Don't Shoot! This is Supposed to be Fun
August 1, 2017
A few years back two groups of trail riders, going in opposite directions, met at a crossroads in a remote mountain area and neither one wanted to allow the other to pass. They began by shouting at one another and making threats. Before long, guns appeared and an easily avoidable situation became potentially deadly in an instant. Fortunately for all, reason took over and everyone hurriedly completed that age-old maneuver known as getting the hell out of there.
Incidents such as this one are rare, and I'm glad nobody got hurt. When the report came into my office a couple of hours later it got me thinking about trail etiquette and what riders can do to be courteous to everyone they encounter. Trail etiquette is important for everyone to observe, and by so doing, it will make the day one of the great memories of the enjoyment you had. After all, ATV riding should be fun. Practice the rules of the trail and you won't go wrong.
Share the Trail
Most of the trails out here in the West are designated for multiple-use. ATV tires are just as welcome as bicycle tires. So, too, are hikers, horseback riders, motorcyclists, and nature lovers. When you ride, remember that everyone is there to have a good time and has the same right to do so.
Keep Off the Grass
I once heard a man ask a salesman where he could ride the new ATV he had just purchased. The response was classic, ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle, why, you can ride it anywhere you want to. Aside from a salesman's bravado, be a responsible rider and keep all four of your ATV tires on the trail. Many trails cross sensitive lands, private lands, watersheds, archaeological sites, wetlands, and areas important to flora and fauna. Be respectful and remember that in many areas it is unlawful to ride off trail.
Along the Trail
Stick to the right-hand side of the trail so that riders coming from the opposite direction can get past safely. It is also a good idea to use hand signals to inform passing riders about how many people are in your group. Riders going uphill need to keep their momentum so be courteous and pull over to allow them plenty of room. If you have to pull over to talk or take a picture or change a tire, do so in a safe place so you never block the trail.
Keep the Dust Down
There's no doubt about it, whether you're tearing around with GBC Dirt Devil tires on your ATV or your UTV is outfitted with Dunlop tires, the dust is going to fly. Remember that when you pass other riders along the trail, the dust you kick up is going to get in their faces and clog up their air filters. Creating rooster tails may make you feel cool, but it also sprays dust and rock all over everyone else in the area.
Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace
These organizations have great, practical information on how to protect your privilege to ride.
Holy Cow! Don't Fence me In
Livestock, especially cattle and sheep, is frequently present along mountain trails as well as many other places. Slow down so you don't spook them and slowly make your way past. Remember that these animals belong to someone. Additionally, whenever you go through a gate, leave it as you found it, either fully open or fully closed. Never go around locked gates or fences.
Don't be a burden to others because you didn't think ahead. You may not be able to avoid an accident but you can bring a first aid kit, an ATV winch, tools, water, a map, ATV accessories, and a helmet.
Observe Traffic Laws
Where applicable, follow all posted speed limits, stop signs, and rights-of-way. Use proper hand signals when you are turning or slowing down. It's not only safe and courteous, it's the law.
Be a Good Sam
If you come across an obstacle like a tree or a boulder in the trail, do your best to remove it so it won't be a hazard to other riders. Likewise, when you notice a missing or damaged trail marker, fix it if possible or report it to the appropriate authority. When nature calls, adhere to Leave No Trace practices and be aware of watersheds when attending to personal hygiene needs.
Be a courteous and ethical rider and you and your friends will have a safer, more fun time on the trail; it will also keep you from getting shot.