Trail Safety and Courtesy for Hikers, Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and other Pedestrians
These tips for hikers, runners, joggers, and walkers include general suggestions as well as recommendations for safe and courteous encounters with other trail users. If you will have a dog with you, please also see the tips for trail users with dogs.
Many people use East Bay Regional Park District trails safely every day, but accidental injuries do happen, and a person who might decide to harm you could be anywhere. We suggest that you minimize your "risk factors" on District trails as you would in any public area. You can reduce risk by following each of these tips:
- Own the trail. While using the trails, project alertness, confidence, and determination. Your shoulders are back, you are aware of your surroundings, and you have somewhere to go.
- Go with a buddy. Use the trails with a friend. Two or more trail users can assist each other in the event of accident or injury, and one can always seek help.
- The day is your friend. It's better to avoid dusk and darkness.
- Use all your senses. Listen for suspicious noises. Don't wear headphones; they impair your ability to hear someone approaching you from behind. If you sense that an area may be unsafe for you, leave.
- Take what you need. Carry personal identification. If you use a medication frequently, such as for diabetes or angina, take it and instructions for use with you.
- Leave valuables at home. Don't make yourself an obvious target. If you must leave valuables in your vehicle while you are on the trails, hide them well before you arrive at the parking area; auto burglaries are all too common.
- Call for help. If you need assistance or encounter someone else needing assistance, call 911 (call 510.881.1121 from a cell phone). Many District employees and volunteers can also request assistance for you.
- Have someone waiting. Let someone else know where on District trails or parklands you will be going and when you will return, and instruct him or her to call 911 (call 510.881.1121 from a cell phone) if you do not return as planned. If you do nothing else, leave a note stating where you're going (see the story "Stranded hiker ...").
- Be easy to find. Use marked, authorized trails only.
- Be considerate, aware of your impact on the trail and parklands, and aware of your effect on other park and trail users.
- For everyone's safety, stay to the right side of the trail, especially when approached from ahead or behind by other trail users, and travel single file around blind curves. When several persons travel side by side, it can be difficult for other trail users to pass safely.
- In some cases, the best approach upon encountering a group of trail users approaching you is to move to the edge of the trail yourself, or off the trail if circumstances permit, stop, and let the group pass you.
- Check behind and to both sides before changing course.
- Use marked, authorized trails only. Respect trail and area closures. Most unmarked (unposted) trails have been created by other park users, tend to erode quickly because they are not well constructed, unnecessarily degrade the view and the plant and animal habitat, and are not maintained or patrolled. The authorized trail route may be a little longer, but using it gives you a little more scenery to enjoy, a little more exercise, and the satisfaction of knowing that you've helped preserve your parklands. "Leave no trace."
- Stay within park boundaries. Fence lines are marked. Please respect the rights and privacy of adjacent property owners.
- Be prepared for the weather. A regional trail or park some distance from your home may have a very different climate. Adequate water supply and sun protection are advised for all outdoor activities in hot, sunny weather. Have several layers of appropriate clothing available if cold, wind, or rain may be present, especially in shady canyons or on exposed ridgetops.
- Be cautious while smoking on District lands and dispose of ashes and cigarette butts safely and responsibly. Respect "No Smoking" signs when and where posted. Wildfires can arise within seconds and can destroy parkland habitat, nearby homes, and other private property, and can injure and take human life as well.
- Please do not disturb or feed wild animals in the parklands. A general rule is that if a wild animal is easily approachable, it may be ill and should be left alone. Inform a park ranger or Volunteer Trail Safety Patrol member if you see an obviously sick animal.
- Leave rattlesnakes alone. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive creatures, and generally will not strike if you keep your distance. If you find a rattlesnake in a high-use area, inform a park ranger or Volunteer Trail Safety Patrol member.
- Mountain lions are native to the area and live in the parklands but are rarely seen because they generally avoid and retreat from human contact. Learn to recognize this large cat. If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run. Stand facing the lion, pick up any small children, and make yourself appear as large as possible. If attacked, fight back. [ More information ]
- Poison oak is a very common native plant in the East Bay and is found as a ground cover, as a shrub, or as a vine that often entwines around adjacent plants. Most people will develop a rash within a few days if they come into contact with any part (leaves, stems, or roots) of this plant. Learn to recognize poison oak. "Leaflets three, let it be" is a safe policy. [ More information ]
- Ticks are widespread in the kind of natural grasslands environment common in the District. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans and pets. Learn how to avoid ticks and what to do if you are bitten.
- Keep to the right side of any trail shared with bicyclists. If you are traveling in a group, always allow plenty of space on the trail at the left side of your group. Bicyclists who are traveling in the same direction and overtaking you need this space to pass you safely. Under good trail and weather conditions, bicyclists can safely travel at a greater speed than can persons on foot, and they should be allowed to do so. It is both courteous and safe not to block the trail, whether or not you have the right of way.
- Listen! If a bicyclist rings a bell or calls out to you while approaching and overtaking you from behind, acknowledge that you have heard the signal with a turn of your head or a wave of your arm. A bicyclist passing you may tell you that there are more cyclists to follow in his or her group. Encourage these courteous behaviors by saying "thanks" as the cyclist passes.
- When being passed by a bicyclist going in either direction, do not suddenly change positions on the trail. If the bicyclist calls out that he or she will be passing you on one side or the other, respect the cyclist's judgment. If you are in doubt about how the cyclist will pass you, simply stop where you are and let the cyclist maneuver around you.
- Persons on foot should always yield the right of way to equestrians.
- Communicate with the rider; this also allows the horse to recognize you as a familiar human creature. "If it talks, it can't be all bad."
- If a horse passes you, stand to the side of the trail (but not ever out of the horse's sight) and let the horse pass. If the trail is narrow, it is best to stand just off the downhill side of the trail unless it is not safe for you to do so for other reasons (for example, very steep terrain, poison oak). A horse may perceive a creature above it to be a possible predator and thus a threat.
- If you are carrying any large object, set it down off the trail until the horse passes.
- Do not walk between horses in a horse party.
- Keep your small children under control as a horse approaches.
- For your safety, keep yourself, your pets, and your children away from any horse's hindquarters; allow the horse to see and hear you. A red ribbon on a horse's tail means "this horse tends to kick".
- Ask the rider's permission if you or your children want to touch the horse.
- If an approach by a dog is unpleasant for you, politely ask the dog's handler to call the dog back. If you feel it necessary, politely ask the handler to leash the dog. Many people do enjoy being approached even by unfamiliar dogs, but many dog handlers incorrectly assume that all do. If you do not, communicate with the handler.
- If a dog's approach feels threatening to you, remain calm, stand or sit still with your hands out of the dog's reach, and look slightly away from the dog. (If you look directly at the dog, it may interpret that as a challenge.)
- Be cautious around groups of dogs, especially if you are running or jogging. Dogs in groups tend to "tune in" on each other and to "tune out" their surroundings. Such a dog may run suddenly in your direction while looking elsewhere and collide with you.
- If bitten by a dog, exchange personal contact information with the dog's handler, and obtain the dog's license number. If you are seriously injured by a dog, report the injury to park staff or to the District, and if possible remain on the scene. If you must leave the scene to obtain immediate medical treatment, report the incident to the District within 24 hours.
Please know and observe the District's parkland rules that apply to your situation.