Trail Etiquette


At the beginning of a trail ride it is common to introduce yourself.  Include a nickname or handle that is easy for everyone else to remember.  Be sure to figure out the name or handle of the people in front and behind you.  This way you can get on the CB and say something like “Hey Turtle, stay to the left at the top of that hill.”

Chatter can liven things up, but limit it to easy sections of the trail.  You don’t want to be telling a long joke while someone else needs to warn the group about an obstacle or call for assistance.

Only one person should “spot” others through a tough obstacle or be in charge of vehicle recovery.  Often that person will need help conveying instructions to the winch operator, watching how close the rear bumper comes to that tree, etc.  Work out who is involved before spotting/recovery starts and if you are not part of the operation, keep quiet and stay out of the way.  See if there is something you can do to help indirectly – like taking pictures or making sure the kids stay safe.

It takes a village

When it comes to keeping children safe, we are all responsible. Be sure they are off of the trail if vehicles are moving. Be sure they are clear of vehicle recovery operations. Be sure they are not playing near deep water, cliffs, poison ivy, or space aliens. Don’t assume it must be OK with the parents. If you are not comfortable, step up and keep them safe. Better to be thought pushy and over protective than to try out your CPR skills…

Watch your back

Always, always, always keep the vehicle behind you in sight!  If you don’t see them STOP!  This way nobody gets lost.  This is not always possible in really dense trees or steep hills, but if you are about to  take a fork or go over a hill, pause until you catch sight of the vehicle behind you.  It takes a little practise to pick a good spot to pause, but the top of a hill or end of a long straight section are ideal because you want to:

Give others some room

Don’t follow too closely to the vehicle in front of you.  This is especially important going up or down muddy hills.  You don’t want to slide into the person in front of you going down a hill.  If the vehicle in front of you fails to climb a hill, they may loose control backing down the hill to try again.  Also, it is to your advantage to see under the vehicle in front of you so you can watch the tires and differentials.  This will help you decide what line to take over the obstacles – and what lines NOT to take!

Once you clear that obstacle, you might want to go back and watch others try it, offer advice to them, and maybe take some pictures.  Be sure to park far enough down the trail so that ALL of the vehicles in the group will have room to park.  If you notice that room is getting short, speak up and help make some room! This is a safety issue, so it is appropriate to move someone else’s vehicle if they are occupied spotting for others, responding to the call of nature, or have been abducted by aliens.  This is only possible if you:

Leave your keys in the ignition

So others can move your rig.  Also, they don’t get lost.  Few things are as irritating for the group as combing the woods for your keys… but you should still:

Be patient

This is not a face paced sport, especially if you are in a large group.  Be prepared to wait for that newbie to struggle with street tires in the mud pit or the “Big Dogs” who want to try an optional obstacle.  Give the newbie some advice if you can and see if you can pick up some tricks from the big dogs.  Most importantly, be patient when there is trail carnage or mechanical failures.

Be prepared

One way to reduce frustrating delays is to be sure your vehicle is ready for the trail.  Do routine maintenance like checking fluid levels, u-joint condition etc.  Its a good idea to attend our annual Saftey Check Event to identify potential problems before hitting the trail. 

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