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Trail Etiquette for Off-Roaders


The simplest way for off-roaders to get along is to follow simple trail etiquette guidelines. 

Dirt Bike TrailsKnow Your Width

If your vehicle is over 50″ wide, you are limited to 4×4 or Jeep trails. If it is less than 50″ wide, you can use trails designated for ATVs. There are also single-track trails which are for motorcycle-only use; no four-wheelers allowed. Many times there will be a gate at the trail head; if your vehicle does not fit, you should not ride.

Know Your Ability

If you are a beginner, know your limitations. Research the skill level required for the trails you want to ride. Maps are available online, and guides are available for purchase at many off-road vehicle dealerships.

ATV Riding EtiquetteBe Prepared

Dress in layers; weather can change quickly. Wear a helmet and other protective gear. Consider carrying a backpack with a hydration system that holds essential first-aid gear and snacks.Consider taking a tool kit with pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers, wire and duct tape.

Make sure your vehicle is prepared before departure. Perform maintenance on your machine.

Most states require all OHVs on public lands to have OHV registration tags from the state parks system. If you plan to ride out of state, check their registration requirements in advance. Some areas have noise limitations, so do your research.

Staging and Camping

When you park in a staging area, do not block the trail head. If you are pulling a trailer, park out the way. Keep your OHV riding to a minimum in the parking area, as not everyone there may be out for an off-road excursion. Rude behavior reflects the entire OHV community; be considerate.

On the Trail

If you are new to trail riding, here are common courtesy guidelines:

  • When encountering hikers or horseback riders, pull to the side and shut off your machine 
  • If a faster rider comes from behind, pull over and let them pass; find a wide spot (but stay on the trail) with a clear view. This is safer for all riders and minimizes trail damage.
  • Use hand signals to let others know how many are in your riding group; the number of fingers displayed represents the number of riders in your group; a closed fist indicates the last rider.
  • When meeting other riders on a hill, the rider going uphill generally has the right of way
  • If you pack it in, pack it out! Properly dispose of all trash
  • The best solution when encountering obstacles like rocks and branches is to aim directly at them and go over the top
  • Be aware of wildlife and leave them alone. You are in their home and they don’t appreciate you being there. Some animals will attack if provoked
  • Leave vegetation as you find it; there are some delicate species in the forest close to extinction

Be safe, be respectful, and enjoy your ride! 

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