So you’ve got your ATV or side by side, and you’re ready to officially take it off-roading. Whether you’re a first-time wilderness rider or you’ve been in the game for some time, it’s important to know basic trail rules and etiquette so you don’t make yourself look like an inexperienced rider in front of your friends. So if you’re new to the game, pretend like you’re a veteran by following these important trail riding rules:
• Use Designated Trails
If you’re riding on public land, be sure to follow this rule. It may seem like a fun idea to take off-roading to the next level by venturing off the trail, but there are various rules and laws in place in all state parks that require to stay on the designated off-roading trails. However if you’re riding on your own or a friend’s private land, be sure to verify where you can and cannot venture.
• Respect the Wildlife
By sticking to the trails and not trampling the wild plantlife, you’ll keep the natural beauty of the park flourishing. Riding away from the trails will damage the wooded ground and keep more wildlife from growing. And at the end of the day, don’t risk bringing an invasive plant species home with you because you happened to venture off into the woods.
• Don’t Leave Trash Behind
Who wants to ride on a trash-infested trail? If you stopped for lunch or had to open a bottle of water, do your part to keep the trails clean by picking up after yourself. And do a little more that that; take a moment to pick up stray trash you come across, even if it wasn’t originally yours.
• Yield the Right of Way
Odds are you’re going to come in contact with other explorers during your time on the trails. If you happen to cross paths with a non-motorized outdoorsmen such as cyclists, hikers, and even horseback riders, safely pull over to the side of the trail and let them pass. Keep in mind, horses very easily get spooked by loud, motorized vehicles, so do your part when you share the trail.
• Let Others Know How Many are in Your Group
If you come across other off-road vehicles on the trails, you might notice them hold up a number of fingers. The number a person shows indicates the number of fellow riders in his/her group. So for example, if you see a guy hold up three fingers, expect to see three more vehicles behind him. And when the last person in their group appears, he/she will hold up a fist, meaning you shouldn’t expect any more people to pass through from their group. Use these signs yourself if you’re traveling in a high-traffic area.
• Don’t Overdo the Engine Revving
Whether you see them or not, other outdoor enthusiasts are out on the trails, just like you. They’re out there to enjoy Mother Nature, not listen to obnoxious motor sounds. So be sure you’re doing your part to be a courteous trail rider and keep the unnecessary engine revving to a minimum.
Most state park trail riders follow this simple etiquette every time they ride, however it’s best to do a little research ahead of time to know the true rules of the trails before you ride. Not all parks operate similarly, and some may have differing rules depending on the state you’re riding in and the time of year. Once you’re fully prepared with the knowledge of the trails, you’ll be ready to ride.