Trail Etiquette

Rules of the Trail  - Make Courtesy Common! 

Our conduct on the trails is key to maintaining mountain bike access.  We encourage you to ride with these points in mind for a pleasant and safe trail experience for all trail users and animals.

You are an ambassador of mountain biking every time you go out on a trail!  Leave a good impression with other trail users! 

Every trail - Every time!  


What does "yield" really mean? Yield means slow down, establish communication, be prepared to stop, and pass in a safe and friendly manner. Hikers yield to horses, and bikes yield to hikers and horses as shown by the arrows on the multi-use yield sign.

Respect. It's a simple concept: If you offer respect, you are more likely to receive it. All trail users have rights and responsibilities to each other, and to our trails.

Smile. Greet. Nod. Every user on the trail is a fellow nature lover. Be friendly and expect to see other folks around every corner. Remember, "Go Slow, Say Hello!"

  • Ring your bell before you approach so as to not startle them.
  • Scan the trail ahead for other trails users.
  • Anticipate other trail users and ring your bell around corners or in blind spots.

Don't block the trail. When taking a break, move to the side of the trail. Don't stop or lay a bike or backpack on the trail, especially on a blind comer.

Don't tune out. If you wear earphones, keep the volume down or only wear one earpiece so other trail users don't surprise you.

Be Nice, Say Hi.  How are you perceived by other trail users?  Even if you are a caring and friendly individual, with your helmet, sunglasses and a facial expression concentrating on the trail, you may appear intimidating to other trail users.   It will promote goodwill on the trail and happiness to the trails community that we are a part of. 

Smile, Say "HI" and ring your bell! Learn more about SDMBA's Trail Bell Program

Share and Care. We all share a love of nature, open space and trails. It's important that all hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers unite to support and care for our trails and public lands. Shared-use trails are cost-effective, minimize impacts on the environment, provide the most users with the most trail opportunities and build happier, healthier communities. We all value and support our public land managers and our trails community. Let's work together to keep our trails safe and enjoyable for all.

Visit to learn more.

1) Respect the Landscape  Respect your local trail builders/land managers and be a good steward of the physical environment. Keep singletrack single by staying on the trail. Practice Leave No Trace principles. Ride through standing water, not around it unless it is a vernal pool like on Del Mar Mesa. Ride (or walk) technical features, not around them. Progress your own skills and please don't dumb down any trail feature.  Do not ride muddy trails because it causes rutting, widening and maintenance headaches.  Local Wet Trail Ratings HERE. 

2) Share the Trail  Most of the trails we ride are multi-use. Mountain bikers yield to horses and foot traffic, and descending riders yield to climbing riders. The yield triangle has been formally adopted by land managers since the late 1970s and is a significant reason why we have the access we do. 

           Encounters with Equestrians Stop your bike and ask equestrians if it is ok to pass.  Horses are easily startled.  Horses recognize the human voice more so than bells.  In general, if you meet an equestrian on a trail,

  • Stop and move to the downhill side to let them pass.  
  • Talk to the rider and respect how they prefer to pass with their horse. 

The rider will appreciate your courtesy.

         Encounters with other Cyclists: When approaching other cyclists, the biker going uphill has the right-of-way.  This courtesy is extended to not break the climbers momentum and because it is easier to restart when going downhill if there is a need for someone to stop for a safe pass.  Note that the person with the right-of-way can choose their path. They may not follow the convention of staying to the right if that is not their best path, even on fire roads!

3) Ride on Open and Legal Trails.  Poaching trails, building singletrack or adding unauthorized trail features (anywhere other than your own property) are detrimental to our access. Poorly-built features could also seriously injure other trail users. If you believe there aren't enough trails or variety in San Diego, like we do, it's time to get involved. Your engagement will be welcomed because it takes a village to create, enhance and protect great places to ride. The way you ride will influence trail management decisions and policies.

Find eMTB information related to San Diego County HERE

4) Ride in Control Speed, inattentiveness and rudeness are the primary sources of trail conflict among user groups. If you need to pass, slow down, ring a bell or verbally announce yourself, and wait until the other trail user is out of the path. Use extra caution around horses, which are unpredictable. Be extra aware when riding trails with poor sight lines and blind corners, and make sure you can hear what's going on around you.

5) Plan Ahead  Having a successful ride depends on your preparation and knowledge. Know your ability, skill level and equipment, and choose your trail accordingly.  Always wear a helmet, prepare your bike, take a map of the area where you will be riding and check the weather.  Bring enough water, snacks, and tools to repair your bike, and take any necessary clothing.  Be self-sufficient so your ride is satisfying to you and not a burden to others. Learn more preparedness tips HERE.

5) Mind the Wildlife. When it comes to wildlife, live and let live. In some places, running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses. If you want to ride with your dog, first find out whether or not it's allowed by looking up the leash laws. Be prepared to take care of your dog. Ensure your companion is obedient enough to not cause problems for you, other trail users or wild animals. 

Learn more

Proud Partners Of These Initiatives: 

Take the Opportunity to Give Back to the Trails - SDMBA offers many opportunities for volunteers to help with trail work, mostly during the winter months.  The local trails are valuable resources for you and the community.   

When we see a rain-rutted or overgrown trail, we may think that they will take care of it. But who are they anyway?  The park agencies dont have the resources to maintain the trails, so they rely on volunteer groups such as SDMBA to come out and get our hands dirty.

Check the events calendar or our SDMBA MeetUp page for upcoming trail work events.