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Main Content

Treading Lightly | Summer 2007 Out Here Magazine

Common sense and courtesy will keep trails open for everyone

Reprinted with permission of TREAD Lightly! 

Riding behavior that harms the land is self-defeating and irresponsible. Learn to protect and preserve your riding areas. In other words, TREAD lightly:

Travel only where motorized vehicles are permitted.

Respect the rights of hikers, skiers, campers, and others to enjoy their activities undisturbed.

Educate yourself by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies; comply with signs and barriers; and ask owners' permission to cross private property.

Avoid streams, lakeshores, meadows, muddy roads and trails, steep hillsides, and wildlife and livestock.

Drive (ride) responsibly to protect the environment and preserve opportunities to enjoy your vehicle on wild lands.

Here are some tips to help you TREAD lightly:

  • Obtain a travel map from the Forest Service or from other public land agencies. Learn the rules and follow them.
  • Keep your ATV quiet. Do not make your exhaust system noisier; there is nothing people dislike more than a loud off-highway vehicle. Do not tamper with the spark arrester.
  • Avoid running over young trees, shrubs, and grasses. You will damage or kill them.
  • Stay off soft, wet roads and trails readily torn up by vehicles (particularly during hunting seasons). Repairing the damage is expensive.
  • Travel around meadows, steep hillsides, stream banks, and lakeshores. They are particularly vulnerable and easily scarred by spinning wheels.
  • Resist the urge to blaze a new road or trail, or to cut across switchbacks.
  • Be courteous when you meet others on the trail. Pull to the side and yield to horseback riders and hikers. It is best to shut off the engine whenever you are near horses — a panicked horse is a danger to you and its rider.
  • Stay away from wild animals that are rearing their young or suffering from food shortage.
  • Obey gate closures and regulatory signs. Remember, vandalism is costly.
  • Stay out of designated wilderness areas. They are closed to all vehicles, even bicycles. Know where your boundaries are.
  • Always get permission to travel across private land and respect the rights of the landowners.
  • Cross streams only at designated fording points or where the trail crosses the stream.
  • If you're winching because your ATV is stuck and you must use a tree as an anchor, use a wide tree strap to avoid damage to the trunk of the tree.
  • Carry a trash bag on your vehicle for your litter.
  • Following a ride, wash your ATV and support vehicle to reduce the spread of noxious weeds.

Reprinted with the permission of TREAD Lightly!, a nonprofit group dedicated to responsible off-road riding. For more information, visit their website at