to regroup—have you stopped for a water or food break recently? For how long have you been in the sun? Sometimes all it takes is a five-minute break to recoup and recalibrate. And, if you see another crew approaching, make sure to give them the trail user’s classic wave and a smile at the very least. It’ll go a long way.

See Something, Say Something 

If you notice a group heading onto a closed trail or building a cairn where they’re shouldn’t be one, that’s the time to speak up. Same goes for if someone in your circle is doing something that doesn’t align with proper trail use. A good friend of the trail is someone who brings up tricky topics, whether that’s to your friends or to a party passing by. It’s never easy to engage in conversations when you feel like someone is acting inappropriately, but, often, folks genuinely don’t realize they’re making a mistake. A quick heads up can save them the embarrassment from committing the same trail faux pas in the future or worse—getting themselves into a dangerous situation they were unintentionally walking into.  

Respect the Biggest Friend of All 

That would be the Earth. It’s a simple symbiotic relationship: You take care of her, and she takes care of you. On a trail, that translates to basic kindnesses, like not littering, staying on the trail, and staying home when the trails are too muddy. Consider going a step farther and contributing to local organization’s trail maintenance days to really give back. After all, having a healthy ecosystem and safe trail systems are the whole reasons you’re out there in the first place, right? 

For more tips and resources, check out the Trails are Common Ground Trail User Resource Page