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Most ATV Trails are Multiple Use Lands – Share the Trails!


Because of my job and my hobbies, I tend to get into the backcountry quite a lot, and in a variety of different ways. Most often I'm in a pickup truck on my way to a worksite or carrying supplies to a crew who is toiling away putting in bridges or barriers or fences. After that, you'll most often find me with a grin on my face as my four wheeler tires roll along some rocky, dusty ATV trail that is leading me to the edge of nowhere.

When I finally arrive at my destination, I'm often greeted by someone else who is already there. As sparse and open as the mountains are, you'd think that after riding for two hours into the hinterlands, one would find solitude. That's not always the case, because so many people enjoy the great outdoors—for many different reasons.

Besides ATV Riders, Many Others Share the Trails
As one who makes his living working in outdoor recreation, all the reasons people get out and play shouldn't surprise me, but it often does. Those who get outdoors include country folk and city dwellers. They come from all walks of life; farmers, politicians, single moms, kids, circus clowns, veterans, rednecks, earth muffins, rich and poor, East Coasters, hockey fans from Minnesota, and many more.

Each person or group seems to have a little corner of the world that interests them the most, so I am going to break up the outdoor uses that I've encountered over the years into three groups: 1) Common Uses, 2) Ok, I Never Thought of That, and 3) What the Heck is the Matter With You? What's important to remember is that most of these folks—no matter how loony—have the right to enjoy the outdoors, and they get there on the same trails that ATVers use every day.

So the next time you're buzzing along on your Polaris Outlaw, your ATV sport ​tires tearing away the ground beneath you, spitting up rocks and dust, remember that someone somewhere, perhaps slightly unbalanced, is watching you.

Common Uses of ATV Trails to Access the Out-of-Doors

Normal, everyday people doing normal, everyday things. I see them along the trail all the time, often on ATVs.

  • Hunters and Fishers
    These folks are hardy and often are the first ones on the trail. When you make your way up the trail at the crack of dawn and notice a set of ITP Mud Lite tracks in the snow or mud in front of you, it's a safe bet they were made by a hunter or fisher.
  • Campers 
    Most of these people are in trucks, pulling trailers and are just trying to get away from home or work for a few days.
  • Hikers
    Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities and it seems that I always run into others who, like me, are intent on creating more blisters on their feet than on their butts. My biggest complaint as a hiker is that the dust kicked up by quad tires coats me with so much grime I can hardly breathe. Do me a favor and slow down when passing a hiker.
  • Horseback Riders
    Usually mellow trail users. Just leave them alone and they'll leave you alone.
  • Firewood Cutters
    I see these people most often in the fall. The danger they pose is that they usually park right on the trail and also fell trees across it.
  • Nature Lovers and Leaf Peepers
    They like the quiet and serenity the wilderness offers.
  • Wildlife and Livestock
    Deer, elk, bear, birds, cows, sheep, and horses. Be respectful, especially during calving season. The stress from motor vehicles increases mortality rates during this time.

Ok, I Never Thought of That

Regular folks with less than common interests.

  • Rock Hounds
    Though not out in large numbers, this is a dedicated element of outdoor enthusiasts. Many times I've seen ATV tires weighted down with the spoils of a long rock hunt.
  • Antler Collectors
    A lesser-known activity that comes with a payoff, antler collecting has more than a few devotees. There's even some money involved. Many states have enacted laws requiring antler hunters to keep their off-highway vehicles on the trail and seek their bounty on foot.
  • Mushroom and Seed Hunters
    Every season I come across several groups who are either gathering mushrooms to eat or seeds from wild plants to sell.
  • Geocachers
    Another activity dear to me. Geocaching is a treasure hunt game using GPS technology, and these people crawl through every nook and cranny of the wilderness looking for their prizes. They use every mode of transportation imaginable.
  • Photographers
    Often a quiet bunch, don't be surprised to see them anywhere along the trail.
  • Prospectors
    With a tough economy, gold fever has hit more people in recent years.

What the Heck is the Matter with You?

If there's anything I've learned about people on vacation, it's that they either leave their common sense at home, or they let their true self take over because they're not likely to come across anyone they know. Either way, these are the characters that make the world a more interesting place.

  • Squatch Hunters
    With more and more television shows highlighting this activity, a lot of believers have appointed themselves Bigfoot experts and take to the hills in search of proof. I have learned that sasquatches like bacon (who doesn't), 80s rock, and blow up dolls. If you ever encounter these three things while miles from civilization, you are either close to a Bigfoot hunter or someone is about to order you to squeal like a pig. Either way, run!
  • Pot Growers
    Sadly, these riffraff are infiltrating public and private lands more regularly. Don't approach them, don't use your Maxxis Bighorns to tear up their crops, just call the authorities.
  • Burning Ex-Partners in Effigy
    Yes, you read that right. I've seen it. These are the scary, unstable people of society. And, just in case you were wondering, I'm not sure if burning an effigy will upset a squatch. Proceed with caution.
  • Cult Rituals
    If your cult sacrifices radishes or old eight-track tapes, we've got no quarrel. However, over the years, I have had the distinct displeasure of seeing firsthand the dark art of cult activities. Perhaps the strangest, but not too creepy, was an altar made of stone whereupon a number of potatoes were sliced up and satanic symbols were painted. I'm not sure I care to know what motivated them to do that.
  • Afternoon Delight
    Earlier in my career I encountered midday trysts with considerable regularity. If digital cameras were as handy then as they are now, I could start a fairly profitable website with the many things I have seen. My only advice is, if you're going to do it, please, for goodness sake, try to be attractive.

Off-Highway Trails are for Everyone

In all seriousness, off-highway vehicle riders have the most versatility in where they can go and what they can do. They can use ATV paddle tires to fly across a sand dune or ATV mud tires to squirt through a quagmire. They can carry camera equipment or a sluice box. They can and do provide access to the wilderness for all types of people with all types of interests. The best approach for everyone is to remember that you're not the only one trying to enjoy the trails or the fantastic places they lead to. So, be accommodating to everyone – unless they order you to squeal like a pig; at that point, you have a decision to make.

Ryan Richards

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