Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics for Mountain Biking

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics LogoVisit Virginia's Blue Ridge is proud to be an official Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Community Partner. We invite you to explore and enjoy the incredible mountain biking trails in our region, but we also request that you ride responsibly and do your part to minimize your impact on the trails and our local public lands.

The following is the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics for Mountain Biking, which were modified from the Leave No Trace 7 Principles to include guidelines and information specific to mountain biking.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Ensure your mountain bike is in good, working order. A properly maintained mountain bike reduces the risk of injury, a long walk out, or both.
  • Check with land managers, local bike shops, local cycling programs, and for the most up-to-date trail information.
  • When riding in popular areas or at peak times, keep groups small.
  • Be self-sufficient and pack appropriately. A rain shell, multi-tool, spare tube, pump, and food all help ensure a safe and fun ride.
  • Wear a helmet and other appropriate safety gear. It could save your life.

Travel on Durable Surfaces

  • For biking, durable surfaces include established trails, authorized slickrock areas, dirt roads, and pavement. Check local regulations to see if off-trail travel by bike is allowed.
  • Respect trail and road closures. Do not trespass on private land, and obtain permits to ride when necessary.
  • Avoid riding muddy, excessively wet, or icy trails. When encountering patches of mud or ice, ride through it and not around to avoid trail widening.
  • Avoid skidding. Locking up your tires creates ruts or brake bumps, increases erosion, and decreases your control.
  • Take someone new for a ride and teach him or her proper trail riding technique.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Litter can potentially endanger wildlife, attract scavengers, and diminish other visitors' experiences. This includes toilet paper and other hygiene products.
  • Designate a pocket for litter, wrappers, and leftover food.
  • Use restroom facilities before hitting the trail. Otherwise, deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Urinate well away from water sources and out of sight of others.
  • Be cool. Leave a favorable impression; not waste.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: observe, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • #mtbselfie: photograph yourself being a responsible mountain biker, take pictures of natural objects in the wild and leave them for future preservation.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. Check your clothing, bike, and equipment before and after each ride for seeds. Wash your bike between rides.
  • Do not engage in unauthorized trailwork. Instead, look for opportunities to work on land manager-approved projects. You could unknowingly damage sensitive vegetation or contribute to further erosion and other trail damage.

Respect Wildlife

  • Stick to the trail. Wildlife accustomed to riders can predict actions, but riding off-trail confuses wildlife.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, winter, dusk, and dawn.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other trail users and protect the quality of their experience. Always ride within your limits.
  • Be courteous. Yield to hikers and equestrians. Be prepared to stop and dismount if the trail is narrow or crowded. Yield to climbing cyclists when descending.
  • When encountering slower traffic, announce your presence with a friendly greeting or bell to avoid startling other visitors.
  • Reduce your potentially intimidating size by stepping to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Ride in small groups to avoid excessive dust and noise.
  • Racing on open trails can be dangerous and inconsiderate. Save your "beast mode" for race day between the tape.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

For more information on how you can help protect and preserve the mountain biking trails in Virginia's Blue Ridge, we encourage you to connect with groups like the Blue Ridge Off-Road Cyclists, Pathfinders for GreenwaysPLAY Roanoke, Franklin County Parks & Recreation, and Roanoke County Parks, Recreation & Tourism, which regularly host trail maintenance events and offer other opportunities to connect with the local mountain biking & outdoor adventure community.

Roanoke Valley Spotlight

Sign up to receive the Bike VBR E-Newsletter and learn more about biking & cycling in Virginia's Blue Ridge.