Etiquette on the Snowshoe Trails

We’re big fans of sharing the trails. When we’re hiking in the summer we’ve got no problem sharing trails with mountain bikers and horseback riders. In the winter we think there’s plenty of room for cross-country skiers, snowshoers and cyclists on fat bikes (I almost called them fat bikers…) to coexist.

But, the one thing about sharing the trails is remembering to follow certain guidelines so that everyone can enjoy their outdoor experience regardless of how they are moving down the trail.

snowshoe etiquette

As part of our snowshoe series we’ve discussed the history of snowshoeing, why to snowshoe, how to choose a pair of snowshoes, where to buy snowshoes, what to wear and what gear to use snowshoeing, what to pack for a day of snowshoeing, if you should hike or snowshoe and how to plan a snowshoe adventure. Today we’re talking about etiquette.

When it comes to winter trail use, here’s a few tips on snowshoe etiquette.

  • Packed and tracked cross-country ski trails are awesome but they aren’t groomed for snowshoers they are groomed for skiers. A snowshoe’s crampons can really destroy a groomed trail, especially tracks. If you want to snowshoe on groomed trails stick to the far left side of the trails and stay off of the classic tracks. If you’re in the backcountry make your own tracks rather than snowshoe in any tracks set by skiers.  
  • If you’re snowshoeing in an area that is also used by snowmobilers be extra careful and always yield to the snowmobile. I’m not really sure who technically has the right of way, but in my experience it’s safer just to let the snowmobile pass.
  • If you need to stop to catch your breath, snap a photo, grab a snack or tend to a crabby trail baby step off the trail so that other can move around you easily.
  • Just like with hiking, yield to the uphill snowshoer. Often the uphill snowshoer will want to catch a quick break while you pass but it’s their call.

Now it’s your turn to chime in, did we miss anything or do you have anything you like to add? Has anyone had a personal experience with snowshoe etiquette, good bad or ugly?

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User Comments

  1. Eric |

    We have someone locally who goes ballistic if someone snowshoes on trails she’s made. This is not private land, so I don’t understand the big deal. She went off on a lady in her 70’s even.

  2. Patricia Wise |

    Off trail what is best way to find areas you might sink in before it happens? We were on an open, smooth, flat area when all of a sudden my husband sank into his waist. We have well fitting, weight geared MSR snow shoes and use treking poles with baskets.

    Thanks for your input.

    • Al Walsh |

      It comes down to being able to read the snow. Sometimes it’s crusty on top with very soft and loose powder underneath. That sounds like what happened in your case. The best way to avoid something similar is to be sensitive to changes in the snow condition as you travel.

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