Utah has something to offer everyone who likes to get outside. From casual campers to hardcore adrenaline junkies, it can feel like there are unlimited places to explore and play. This is no exception for off-roaders.
There are thousands of miles of off-roading trails throughout the state so the hard part is choosing where to go. And once you're at the end of that double-track that led you to a hidden lake or high on a plateau with views across hundreds of miles, you'll know this access is worth making the effort to preserve.
As off-roading grows in popularity and machines like ATVs and UTVs are more prevalent on these trails, it's important to remember to tread lightly to keep Utah's many options open and accessible. What does it mean to tread lightly? It means staying on the trail, following signs and leaving these trails better than you found them.
Overuse, abuse and damage lead to trail closures. No matter what outdoor activities you enjoy, there is potential to negatively impact the land and resources. To help maintain access and keep public land healthy and beautiful, outdoor recreationists need to approach their favorite trails with a sense of respect and responsibility.
Respect for Utah's open lands comes in many forms. Not only should you take care of the resources where you recreate, you should be courteous to those who are sharing the trail, to those at neighboring campsites and to the land managers who maintain public land.
So what are some ways you can be respectful when riding an off-road vehicle? First, leave the area better than you found it. Bring a trash bag on the trail to help pack out any trash you might find. Stay on designated trails and go over obstacles, not around, to avoid widening trails.
You should respect the people you encounter as well as the land you use. If crossing private property, always get permission from landowners and leave gates as you found them. Be conscientious of noise in areas like campsites and neighborhoods, where locals are sharing their homes and passion for the outdoors with visitors from around the state, region and world. Always yield to those passing you or going uphill.
Campers, hikers and fishermen sometimes take dirt trails on their vehicles to get to a trailhead or water shore. When on the trail, remember to travel responsibly and know what areas are open to your mode of transportation. Before you head out, check out the land management website or maps to know what trails are designated for your type of recreation.
Remember, motorized and mechanized vehicles aren't allowed in designated wilderness areas. Other sensitive areas to be aware of are meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams. By staying on the trail, you avoid negatively impacting these resources. Also be aware of historical, archaeological and paleontological sites and leave these areas undisturbed and as you found them. These sites are part of Utah's combined human history, tell stories about the past and have connections to Utah's present-day tribal cultures.
Doing your part can be a small act of throwing away trash you found on the trail, supporting organizations that keep trails open and healthy or volunteering for a local trail restoration project. Help leave areas better than you found them by doing your part. This means packing out all trash you brought in and trash left by others, observing fire restrictions, avoiding the spread of invasive species and even repairing degraded areas.
We all have a shared stake and responsibility in taking care of our public land for current and future generations to use and enjoy. If every person who enjoys the outdoors commits to doing their part and giving back to the land they use, it could make a big difference.
If every trail user takes the time to learn how to be respectful and responsible, it can make a huge difference on our public land and trails. To learn more about responsible off-roading and how to minimize your impact, visit treadlightly.org. From there, head over to visitutah.com to find inspiration and information for your next adventure, including more ideas on how to do your part visitutah.com/forever.