Off-Road 101: Trail Etiquette

Off-Road 101: Trail Etiquette

Posted by Summit 4X4 on 22nd Feb 2021

Whether you are going out exploring by yourself, with family and friends, or even on a club run, there are some things to consider and make sure to not overlook or let anybody in your group overlook. Starting with correct preparation before you leave which includes familiarizing yourself with the land you will be using. Who owns the land? Is it the federal government? Is it state land? Is it private property? Does it require a permit? (Never skip buying a permit for a permit-only piece of land as you could get fined or even get banned if you do). Make sure you read, respect and follow all posted signs. They are there for a reason. Anyways, let's get into it!

1. Plan your route. Know before you go. Confirm that the trail is open to your size of vehicle. Familiarize yourself with the land use rules and whether fees or permits are required. ALWAYS let somebody you trust who will not go on the run with you know exactly where you are going and when you plan to get back. Keep that person updated if your plans change. 2. Pack the right equipment. Bring your own recovery, repair, and first aid gear with you. When you're in the middle of nowhere, they will be all you have to get back on track. 3. Never go alone. You never know what will happen out on the trail. Make sure that there is always at least one other rig with you to assist with towing, fixes, getting back on track, or going to get help if necessary. 4. Keep communications open. If you encounter a problem, if you fall behind, if you get lost, if you need to stop, etc. use your radio to let your group know.   5. Keep the vehicle behind you in your mirror. Never assume that the vehicle behind you saw which way you went at an obstacle or turn. Keep them in view so that they don't get lost. If you do lose sight of the vehicle behind you, slow down and attempt to make radio contact until you spot them. This also ensures that no one gets left behind. 6. Keep an eye on the vehicle in front. This will help you pick the best line for navigating an obstacle. Just remember to leave plenty of room for that vehicle to safely navigate obstacles including giving them enough space to rollback if required. 7. Yield right of way to mountain bikes, horses, and hikers. They can't compete with your rig. 8. Yield right of way to vehicles going uphill. They will need momentum to complete the climb. 9. Indicate the number of rigs in your group. Especially on narrow trails or in areas of limited visibility where someone has to pull over to let you pass, let them know how many rigs are in your group by holding up that number of fingers. To signal that you are the last rig in your group, hold up a closed fist. 10. Leave no trace. Pack it in, pack it out. Better yet, pick up something extra you see to leave the trail in better condition than you found it. 11. Stay on the trail. The scenery, plants, and animals are some of the biggest attractions when riding trails. Help keep them in pristine condition by only driving on established trails. Do not blaze a new trail. 12. Don't cut up the trail. It's fine to take a reasonable number of attempts to get through an obstacle, but know when to call it and get help or get winched through. Don't keep trying and dig up the trail. Use the appropriate gearing for traction. 13. Know your limits. Know the limits of your driving ability and the limits of your rig's capabilities. Only drive through obstacles that you are comfortable with. There's nothing wrong with taking a bypass for an obstacle you feel is too much. 14. Mind the gate. If a gate was open, leave it open. If the gate was closed, close it behind you. 15. And finally…boys left, girls right!


We really hope you enjoyed this article. These are only a few tips that we consider important when you start going off-roading the first few times. After that, you will learn other considerations that work for both you and the off-roaders coming after you. These are in no way, shape, or form rules of any kind. If there is something you would like us write about, let us know.


Stay safe, have FUN and if you have any questions, give us a call or stop by the shop!