Trail Etiquette and Safety

Hiking, biking or horseback riding on Tahoe Donner’s trails is a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors. With the increasing popularity of these outdoor activities, the number of encounters with other trail enthusiasts is also increasing, so we all need to do our best to be respectful, patient and courteous with others. By following the guidelines below, we can all have a more safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.

Advice for All Trail Users

Respect: It’s a simple concept: If you offer respect, you are more likely to receive it. We’re all out there to have a good time. Friendly respect will diminish negative encounters on the trail for all users.

Communication: Let folks know you’re there before you’re there. Do your best to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming. A friendly greeting is a good method.

Trail Yield SymbolYield Appropriately: Anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to hikers and equestrians. Step downhill and off-trail to let them pass. Bicyclists riding downhill should yield to uphill traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.

Be Informed: It’s YOUR responsibility to be in the know. Questions about where to ride, trail conditions, outdoor ethics and Tahoe Donner Association regulations are important to know before you head out on the trails. If you have further questions, please contact the trails manager at 530-582-9672 or or Member Services at 530-587-9400 or

Be Prepared: For emergencies, call 911 but be aware that cell service can be weak and response times slow. Carry the Ten Essentials:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Advice for Hikers and Bikers

When hikers or mountain bikers encounter horses on the trail, they should step off the trail on the downhill side, talk to the rider and the animal (this lets the animal know you are a person). Keep talking in a calm voice as the animal passes.

If you approach a horse from behind, it’s critical that you announce yourself loudly but calmly so you do not scare the animal. Let the rider know you’d like to pass at the next safe location. Do NOT ride up quickly on animal(s). It’s dangerous for you and the rider.

Advice for Horse Riders

Though most hikers and bikers will yield the right of way to horses, remember that some folks do not have experience with animals and may not react as expected. These encounters are great opportunities to inform and educate other users with a friendly approach.

As a horse rider, you have a responsibility to manage your animal on the trail; it is not advised to bring horses unaccustomed to high-traffic or multi-use trails until they are familiar with them. Also, remember to keep an eye out for other users in front of you, behind you and joining you at trail junctions.

Etiquette for Equestrians

  • Make sure your horse has the temperament and training for riding on congested trails.
  • Advise other trail users of your horse’s temperament. For example, a horse with a tendency to kick should always wear a red ribbon in the tail. Assume that not everyone will know what the ribbon means, so be prepared to explain or take the necessary precautions to avoid trouble.
  • Obey posted speed/gait limits. Avoid cantering or galloping on busy trails.
  • Know your horse’s limitations.
  • Leave gates as you find them. Obey gate closures and regulatory signs.
  • Let other trail users know when it is safe to pass your horse.
  • Announce your intention to pass others. Come to a walk and pass on the left.
  • Always pick up after your horse. Keep the trailhead clear of manure and trash. Try to keep the trail clean of manure. Individual trails may require that you pick up manure.

Help Protect Our Trails and Open Spaces

Don’t Play in the Mud: When trails are muddy or otherwise saturated with water, please refrain from using them until they have had a chance to dry out. This will allow the trail tread to remain narrow and stable and will also reduce erosion.

Do Not Cut Switchbacks or Take Shortcuts: Enjoy where our trails take you; you won’t be disappointed. Cutting switchbacks and creating shortcuts damages plants and disturbs the soil and contributes to erosion.

Pick Up After Your Pet: Dog waste along our trails is not only unsightly but can also hurt water quality and spread disease. Please grab a few of the dog litter bags found at most Tahoe Donner trailheads before hitting the trails, and please dispose of used litter bags in trailhead garbage containers. Per association policy, dogs need to be on a leash when on Tahoe Donner trails. Is your dark a B.A.R.K. Ranger? Learn more about important dog owner etiquette in Tahoe Donner.

Give Wildlife a Break: When encountering the abundance of wildlife throughout Tahoe Donner, please give them plenty of room. Control pets; do not allow dogs to chase or otherwise harass wildlife.

Respect Our Neighbors: Please respect our neighbors by staying on Tahoe Donner property. Most property boundary lines are posted; please do not wander onto our neighbors’ land.

Tips for Safety

  • Before you leave for the trail, make sure you know where you are going. It is a good idea to tell a responsible person where you will be and when you expect to return.
  • Check the weather forecast so that you know what to expect on your adventure.
  • Bring drinking water and stay hydrated.
  • Before you leave your vehicle, make sure all valuables are out of sight and lock your doors.