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Trail Safety & Etiquette

Trail Safety & Etiquette

Hitting the trails is one of the best ways to enjoy HCA's conservation areas, whether it is by foot, bike, horseback or while walking your dog. There are some important rules to keep in mind while using the trails, to ensure safety and enjoyment for all.

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GENERAL TRAIL RULES

  • Respect all the rules, stay on marked trails and do not climb or otherwise bypass fencing, for their own safety and the environmental health of the areas
  • Stay on marked trail routes. There are many rare and sensitive plants and small animals that could easily be damaged or hurt if you leave the trails
  • Share the trails with other users
  • Respect neighboring landowners by staying off private property and avoiding excessive noise
  • Keep well back from from edges of gorge and escarpment areas, at least a body length. Adults should keep children and pets away from these areas
  • Creek crossings on trails are by bridge. DO NOT walk through the water or allow horses or dogs in the water
  • No motorized vehicles are permitted on the trails
  • Watch for vehicular traffic on trails that cross roadways
  • Park only in designated parking areas
  • Alcohol is not permitted at any time
  • Pack out what you pack in. Please leave our natural areas clean.
  • Protect and avoid disturbing local wildlife
  • Hamilton Conservation Areas and trail systems close at sunset
  • Trails can be closed at certain times of year depending on conditions such as ice or mud. Be sure to check the alerts on website for possible closures or service disruptions.

Escarpment and waterfall safety at Hamilton area waterfalls.

SPECIFIC USER ETIQUETTE FOR:

What can you expect?

  • Fast trail users like cyclist, runners and equestrians. When approaching from behind, they may often say "On your left" which means you should stay to your right.
  • Cyclists yield to hikers. It is the responsibility of the cyclist to pass at a safe speed. Offer friendly communication to let the rider know when it's safe to pass - give verbal acknowledgment step to the side of the trail or wave the rider by.

What is your responsibility?

  • Share the trail. When hiking in a group, hike single file or take no more than half the trail.
  • Stay to the right to allow other users to pass.
  • Don't tune out! Keep headphone volume down so other users don't startle you.
  • Yield to horses. Stay downhill, greet the rider and if hiking with a child, hold their hand when passing.

Galloping on HCA trails is NOT permitted.

What can you expect?

  • Inexperienced trail users who may not know what to do around horses or users who are intimidated by large horses.

What is your responsibility?

  • Manage your animals and don't bring 'green' horses into HCA areas. Familiarize horses with expected trail encounters, such as; cyclists, dogs, strollers, etc.
  • Negotiate safe passes.
    • Greet users early.
    • Keep to the right of the trail. When passing others, always pass in a single file at a walk.
    • Expect the unexpected. Small children, animals and the elderly can be unpredictable or frightened by horses.
  • Stay on trail at all times. Do not ride in mowed fields, into creek or stream beds or off designated trails.
  • Kick or otherwise remove manure from the trail.

Where to go?
Horses are permitted at Christie Lake, Dundas Valley and Westfield Heritage Village.

Cycling is NOT permitted on the Bruce Trail.

What can you expect?

  • Surprised trail users who can be startled by fast moving trail users, especially when approaching from behind. Always ride under control, anticipate users around blind corners and be friendly ad communicative.

What is your responsibility?

  • Cyclists should stay on trails at all times.
  • Yield to hikers, horses and uphill traffic.

What to do when passing?

  • Passing Hikers
    • Greet hikers early.
    • Slow down to about the same speed as the hiker.
    • Pass slowly and be prepared to stop if necessary.
    • Expect the unexpected. Humans and animals can be unpredictable or easily spooked by cyclists.
  • Passing Cyclists
    • Announce your intention with a friendly "on your left."
  • Passing Hikers
    • Stop at least 30ft. from the horse.
    • Greet the horse and equestrian to demonstrate that you are human and not a predator.
    • Ask for instruction on how to pass safely. Offer to get off your bike.
    • Pass slowly and steadily, but only after the equestrian gives you the go-ahead. Sudden movements can spook horses.

Dogs MUST be on leash at all times.

What can you expect?

  • Fast trail users like cyclist, runners and equestrians. When approaching from behind, they may often say "On your left" which means you and your dog should stay to your right.
  • Cyclists yield to dog walkers. It is the responsibility of the cyclist to pass at a safe speed. Offer friendly communication to let the rider know when it's safe to pass - give verbal acknowledgment step to the side of the trail or wave the rider by.

What is your responsibility?

  • Keep your dog on leash and under control at all times.
  • Dog walkers should yield to horses. You should also be aware that some people and horses may fear dogs. Please keep your dog on a tight leash when passing and give horses and dog-less hikers the right of way.
  • Clean up after your dog and do not leave pet waste bags on the ground, or worse yet, hanging in a tree.
  • Do not allow your dog to disturb plants or wildlife.
  • Keep your dog on trail at all times.

TRAIL & CONSERVATION AREA SAFETY
We ask that all visitors to conservation areas respect the rules, stay on trails and do not climb or otherwise bypass fencing, for their own safety and the environmental health of the areas. Keep well back from the edge of gorges and escarpment areas, at least a body length. Adults should keep children and pets well away from these areas. Some natural areas may not be fenced. Visitors should also take care when walking at the bottom of gorge and escarpment areas due to the chances of falling rocks or slips and falls on wet or algae-covered rocks.

Visitors should keep to marked trails at all times, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of the many rare and sensitive plants and small animals that could be easily damaged or hurt if you leave the trails.

Escarpment and waterfall safety at Hamilton area waterfalls.

WINTER SAFETY INFORMATION
Please visit our winter safety page for more information on staying safe during the winter season.