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North Carolina Mountain Bike Trails Need Good Humans

North Carolina Mountain Bike Trails Need Good Humans

When you access a trail system in North Carolina, you should expect to encounter walkers, runners, mountain bikers, hikers and sometimes as in the case of Tanglewood Park, horses.

Typically, a trail system will have signs and or maps located at the trailhead with important information to read and become familiar with before heading out, because each trail system in North Carolina is a little different.

While each trail system may be different in mileage, terrain and the types of users, you may also notice a difference in people’s attitudes towards the trails and each other. Here’s where it's important to realize a little bit of trail etiquette goes a long way and for every trail user it should be the same.

The following tips will help you have an enjoyable mountain biking experience. And they'll assist in the preservation of our trail systems so we can head out for solo bike rides or meet up with a group of friends, for a long time to come.

Who has the right of way vs who wants the right of way

The faster trail user should always do the yielding. For example, mountain bikes yield to runners, runners yield to hikers, hikers yield to walkers and everyone yields to horses.

When traveling in the opposite direction of each other, the faster person should pull over and allow the slower person to pass safely.

Typically, we encourage runners, walkers and hikers to travel in the opposite direction as mountain bikers, because well, it just makes sense. But, no matter how fast or slow you are, it's common trail etiquette to call out to someone ahead of you and let them know you’re about to overtake them from behind. You might say, “On your left.” Or, “Hi, I’d like to pass.”

When I’m on my mountain bike or I’m running, I always call out with a “Hello” or, “Hi, how are you?” (More on this later).

Leave NO Trace on the bike trails

Not throwing your trash on the ground is the number one rule when spending time in the outdoors. Most trailheads will have trash cans, but if one is not available, or if it's full, please take your trash with you!

Leave no trace isn't just about garbage.

If you're planing to head out for a ride in the rain or shortly after, consider if your bike tires will 'leave no trace'. In North Carolina, if your mountain bike tires leave an imprint on the trail, it's too wet to ride.

A good general rule for rain is usually no riding for at least 24 hours after an inch of rain, and if you do encounter muddy/wet spots, ride through, not around them.

It also helps to be aware that maintaining the trails requires time and work provided by amazing volunteers of trail advocacy groups, like FORBA. Getting out year round to mountain bike is ambitious, but as the seasons change please always give the bike trails time to dry out.  

Be friendly on the trails

Saying hello to your fellow trail users communicates that you’re friendly, and shows that you’re aware of others who may be enjoying the trails for the same reasons you are.

Taking that extra minute to make eye contact or to acknowledge someone might even contribute to your own safety. If you're mountain biking or running solo, you want to be memorable. If you’re a blur in passing, you’re also a blur in someone’s mind.

be a good dog owner

The reason most trailheads have signs asking dog owners to keep their dogs leashed is mainly because the interactions between dogs is something we often can't control. While you might think or feel your dog is friendly, there's no assurance that other dogs are, too.

Also, you can’t guarantee that someone on a bike will be able to remain in control when your dog runs by or near them. This not only protects the owner, but it also protects the dog.

What it comes down to is, trails in North Carolina and the rest of the world, need good humans who are stewards for the trail systems and advocates for safety in the outdoors.

Being a good human means doing what’s right and what will in the long run protect our trail systems here in North Carolina. That might mean having a conversation with someone who is looking at the kiosk at the trailhead, or saying hello to another trail user.

Being a good human means being kind and respectful of other trail users, period!

Most of all, have fun riding your bike in North Carolina as we have so many incredible places to ride like here in Winston Salem and Pisgah Forest just outside of Asheville, NC

Written by: Candi Pennington


I am an active member of FORBA (Forsyth Offroad Bicycle Association in Winston Salem), which puts in countless hours of trail work at Horizons, Hobby and Tanglewood Parks. Regardless of what type of trail you’re using and how you’re accessing it, I hope by reading this article you will come away being more aware of how our own attitudes and actions affect the trail systems we frequently use. Most importantly, I encourage you to share these ideas and have conversations with other trail users, especially people who may be new to trails in general.

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