The great outdoors may be the ultimate form of freedom for most of us, but it still is a shared space that requires respect and consideration for other trail users. The term trail etiquette is often thrown around as a common-sense set of rules, but in reality, it’s a set of unwritten rules that can vary from region to region. True etiquette really comes down to consideration, respect, and honesty. Applying that to the trails means we are all supporting a safe outdoor experience for each other. Easier said than done! Step 1 is acknowledging that there will always be someone else on the trail.
What is Trail Advocacy?
Advocacy is all about supporting a common cause and policy. In our case, supporting and sharing the trails! Thunder Mountain Bikes is passionate about trail advocacy and sharing the trails of Sedona with everybody. While there aren't strict rules on trail etiquette, we recommend checking the IMBA “Rules of the Trails” below. These are the most common sense trail etiquette for mountain bikers:
Respect the Trail
“Keep singletrack single” is a great line when thinking about respecting the trails. It may not seem like a big deal, but staying on the trail goes a long way in preventing the trail from widening and eroding. If the trail builder intended to have a technical feature in the trail, try to ride (or walk) over it, rather than around. If the trails are muddy, err on the side of preservation and stay off the trails. If you do come across a random puddle of water in a trail, ride through it slowly, rather than going around. Respecting the trials also involves the principles of Leave No Trace. While Leave No Trace is mostly about camping and the backcountry experience, the main principles for mountain bikers to follow are; planning ahead to be self-sufficient should a problem occur, leave no trash whatsoever, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others visitors.
Share the Trail
The most effective way to share the trail is by simply LOOKING AHEAD. Not only does looking ahead help you ride better in general, but it helps you spot other trail users and make adjustments for a safe encounter. Make it a point to look ahead as much as possible!
Even hikers are looking at the ground most of the time, trying to watch their step, and they are often startled by a mountain biker – even if the biker has slowed down sufficiently. If we all looked ahead more, it would go a long way in simmering trail conflicts.
Speaking of looking ahead - Who has the right of way in Sedona? Bikes vs Hikers vs Horses. In general, hikers and horses have the right of way. As mountain bikers, we need to respect that and slow down appropriately to ensure a safe outdoor experience for everyone. In Sedona, we do have a few directional mountain bike trails, but these are still multi-use trails, and the same right of way applies.
Who yields uphill or downhill? The old status quo is that downhill riders yield to uphill riders. This is a great rule of thumb to follow, but not always absolute. If you find yourself in a position of going uphill and it's noticeably easier for you to pull over compared to a downhill rider that is not able to slow down (due to a technical feature or blind corner), we encourage you to pull over rather than stubbornly following the status quo. It’ll be safer for everyone!
Are e-bikes allowed? Sedona trails are managed by the National Forest Service. At this time, the Forest Service does not allow E-bikes on Sedona trails. This can be confusing when you see trail systems in other towns allowing e-bikes, but this comes down to the land manager for each area. If it’s the city or state-managed land, they have the option to allow e-bikes. But at this time, Forest Service managed land does not allow electric bikes on trails in Sedona. Please respect their decision, and with proper advocacy, there will be opportunities ahead to open that up.
Are dogs allowed on trails in Sedona? Yes, dogs must be leashed to be on Sedona trails. This really helps to ensure safe trial use for everybody. And, going back to the Leave No Trace ethics, pick up your dog poop and dispose of it properly. This will ensure dog-friendly trails for years to come!
Ride Open, Legal Trails
Staying on the trail goes a long way in not only protecting the land from increased erosion but also protecting our trail access. While there are numerous “social” trails branching off of designated trails, having too many social trails is unmanageable and can lead to the Forest Service closing down particular areas of trails. That’s never a good thing! Over the years, the Forest Service, Sedona, and local advocacy groups - have worked together to designate more mountain bike trails into the system. Staying on system trails helps further the cause for everyone. On top of that, these system trails are built to maximize fun and views.
What happens when you don't... https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coconino/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5413872(2013-2015)
Ride in Control
Speed and rudeness are the main reasons for trail conflicts. Ride at a speed that you can easily slow down if needed. Look ahead. Try to look through corners for what's ahead. Attach a bell to your bike to help alert other trail users. Being extra aware, managing your speed, and acknowledging other users makes a huge difference in trail etiquette.
Be prepared for your ride. Not only for potential bike repairs and weather but also for knowing where you are going. Getting lost can not only be dangerous but often leads to getting way off designated trails. These days, there’s plenty of maps to download to your phone. Check out these routes you can download from Thunder Mountain Bikes. A good old-fashioned map is still a good idea, just in case you lose cell service or break your phone in a trail accident. Check out these great Sedona mountain bike maps - topo map and easy-to-carry to cloth map. Checking out the weather forecast and trail conditions ahead of time can save you from riding muddy trails, check out the Thunder Mountain Bikes handy trail conditions page that is updated daily!
Trail etiquette is a simple concept but can quickly dissolve with a lack of regard for trails and other users. Remember to look ahead, manage your speed, and stay on the trails. Check out the bike shops in Sedona for trail advice and mountain bike accessories needed for the trails. Trail etiquette mountain biking not only helps more people enjoy the trails but helps access more trails in the future. It’s a win-win!