These are general guidelines and common sense things that may help you stay safe, use them only as guidelines and use your own judgement when using any trail, as well as follow any posted rules for specific trails or areas.
General Rules of Trail Behavior (some trails may have other rules)
- If the trail is narrow go single file when approaching others, or when others announce that they are passing.
- Stay to the right as much as you can, pass on the left if possible. Politely announce when you are passing someone slower than you.
- Those going downhill on narrow trails have the right away before those going up. Those on narrow bridges or access points have the right away over those entering if there is not enough room for both.
- If you have to stop get off the trail as much as possible.
- If on a trail that allows horses they have the right away (if you are biking sometimes it is best to stop your bike and dismount and let them pass).
- Walkers, hikers, runners, snowshoers, and XC-Skiers have the right away next over cyclists.
- If on a trail that allows ATV’s all others have right away over motorized vehicles but sometimes it is best to allow the larger, motorized vehicle pass by easier and quicker by moving to the side of a trail or path.
- Walkers and hikers may yield right away to mountain bikers on steep hills, at the slower person’s discretion. In fact you can yield to others at your discretion whether you need to or not, if you are unsure of the situation.
- Use common sense and courtesy.
Keep hydrated – no matter what you are doing nor the season!
Know your abilities – if you are hiking, walking, running, trail running, XC skiing, snowshoeing or biking a certain distance or time period consider that it will take you that same amount of time to get back.
Let others know where you are going, especially if traveling alone or to remote areas.
For hiking or remote MTB’ing take a whistle, bug repellent, hydration, and garbage bag so you never have to leave anything behind.
If you will be out in a remote area for a period of time switch phone to power conservation mode or airplane mode to conserve battery power. Make sure phone is fully charged, and bring auxiliary battery if possible. Phone GPS will work without a cellular signal. Consider caching maps ahead of time while you have a good cellular signal on your phone in Google Maps, OpenStreetMaps, etc or in apps like ViewRanger. Make sure you have a compass and paper map (like a print copy from the above sites) for backup if in remote area. Know how to send a GPS coordinate from how to send a gps coordinate from Google Maps in case of emergency.
Check the forecast before leaving.
Moisture-wicking clothes help you stay dry but carry easily foldable windbreakers for longer trips and more insulation in multiple layers in colder temps.
Know when the sun sets if heading out near the evening hours. Take a flashlight if in a remote area.
Know what poison ivy, poison oak, poisonous hogweed, and other hazardous plants look like. Some of the latter can be extremely dangerous and cause permanent damage.
Watch for ticks. Light clothes make seeing ticks easier. Ticks can take 36 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme Disease so you have plenty of time to get the tick off. For extended camping and hiking consider bringing tweezers – proper method to extract a tick.
Print out a paper map from your biking or hiking trails website as a backup. Have a compass if traveling in very remote areas and know how to use it. Many paper trail maps can be out of date but any map can help you navigate if completely lost, but it is best to make sure trail maps are up to date.
If a lightning storm is happening get inside a building or car, if you do not have either available stay away from higher ground, bodies of water, metal things like cellphone towers or ranger towers, and bunches of trees on their own. If you are really stuck the DEC recommended making yourself as small as possible and avoiding contact with the ground by squatting on the balls of your feet with your hands at your sides and hands on your knees,
Good Apps and Websites
You can usually make your phone cache a map in Google Maps website or app or OpenStreetMaps and other websites but don’t rely on that. Download a trail map or screenshot and keep a print-out of your trail handy.
ViewRanger is a great app for hiking, there are paid features but usually the cached map works fine, but see above about taking a backup and static graphic of a map as a backup.