Here’s an outdoor etiquette tip for everyone. If you’re passing through someone’s land and are asked to stay on the trail, then please stay on the trail. This means you, and me, and everyone else.
Yesterday I went cross-country skiing locally with the family. The first half mile of the multi-use trail we followed passes through someone’s private property. Someone who was kind enough to allow the trail to pass through his working timberland and fields, to have the trailhead located across the road from his driveway. Thanks to him, one can access hundreds of acres for skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and mountain biking. This is a gift.
Alongside one field the owner and local trail maintainers have posted multiple signs stating to keep on the trail and off the field. And yet, track upon track bypassed the trail, crossing the snowy field. (The large moose tracks were okay, I explained to my son. They live here.)
I know most outdoor enthusiasts are courteous and follow the rules, and this isn't about singling out any particular user group (no finger-pointing, please, unless it's at yourself). I simply want to call attention to how our individual actions affect others and ultimately our own opportunities for outdoor recreation.
When even one person disregards the rules it can make a bad impression, making relationships more contentious all around. "Oh, I hate how those hikers/climbers/mountain bikers/snowmobilers/ATV-ers/jugglers/whomever are always doing X…," we—or landowners—might think based on one experience.
This makes outdoor access harder to come by for all of us.
Many people are gracious enough to allow trails to pass through their lands. And many others work hard to achieve and protect that access. We are the beneficiaries. So, don’t throw that generosity away. Be courteous. Be respectful. Be a good neighbor. Stay on the trail, please.
Further resources: American Hiking Society, Access Fund, and Leave No Trace