Trail Etiquette

Trail Etiquette

The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) maintains numerous public trails in the Whistler Valley. These trails are public non-motorized multi-use trails that are enjoyed by multiple user groups which include a large number of mountain bikers.  WORCA works closely with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), Crown Land recreation managers, and other community stakeholders to maintain these trails, manage land use conflicts and uphold a common Trail Etiquette. It is important that trail users are familiar with trail etiquette in order to enjoy these amenities freely and safely.

WORCA is committed to responsible stewardship of the Whistler trail network and has created RESPECT signage and guidelines below to communicate best practice to trail users. Bike smart and have fun!


Who yields to whom?

A commonly used Trail sign to assist with trail etiquette is this one below:


Nowadays we don’t see many horses in the Whistler Valley, but the general trail user should adhere this sign as a rule of thumb.

Whistler has become a major mountain bike destination. You will encounter mountain bikers on most trails as well as many hikers, you may also encounter Trials motorcycles on some trails. To give you some background, Trials bike users built some of Whistler’s classic trails which have now been adopted into our mountain bike trail network and WORCA trail builders use these Trials bikes for ease of access to work sites. Note that not all trails are non-motorized, please use common sense and respect when encountering other user groups.

A guide for ALL trail users

A mix of Cross Country, All Mountain and some Downhill trails can be found throughout the trail network in Whistler. To avoid conflict between the different types of user groups we recommend following these guidelines:

  • Stay on the trail. Do not cut switchbacks or take shortcuts unless there is one specified.
  • Stay to the right side on wider paths.
  • Pass on the left.
  • When overtaking someone, let them know you are approaching and will be passing on their left. You may hear a biker call out, “On your Left!” as he comes up from behind. That means you should stay to your right.
  • Whenever you stop for a view, a rest, or to yield, move off the trail so it is free for others. If you are selecting the spot for a rest, try to find a used area or a durable surface such as a rock, dirt, or snow. Don’t just trample off the trail into a nice soft field of moss and flowers.
  • Greet people you meet. This makes sure they know you are there and is polite. A simple “Howdy” or “Nice Day” is fine.
  • When hiking in a group, yield to single or pairs of hikers/bikers. It’s harder for a group to get off the trail so often times singles will stop and let you all pass, but it’s their call.
  • When hiking/biking in a group, hike/bike in a single file or take no more than half of a wide trail. Make sure everyone in your group understands what actions to take when encountering hikers, bikers, horses and other wildlife such as bears.
  • When meeting a horse:
    • Get off the trail on the downhill side. Horses will tend to bolt uphill when spooked. Also, you waiting on the uphill side looks more like a predator waiting to pounce.
    • Quietly greet the rider and ask if you are ok where you are.
    • Stand quietly while the horses pass.
  • Don’t leave any markers when hiking off-trail. Cairns, ducks, or little piles of rocks are not needed. Markers tend to concentrate traffic which creates un-managed trail scars.
  • Read trail-head guidelines. There may be specific rules for the trail you are on, for instance a mountain bike descent trail.
Guidelines for bikers
  • Slow down to the speed of other cyclists or walking speed for hikers until you can pass easily.
  • Consider that public trails are not a race course. If you want to record a good time, ride at times of the day which have less chance of traffic.
  • You must stop if you approach someone that is crossing a narrow bridge or negotiating a narrow piece of trail with limited space, coming up or going down.
  • Let faster riders pass you as soon as you can.
  • Bikers and hikers going uphill are working hard and should be given the right of way over those coming downhill. Sometimes uphill bikers will prefer to stop and let you pass coming down so they can get a short break – the uphill biker should allowed to make that decision.
  • When using downhill tracks be courteous and communicate with those you meet and pass.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for descending riders approaching.
Guidelines for hikers
  • Many trails in the WORCA maintained network in Whistler are directional. Identify the direction of the trail you are using and be aware if you are climbing up a trail on which bikers will be descending. Anticipate riders and step aside as soon as you can to let the descending rider pass.
  • Hikers and bikers going uphill are working hard and should be given the right of way over hikers coming downhill. Sometimes uphill hikers will prefer to stop and let you pass coming down so they can get a short break. The uphill hiker should be allowed to make that decision.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for descending riders approaching.
Protect the environment
  • Pack It In – Pack It Out. It just does not make sense that someone spending time to get out into nature would purposely destroy it.
  • Take a photo if you need a memento of your adventure. A pretty rock or a patch of flowers deserve to remain where they are. Picture in your mind what the place would look like if the group before you had taken what you are about to put in your pocket.
  • Stay on the trail, don’t cut corners, it takes a long time for vegetation to grow back.
  • Obey signs and don’t destroy the environment you are there to enjoy.
  • Report vandalism. If there is contact information at the trail-head, tell the managing agency of any destruction or management concerns or requirements that you notice.
  • Mountain biker can help prevent the spread of invasive plants by cleaning shoes, bikes and pets before leaving the trail-head or moving to a new trail-head. Learn more about how to Play Clean Go.
Seasonal conditions and weather

Be considerate of the environment and local trail management plans. If you ride in the wet, ride trails that are appropriate. Consider the impact of riding in wet and rainy conditions.

In early season during snowmelt or in October once the fall rain comes certain areas may be deemed closed do to impact and erosion. The erosion problem arises when the ground is supersaturated, this is a time when the water content is very high – it often only takes a few days to dry and it’s good to go. During spring melt most of the snow needs to be gone to reach this drying trend or you will damage the trail dramatically. Be patient.

In Alpine terrain, if a trail is open with a few snow patches, it is very important to stay on the snow on the trail. Braiding a new trail causes extensive damage to an area. The newly developed Sproatt network, for example, will only be opened once the snow is gone in the Alpine (once we can see the trail and stick to it). Other areas in the valley may be closed by builders because considerable snow melt keeps the trail supersaturated.

In our mountainous environment consider the time of year and choose appropriate trails for riding in wet conditions. Certain land managers may close trails to restrict erosion. Ride accordingly and follow trail etiquette, check if trails are open or closed before setting off for a ride (Trail Forks offers a good guide to what trails are open and closed).

Human factors

Whistler, along with the whole Sea to Sky Corridor, has become a mecca for riding bikes. Much effort and money is being spent to manage the trails and environment around it. Consider the heavy traffic you are part of which adds to the impact and cost of maintenance and development. Support the local trail association of the place you are visiting it really does make a difference:

North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA)

Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA)

Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA)

Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association (PORCA)

Our region suffers from an aggressive need for people to ride fresh new trails, this phenomena threatens unfinished trails. WORCA is proud to be able to work with local government and stakeholders to develop the trail network and offer new trails for people to ride. But it is disrespectful to the builders and planners who are putting time and effort into creating new trails when riders impact an unfinished trail. Be aware of the privileges you enjoy as a trail user with respect to access and recognize the impact you can have on it and on nature. Respect what we have and who provides it.

Join your local club/association on Trail Maintenance days and meet the people who work hard to develop and maintain the trail network. If you want your voice heard and your opinion to count, the community volunteer days are a great place to speak with trail builders and stewards to learn about the trail network and its evolution.

Sadly, you will run into some people that feel they have a right to do whatever they want outdoors. You’ll see braided trail sections, muddy spots with footprints and tire tracks, washed out gullies or tracks on a sensitive hillside created by mountain bikers tearing down inappropriate places on the mountain. All of these concerns add to the damage. You’ll have a biker fly past you with no warning. Keep your eyes open for them and for your safety. But also recognize the many others that are courteous and polite. Make sure people put you into the courteous, polite and respectful category after they’ve met you on the trail.

Please, lead by example and follow trail etiquette, together we can make our trail network a pleasure for everyone to enjoy now and in the future.

Be prepared, be safe, and use your Mountain Sense to enjoy nature.


WORCA advocates for non-motorised mountain biking. WORCA considers e-bikes motorized vehicles. E-bikes are not included at WORCA events as our insurance will not cover their use. E-bikes are still in the evolutionary stage and management plans are not yet established. Some clear issues stand out which have not fully been evaluated. The facts are that they allow more people to travel farther and quicker into places they could not so easily access before. This potentially opens up a number of concerns around user conflict, trail safety, and damage to trails that WORCA is keen to monitor and re-evaluate if necessary based on authentic studies or assessment of on-trail conditions. E-bike riders are directed to be extra considerate on public trails and be aware that faster speeds in all directions is a concern for collisions on multi-use trails.