Responsible Four Wheeling

Tips for Responsible Four-Wheeling

With Many Thanks to treadlightly

Travel and recreate with minimum impact

  • Stay on designated routes.
  • Travel only in areas open to four wheeling.
  • Know your vehicle’s limitations. When in doubt, re-track.
  • For your safety, travel straight up or down hills. Don’t traverse the face of a hill; you may slip sideways or roll your vehicle.
  • Cross large rocks and other obstacles slowly, at an angle, one wheel at a time.
  • When possible avoid mud. In soft terrain, go easy on the gas to avoid wheel spin, which can cause rutting.
  • Cross ravines slowly at a 45-degree angle.
  • Straddle ruts, gullies and washouts even if they are wider than your vehicle.
  • Cross streams only at designated fording points, or where the road crosses the stream.
  • Don’t turn around on narrow roads, steep terrain, or unstable ground. Backup until you find a safe place to turn around.
  • Stop frequently and reconnoiter ahead on foot.
  • Avoid riding in meadows and marshy areas.
  • Go easy on the throttle and avoid riding the brake or clutch.
  • To help with traction, balance your load and lower tire pressure to where you see a bulge (typically not less the than 20 pounds).
  • Know where the differential or lowest point on the vehicle is.
  • Choose the appropriate winch for your vehicle size.
  • Attach towing cable, tree strap or chain as low as possible to the object being winched. Let the winch do the work; never drive the winch.
  • Protect the soundscape by avoiding unnecessary noise created by your vehicle.
  • Practice minimum impact camping by using established sites, camping 200 feet from water resources and trails and minimizing use of fire.
  • Observe proper sanitary waste disposal by burying waste 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from trails, campsites, and water resources or pack your waste out.

Respect the Environment and the Rights of Others

  • Be considerate of others on the road or trail.
  • Drive only where permitted.
  • Leave gates as you find them. Respect private land.
  • Yield the right-of-way to those passing you or traveling uphill. Yield to mountain bikers, hikers, and horses.
  • Keep the noise and dust down.
  • Pack out what you pack in.

Educate yourself, Plan and Prepare before you go

  • Obtain a map of your destination and determine which areas are open to off -highway vehicles.
  • Contact the land manager for area restrictions, closures, and permit requirements. If you cross private property, be sure to ask permission from the landowner(s).
  • Make a realistic plan and stick to it. Always tell someone where you are going and your expected return time.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Make sure your vehicle is mechanically up to task. Be prepared with tools, supplies and spares for trailside repairs.
  • Prepare for the unexpected by packing necessary emergency items.
  • Travel with a group of two or more vehicles, as riding solo can leave you vulnerable if you have an accident or breakdown. Designate meeting areas in case of separation.
  • Buckle up! Seat belts are mandatory.
  • Know your limitations. Watch your time, your fuel, and your energy.
  • Maintain a reasonable distance between vehicles.
  • Don’t mix driving with alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Understand your vehicle’s controls and how to operate them.

Allow for the future use of the Outdoors, Leave it better than you found it

  • Carry a trash bag in your vehicle and pick up litter left by others.
  • Ride in the middle of trails to minimize widening of the trails. Avoid sideslipping and wheel spin, which can lead to erosion.
  • Avoid “spooking” livestock and wildlife.
  • Always avoid sensitive habitats: wetlands, meadows, and tundra.
  • Following a ride, wash your vehicle to reduce the spread of noxious weeds.
  • Motorized and mechanized vehicles are not allowed in designated wilderness areas.

Discover the rewards of Responsible Recreation

  • Four wheeling provides the opportunity to get away from the rush of everyday life and builds family traditions.
  • Careless operation of your off-highway vehicle can cause resource damage and may result in the closing of an area.
  • By using common sense and common courtesy, what is available today will be here to enjoy tomorrow. Download The Tread Lightly! Guide to Responsible ATV Riding for more useful information for riding in the great outdoors at

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