Trail Etiquette



This is not ‘Nam. This is 4-wheeling. There are rules.



Have all required equipment and be properly equipped for the difficulty level of the run as well as any special equipment indicated in the run announcement.

Have a reliable vehicle. If a vehicle has a known reliability problem do not join a Run.

Arrive at the meeting place with fuel for a whole day of 4 wheeling and in time to prepare your vehicle for the trail.

When passing other vehicles, hikers, equestrians, or camps slow down for safety as well as to lessen your dust cloud.

When stopped on a trail for a break pull to the side so that other vehicles may pass.

Tread Lightly. Avoid damage to the environment. Don’t leave any trash. If you see trash try to pick up what you can.

Remain on established trails. (Applies to state parks, BLM Limited Use Areas, National Forests, etc. Does not apply to “Open Areas” such as OWSVRA and most of Superstition Mountain.)

Know the name of the driver directly ahead and behind you as well as the leader’s name in case you need to call for help or call out a warning.

Generally be aware of the location and status of the vehicle before and behind you. We don’t have good visibility to the rear and your first priority is to pilot your vehicle but you can still have some awareness of the vehicles just before and behind. If you haven’t seen the one behind you in a while hold up for a minute.

If you would like the leader to slow down or pause let them know by radio.

When coming to intersecting trails or confusing turns, make sure the vehicle behind you sees which way to turn before you proceed.

At any time, if you are not sure which way to turn, STOP. Don’t guess and don’t proceed. Radio the person directly ahead by name for directions.

Have the proper radio and have it set to the frequency for the run. Radio communications should be relevant and brief. Generally don’t hold the key down for more than ten seconds. The radio is emergency equipment too. One may need to urgently warn someone of an unseen hazard. (Note: Under some circumstances dad jokes are considered “relevant”.)

On the trail if you decide to leave the group or take a different route be sure the Leader knows and the person behind you knows you are departing from the group’s route. Otherwise everyone behind you will likely follow and get separated from the Group. (Or we might get to the end, see you are not with us, and think you are back on the trail broke down and bleeding.) Radio the leader and get an acknowledgment before leaving the group’s route.

When convoying on the highway all vehicles should have their headlights on. Leave room between vehicles to allow other cars to pass.

Obstacles and Spotting

At an obstacle the vehicle behind should leave room for the vehicle ahead to negotiate the obstacle. If the obstacle is “challenging” the vehicle ahead should wait just past the obstacle until the vehicle behind clears. As soon as the vehicle behind clears the obstacle the first vehicle should pull far ahead enough or clear the trail for the whole group to negotiate the obstacle.

Only one person should give directions when spotting someone over an obstacle. Others should only offer advice if they see a danger that the spotter doesn’t see.

We ought to have a standard set of spotting hand signals but I haven’t found a good reference yet.

Check list for receiving spotting:

Music system off.
A/C and heater fan off.
Windows open enough to hear but not fully open.
(Partially closed window can prevent you from reflexively reaching your hand out
if you start to roll.)
Dashcam on. (This is critical, people. I can’t emphasize this enough.)

When attempting an obstacle accept a tow after 3 unsuccessful tries. Do not risk injury or vehicle damage. Don’t tear up the trail for others by spinning your wheels.


When approaching oncoming traffic on a narrow road the leader should warn the following vehicles via radio.

When meeting oncoming traffic on a narrow trail, the leader should let the oncoming traffic know how many are in the group. The last vehicle should let them know he is last.

When vehicles are passing from the rear the last vehicle should warn the vehicles ahead via radio.

In steep terrain, if there isn’t room for approaching traffic to pass, the vehicles headed down hill should give up hill traffic the Right of Way. California Vehicle Code 21661 (Note: Even though vehicles traveling uphill have the Right of Way, common sense should be used. Sometimes it is safer for the smaller group to pull over to allow a larger group to pass.)

On very narrow trails, when oncoming traffic approaches, use common sense. Whichever group can more easily pull over should do so regardless of the Vehicle Code .

On narrow trails, it is best to leave generous space between vehicles in case you need to pull over to allow oncoming traffic to pass. It is easier to find a single turnout than a turnout for several vehicles.

On narrow trails, where vehicles headed in one direction must pull off the trail, the leader of the group that is proceeding should inform the other group how many vehicles are following. The last vehicle in the group that is proceeding should let the pulled over vehicles know that he is last. The proper hand signal for the last vehicle is to hold up a closed hand to signal that it is the last vehicle in the group. (See illustration at the bottom of this page.)

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is a pretty good album.


In the event of a rollover or other dangerous situation with potential for a fire all drivers should rush to the scene with their fire extinguishers. Stop the engine and extract the occupants immediately unless they are seriously injured. If there is fire or danger of fire carefully move the injured party to safety from the fire.

If a vehicle becomes stuck or breaks down let the other vehicles and the leader know to stop. Keep other vehicles informed of the progress of repairs.

When a vehicle is disabled everyone should provide assistance as needed.

The driver of a disabled vehicle needs to help with repairs. Even if not mechanically competent he/she should not expect others to do all the work. (Do something, even it it is only to fetch tools.)

The driver of a disabled vehicle that is repaired on the trail needs to return or replace any borrowed tools, parts or supplies.

If a damaged vehicle leaves the group offer to provide an escort to a safe area. Never leave a disabled vehicle’s occupants on the trail without another vehicle.

Tow straps and winch controllers should be available from the driver’s or passenger’s seat, not buried in the back of your vehicle. One recommended place is on the floor behind the passenger seat.


Some people enjoy listening to nature instead of your music. Often people are reluctant to ask you to turn your music down or off. Please be considerate.

Do not run your generator after 10 PM or before 6 AM.


Keep dogs on a leash when not in your vehicle. Do not allow your dogs to approach other people or vehicles without their permission. If your dog starts acting aggressively yank that chain and stop it. If it doesn’t stop confine it to your vehicle.


State laws forbid drinking while operating a motor vehicle. The laws apply off road as well. We do not allow drinking while on the trail except that adult participants may have a single beer at lunch while outside their vehicle.


Use appropriate language on the radio, during rest stops, and in camp. This is a family friendly group.

This page is titled “Trail Etiquette”. It could also be described as practices and rules. They are based on promoting safety, common civility, and respect for official regulations. It’s not possible for this list to be totally comprehensive. There are other things not explicitly listed here that can get you booted from the club.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Inter-group Hand Signals