Group of people with share the trails "yield" signs. Group includes hikers, cyclists, a horse, and dogwalkers.

Multi-use trails

Most of Gabriola’s trails are used by walkers, dog-walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. GaLTT’s Share the Trails Committee liaises with other user groups and works on educating all users as to best practices on shared trails to ensure safety and avoid user conflicts. They liaise and collaborate with various Gabriola trail user groups, the Gabriola Active Transportation Group, and the Outdoor Recreational Council. They perform trail user education, including conflict avoidance, and manage trail signage other than wayfaring signage. If you would like to help, please contact us at

A "share the trails" yield sign. Walkers yield to horses; bicycles yield to everyone.

Trail etiquette

On shared trails a good experience often depends on knowing how to respond to others courteously and respectfully. The shared trails user sign summarizes the principles well: walkers yield to horses, bikes yield to everyone.

The Outdoor Recreation Council has an excellent Trail User’s Code of Ethics brochure that includes best practices for shared trails. You can read more details below.

Common sense, Communication and Courtesy

Anyone could be around the next corner on our trails. Horse startle easily, bicycles and e-bikes often move very fast, some trail-walkers are hearing impaired or not very agile, some dogs may be out of their owner’s control or unfamiliar with bikes or horses. All trail users need to understand who is sharing their trails and anticipate encounters.

Fire safety

Fire is the greatest threat to our island. During fire-hazard season (Apr. 1 – Oct. 15) campfires and smoking are banned in all parks and on trails. Never drop a cigarette or butt on the ground. Beach fires are not permitted without written permission from the Fire Chief’s office. When permitted at Descanso Bay campground, campfires must be in designated firepits. For more information:

For everyone

Say hi to other users! But don’t block the trail if you’ve stopped to chat with someone.

Wet trails are much more susceptible to damage. In general, avoid wet and muddy areas to prevent erosion and channeling of rainwater. But also stay on the trail—if everyone goes around a wet spot, the trail will become wider and wider. If your favourite trail is in bad shape or you can’t get round a winter puddle without going on off-trail vegetation, find a different trail until conditions change.

The yield sign sets the standard, but also apply good sense and courtesy as a baseline. For example if you’re a hiker who can easily get out of the way of a cyclist climbing a steep hill, do so!


Horse-riding is common on our trail system in several of Gabriola’s parks and on the government lands set aside for Snuneymuxw First Nation. Horses may not be ridden in nature reserves such as S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) or on most licensed walking trails across private land. Horses are large, shy, prey animals, easily startled into fleeing.

What to do if you meet a horse on the trails:

  1. Make yourself visible as soon as possible.
  2. Use your voice to announce yourself to the rider and horse.
  3. Control and leash your dog.
  4. If you are on a bike, dismount.
  5. Step to the side of the path leaving as much room to pass as possible.
  6. If possible, stay facing the horse.
  7. Allow the horse and rider to pass.

What to do if you are a horse rider on the trail and meet walkers or bikers:

  1. Ride only well-trained horses on public trails.
  2. When other users approach, calm and reassure your horse.
  3. Exchange greetings with the other trail users.
  4. Give clear instructions to other users how you wish them to act. Base your actions on the nature of the trail and everyone’s safety.
  5. If necessary, remind them to let you pass.
  6. Pause to allow the other trail users to clear your path.
  7. Once clear, continue your path forward on the trail and thank the others as you pass.

Bikes and e-bikes

Stay alert to who else may be using the trail. Pay special attention at trail mergers and crossings. Others may not hear or see you approaching.

  1. Slow down. Be aware that other users may not be agile.
  2. Use your voice or bell to signal your approach (especially from behind).
  3. Be aware that a walker may be hearing impaired. If they do not seem to hear you, dismount and walk your bike past them.
  4. Yield to walkers with or without dogs.
  5. NEVER suddenly appear beside or in front of a horse.
  6. If approaching a horse from behind, dismount and speak to the rider. Give them time to prepare and position their horse, and give you the go-ahead.
  7. When approaching a horse-rider get off your bike, stay facing the horse, and announce yourself verbally.
  8. Move off the trail and allow the horse to pass unless the horse-rider indicates otherwise.

In public parks official signage at the entrance indicates whether bikes are allowed. Most licensed trails over private land permit cyclists. Bikes are not allowed in nature reserves such as S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar).

Dog walkers

What to do if you and your dog meet a horse on the trail:

  1. Announce yourself as soon as possible to the horse and rider.
  2. Ensure your dog is under your control.
  3. If not on a leash, recall the dog immediately and control it.
  4. Move to the side of the path.
  5. Allow the horse to pass safely before proceeding.
  6. Keep your dog under control.

What horse riders should do when meeting a dog on the trail

  1. Pause until you are sure the dog is under control and off the path.
  2. Maintain voice contact until you have passed by.

Dog leashing and control rules

The areas on Gabriola where you are required to leash your dogs are:

  • in provincial parks (Sandwell Park, Drumbeg Park, and Gabriola Sands at Twin Beaches)
  • on trails licensed by GaLTT for public use across private land—please obey the signage
  • in all nature reserves.

In RDN regional and community parks (including 707 and Cox Parks) you are required to have your dogs under your control, but not necessarily leashed.

There are no regulations about dog leashing on public beaches that are not in parks, although it is courteous to others to keep your dog under your control.

ATVs, motorbikes, and other off-road motorized vehicles

ATVs and other off-road vehicles may NOT be used in Gabriola’s parks or nature reserves. While they are generally allowed on Provincial crown land, their use is not permitted in Federally held lands for treaty settlement.

And please… pack out ALL your trash!