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Trail etiquette should extend to parking lots too

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As outdoor recreationists, we know there are certain "rules of the road." 

Trail etiquette is a constant topic of discussion among outdoor enthusiasts, and being a courteous and responsible trail user is pretty easy.

The basics are that downhill users yield to those going uphill. Bikes yield to runners and hikers, and everyone yields to horses. Pretty simple.

Trail etiquette should even extend to the parking lots of our favorite trails. Equestrians, it seems, often have problems while parking their trailers at trailheads.  Whether due to malice, not paying attention, or innocent ignorance, some outdoor enthusiasts have been making life difficult for our fellow 4-legged trail users. 

Equestrians have been returning from their rides to find cars parked directly behind their trailers, preventing them from putting their horses inside for the ride home. They've also found cars parked so close to the sides of their trailers that they can't stow their saddles and tack.  Oftentimes, they find cars parked in areas clearly marked for trailer use only.



An instance where two drivers went out of their way to crowd in a trailer, preventing an owner from loading their horse - EMILY KNIGHT
  • Emily Knight
  • An instance where two drivers went out of their way to crowd in a trailer, preventing an owner from loading their horse

According to equestrian Emily Knight, a prime example of the issue is at Stratton Open Space, where the only two spots clearly designated for horse trailers are often occupied by cars. Cars will be parked in the designated trailer spots even when other spots are open, Knight says. 

This truck parked so close behind the trailer that the owner couldn't maneuver her horses into it. - EMILY KNIGHT
  • Emily Knight
  • This truck parked so close behind the trailer that the owner couldn't maneuver her horses into it.

While it can be argued that some people may just not know better, many drivers are "fairly rude," Knight says.

Knight shared a story of a driver who was parked directly behind a trailer, and watched as the horse owner made multiple attempts to move the trailer away from the car.

The driver of the car never offering or attempting to move out of the way.

Knight says that horse owners try to park as far away as possible from trailheads, and in a manner, that reduces their chances of being trapped.



Knight acknowledged that on-trail etiquette and courtesy has improved over the last few years, with fewer conflicts between users, but that hasn't necessarily extended to the parking lots.

In Bear Creek Park, this car prevented the horse from getting into the trailer. - EMILY KNIGHT
  • Emily Knight
  • In Bear Creek Park, this car prevented the horse from getting into the trailer.

Trying to squeeze a horse onto a trailer in a tight space caused by a car parked too close can result in a dent to the car if the 1,000 pound animal bumps into it, Knight says. 

The New Hampshire Horse Council, in a study they conducted in 2008, found that 8 to 10 feet of clearance around horse trailers is the minimum distance that allows for unobstructed use of a trailer.

Our parks, trails and open spaces are intended to be enjoyed by a variety of users. Cyclists, hikers and horses riders all contribute to our public lands, either by paying sales and property taxes, or by contributing "sweat equity" to build and maintain trails. 

It should go without saying that all users should be considerate of the people they share the trails with. Do right by the equestrians, and give them space, both on the trails and in the parking lots.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

Correction: In the October 17th, 2019 column about the restoration of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad engine 168, the year it was built was incorrectly stated. The engine was built in 1883.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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