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Trail Etiquette PSA

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  • Trail Etiquette PSA

    Since this club does a lot of trail rides I thought it would be a good idea to share some trail etiquette. Number three is dear to me. I've traveled the back roads of Colorado for eighteen years now and have witnessed, first hand the demise of some once great trails. What were once challenging two track trails have become two lane dirt roads that any SUV can navigate.

    Most of us are on the trail because we love spending time in the beautiful outdoors and have
    great respect for the land. Nobody wants to be the jerk who breaks the rules, resulting in
    accidents, trail closures and other damaging consequences.

    1. Know Before You Go.
    Know who owns the land you will be traveling on and any rules, fees and permits required. For
    example, Southern California National Forests do not charge an entrance fee to travel the
    trails, but a Forest Adventure Pass is required to park your vehicle. If you plan to stop for
    lunch or a hike, you will need the pass.

    2. Read the Signs.
    Familiarize yourself with the agency’s trail signage. Trail signs frequently include color
    coded difficulty levels and will indicate what modes of transportation are permitted on the

    3. Tread Lightly.
    Stay on marked trails, don’t drive over vegetation, cross streams only at designated fording
    points where the trail crosses the stream, drive over (NOT AROUND) obstacles to avoid widening
    the trail, and respect all signage and barriers.

    4. Leave No Trace.
    Pack it in, pack it out. Better yet, carry a trash bag and pack out more than you pack in.
    Stop to pick up that plastic water bottle you see on the side of the trail.

    6. Get the Gate.
    Leave gates the way you found them. If you open a gate, close it behind you.

    While we all love nature and our vehicles that get us there, it can also be a dangerous place.
    Following a common set of etiquette helps to keep everyone out there safe.

    7. Yield Right of Way.
    On multi-use trails, yield right of way to mountain bikes, hikers and horses. Slow down and
    give them plenty of room and keep in mind to not dust them out. Take special caution when
    encountering saddled horses, they can be easily spooked by loud noises and unexpected
    movement. If you come across a horse on the trail you should pull over to the side, shut off
    your engine and ask the rider how to best proceed.

    8. Let Yourselves Be Known.
    No, that guy in the on-coming vehicle isn't flipping you off or flashing a peace sign! He's
    telling you how many vehicles are behind him. It is common practice when traveling with a
    group of vehicles to let on-coming traffic know how many rigs are in your group, especially on
    narrow trails and obstacles with limited visibility where someone needs to pull over to let
    your group safely pass. A raised fist means: “I am the last vehicle in my group.”

    9. Know Who's King of the Hill.
    When two vehicles meet on a steep hill, the vehicle traveling up the hill has the right of
    way. This is because the vehicle traveling uphill may need to maintain momentum, and because
    it is more difficult and dangerous to back down a steep narrow trail. Common sense should
    prevail though; if it is easier and there is room for the uphill vehicle to pull over, it
    wouldn't make sense to expect the downhill vehicle to back up the hill. Either way backing up
    is tough. If you are going up a big obstacle like a long, steep rocky climb, it may make sense
    to send a spotter up on foot to make sure the trail is clear and to warn any on-coming

    10. Space Is a Good Thing.
    Leave plenty of room for the vehicle in front of you, especially when navigating obstacles,
    climbing steep hills or in low visibility. If the vehicle in front of you loses traction (or
    worst case scenario, rolls over), you don’t want to be right behind it.

    11. Don't Stop, Stupid.
    Never stop your vehicle on a blind curve or in the middle of trail – wait until you reach a
    place where you can safely pull over off the trail.

    12. Watch Your Back.
    When traveling with a group of vehicles, each person is responsible for keeping an eye on the
    vehicle behind them. It’s not uncommon for vehicles to become widely spread out, especially on
    dusty trails, but you don’t want to lose anyone, particularly if they run into trouble. If you
    lose sight of the vehicle behind you, slow down until you can see them or attempt to make
    radio contact if you can’t spot them. Always stop before making a turn off a trail to make
    sure the vehicle behind you sees where the turn is. You are also responsible for maintaining
    visual contact with the vehicle in front of you. If you have a problem and fall behind or need
    to stop, use your radio to let your group know.

    13. Don't Drink and Drive.
    Save drinking for the campfire. Drinking alcohol is extremely dangerous while wheeling,
    endangering not only you but also everyone else on the trail.

    While these things are fairly common sense, keep them in mind whenever venturing out to go
    wheeling. Everyone has more fun when everyone in the community looks out for one another.

    14. Mind Your Dust.
    Slow down when you pass other vehicles, hikers and campsites.

    15. Keep It PG.
    Monitoring your own language on the CB/ham radio may not be second nature, but some people in
    hearing range may have kids with them; be aware that any foul language you're using is being
    heard by them too.

    16. Know When to Say When.
    There is nothing wrong with being winched through an obstacle if you can’t make it through on
    your own after a reasonable number of attempts. If you've made multiple attempts at an
    obstacle and there is a line of rigs backed up behind you that have been waiting half an hour
    for you to get out of the way but you still want to keep trying, move aside and let them
    through before making another run at it.

    17. Leave Your Ego at Home.
    Don’t let others pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable doing. There is
    nothing wrong with taking a bypass if you or your vehicle is not up to tackling an obstacle.

    18. Stop to Help Others.
    All of us out there rely on each other, especially in remote areas. The off road community is
    the friendliest and most helpful group of people there is. If you see someone stopped on the
    side of trail, ask them if they need help and be prepared to give it.

    19. Leave No Man Behind.
    I would hope this wouldn't even need to be said, but I can tell you I've seen it happen. If a
    vehicle in your group has a problem, the group stays until the problem is resolved. It is not
    right to leave someone out on the trail to fend for themselves with a stuck or broken vehicle,
    especially in a remote location where things can quickly turn into a life or death situation.
    Be prepared for it every time you go out. Always carry extra food and water in case you are
    out several hours longer than you had planned. Be patient, helpful and keep a good attitude;
    because next time, it could be you.


    Following these tips will help preserve trail access for the future and keep off-roading safe
    and fun for everyone.

  • #2
    Nice sticky! I had no idea about the hand/flashing signals to signify how many are in your group. Good read!
    2004 Grand Cherokee (WJ), Laredo 4.0
    4.5" Frankenstein Short Arm lift, Rusty ADJ CA's, trussed Waggy 44 Front & 44HD Rear; 315/70:17 Patagonia M/T mounted on Micky Thompson Classic Lock II 17x9


    • #3
      Bobert Very nice. I am guilty of breaking some rules. Going to have to tighten up. Thanks
      1997 TJ. Mostly Stock with a couple bolt on's!

      "My jeep practically drives its self"
      "Just Bump It"


      • #4
        Great post!

        I think everyone breaks the rules once in awhile -- not intentionally, but it's always good to have reminders. I feel that I need to add one to safety: Buckle Up. A lot of people refuse to do it, and quite frankly, the excuses I've heard are terrible. Your safety is just as important to everyone around you as it is to you. Nobody wants to pick up your pieces because you refused to stay strapped in.
        - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

        - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

        - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

        - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

        - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

        - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.


        • #5
          hand signaling oncoming traffic is one I didn't know. Thanks Bobert!
          98 XJ 4.5" lift on 33s. bumper w/ 10K winch, lights
          locked front and rear
          cowl intake, CB and a lot of skinny pedal


          • #7
            Excellent information Bobert. Aside from all of the other great information, the hand signaling and right of way information is good to know. It just goes to show that common sense isn't always so common.
            2017 Wrangler JKU Big Bear
            Armor: Smittybilt SRC Gen2 Front Bumper, Barricade Rock Sliders
            Winch: Warn ZEON Platinum 10-S Winch with Spydura Synthetic Rope
            Lift: 2.5" Pro-Comp Lift w/ Fox 2.0 Performance Series IFP shocks
            Lighting: Rough Country 3" Wide Angle OSRAM LED Lights, Rough Country 12-inch Cree LED Light Bar (Dual Row | Black Series w/ DRL)
            CB Radio: Cobra 75 WX ST and Firestik FireFly antenna


            • #8
              great write up, like most here I didn't know about the hand signals
              95 Grand Cherokee- 5.2 v8 6 inch DIY lift, Rough Country 2.0 shocks 33x12.50x15 Mickey Thompson Baja Claws. K&N cold air intake, Magna flow exhaust, custom front and rear bumpers. waiting on engine rebuild and t case swap
              15 Wrangler- Red Rock 4x4 Stubby winch Bumper, SmittyBilt 9500 XRC winch, Cooper Mud Tires. Lots of stickers for maximum horsepower
              97 Grand Cherokee- 5.2 v8 stock. 249 tcase,
              98 Grand Cherokee- 4.0, 242 tcase, Virginia jeep.