UTV users are the most vilified users in the offroad community.

We all know the stereotypical UTV user. You know, “The ones who tear up the trail” and, “Leave trash everywhere they go.”  The ones that are ” loud and obnoxious with their load music and multi-colored whips.” We always hear stories of “UTV users doing this” and “UTV users doing that.” It’s gotten so annoying that I can’t help but point out how counterproductive and terrible it is for the 4×4 community.

While I recognize there are issues with the UTV community, I am not willing to pretend there is nothing wrong with other user groups. It doesn’t matter what you choose to drive. Shitty people are everywhere, and the moment we choose to turn our backs on each other is the moment we swoop to new lows.

The slandering of UTV users reminds me of the environmentalists who hate the offroad fellowship. It’s the same argument. “They destroy everything. Stop them!” Not only is it counterproductive, but it also works in favor of environmental groups that want to cancel the offroad community. It’s similar to the angry hiker who doesn’t want to hear the sound of an engine. Taking this stance, you are doing the offroad community no good.

UTV users are the majority in Arizona.

OHV User comparison
This screenshot shows a comparison of motorized user groups in Arizona. Taken from the Arizona State Parks and Trails study.

A recent study published by Arizona State University and Arizona State Parks and Trails estimate that UTV users are 43% of the offroad community in Arizona. Combined with other user groups that fall under Arizona’s OHV laws, a total of 71% of motorized users are OHV users. In other words, according to this study, SUVs and other registered motor vehicles are the minority in the offroad community in Arizona.

OHV users are a part of the offroad community, just like you and me. The policy that treatens OHV users also threatens the rest of us. By vilifying UTV users, you are shooting yourself in the foot. If we could put feelings aside, we would be an unstoppable force for change. Matters like the recent changes in Moab have expressly highlighted this divide in our community. By closing the gap, we would have a better chance to retain a future for our backroads. We should be listening to each other, riding trails together, and coming to each other’s aid.

Instead, OHV users have their own trails, and attempts are made to keep us separated in the name of “user conflict.” They maintain, fight for, and protect their own trails, and they are highly successful. These folks are a big part of public perception, policymaking and have done a lot for our community.

In particular, OHV groups actively work with the Arizona State Parks and Trails to recognize and designate 4×4 routes all over Arizona. This is important because it puts these trails under local control, provides a maintenance plan, and gives the state legal standing under ARS 37.931 and RS2477. It’s too bad that more groups don’t do the same.

The offroad community used to be a fellowship. It didn’t matter what you drove. Of course, there was the occasional brand bashing, but tension among user groups never existed. We never wished that other user groups were punished for the ignorant mistakes of a few. We focused on education, passing knowledge, and there was little to no animosity towards one another.

Our Community is fractured. The more popular our lifestyle becomes, the more we must step up to the plate and educate folks who are new to our backroads. We need to fuse the severed bond that used to be a tight-knit family who was happy to come to each other’s aid. There are real problems everywhere, and we need to acknowledge them and fix them.

We understand some folks are ignorant about the consequences of their actions. We should not assume these folks don’t care or are purposely being destructive. Some folks honestly don’t understand the consequences of leaving trash or driving off the trail. We have all made ignorant mistakes, and some of us have learned the hard way. The answer is the law, and we should advocate for its enforcement.

UTV users are NOT the problem

Many folks believe that UTV users are the problem with the offroad community. UTV users frequently take the blame for closures and other restrictions that harm motorized access. Some counteractive actions may result in some closures, and being the majority makes it easy to lump everyone into the same category. However, user conflict, trash, and driving off trails are not why places are being closed.

Radical federal policies are focused on closure rather than management. Policies such as Travel and Resource Management are the driving force behind most of these closures, not the actions of any particular user group. Instead of demonizing the majority of offroad users, we should be educating and instructing, building and promoting, and strengthening our involvement with managing and maintaining our trails and recreation areas.

I urge everyone to re-evaluate your position on UTV users and understand the consequences. We must stop driving a wedge between each other and start creating alliances. The very existence of our lifestyle depends on it.

Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.

In Arizona and most places in the west, landowners are not obligated to keep the gate open. Private property ownership is among the most potent form of liberty. To secure that liberty, a landowner can close the gate at their own discretion, especially when they encounter problems with the public.

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Imagine owning your own slice of paradise in the middle of the National Forest. Your ancestors came here in the mid-1800s and claimed the land as their own. Your great grandparents built the old cabin on the property. They are put to rest in the family cemetery located on the same property. For decades, your family has farmed, mined, and homesteaded on the land, and generation after generation has experienced the fruits of the American Dream. Life is great living on the homestead, but you have one problem, trespassers. Every weekend, someone comes through your property, tearing up your waterholes, tearing down your fences, removing your signs, and intruding into your personal space.

That’s exactly what’s happening with many private landowners in Arizona. Along with the growing popularity of outdoor activities, especially with the ease of motorized access, It’s our responsibility to make sure our friends, family, and other members of the 4×4 community understand the importance of respecting private land access.

Landowners play an essential role in keeping our backroads open.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot of stories about private property owners having disputes with trespassers. Because we love to visit historical places, it’s important to understand that many are privately owned and have been for decades. We must recognize that visitors are not always invited.

Private landowners in Arizona are very generous. All over Arizona, you will find small privately-owned parcels of land surrounded by public land. These places are typically panted properties acquired from the federal government by Ranchers, Miners, and Homesteaders before 1976, when land patents were allowed. A majority of these landowners are considerate and keep their gates open for others to pass through. However, many lock their gates and cut off access to vast areas of public lands.

While exploring Arizona’s backcountry, you will come across these privately owned properties. In most cases, you won’t even know you’re there. Many places that appear to be abandoned are, in fact, privately owned. It’s typical for these historical sites to lack signs, fences, or any indication of private ownership. Most of the time, the owners don’t care who visits these abandoned historical sites. Like us, many of them love to explore the Arizona backcountry.

When I encounter these places, I take a few things into consideration. 

  1. Is the property inhabited? If so, it’s best to move on.
  2. Are there no trespassing signs? That’s a clear indication that visitors are not welcome, and you better move on.
  3. Is there a locked gate? Even if there aren’t any “No Trespassing” signs, it’s best to stay on the right side of the fence.
  4. Is the gate broke, tossed to the side, pulled down? If you find a gate pulled down, that’s a good hint that the owners don’t want visitors, and previous guests have destroyed the barrier.

In all of these instances, I will turn around, move along, and find an alternate route. There is nothing that justifies trespassing on private land, which the owner obviously does not want visitors. You should always assume that private property is off-limits. Don’t ever plan to visit privately owned land and find detours ahead of time. If private land is in your way, it’s as easy as sending a letter to the landowner to get permission to pass through.

We should be proud that we have abundant access to public lands.

Access to vast areas of public lands is sometimes dependent on landowners. Many popular 4×4 trails cross private property. Some of these trails include Crown King, Box Canyon Wickenburg, and several others. These trails are subject to closure without notice, public input, or reason. If access is not respected, a landowner may close the gate and lock it for good.

Some folks believe that historic laws such as RS 2477 give the public the right to cross private property on an existing road. This is not true. RS 2477 allowed settlers to build roads “over public lands, not reserved for public use.” In other words, you could not construct a road over someone else’s patent claim. Thus, no easements were permitted.

In some cases, easements are constructed over private land. Particularly, lands that have been liquidated by the state trust and federal government after 1976 contain easements. Usually, state, county, and city roads utilize public easements to cross private land and are typically nicely maintained. These easements are open to public travel.

Access can change with ownership.

When private land changes owners, access may change along with it. New owners may decide to develop the land, lock the gate or do whatever they want. Therefore, some of your favorite backroads could be locked one day, and there is nothing you can do about it.

We must remember this is America. Private ownership is a fundamental aspect of American freedom. To violate your fellow Americans’ 5th amendment is tyrannical at best. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if someone walked into your house and parked their butt on your couch. Or stop by your house unannounced to rummage through your tool shed. We must understand that when a landowner locks the gate, it’s his fundamental right as an American. They lock gates for the same reason you lock your front door.

All the more reason to have Proper Etiquette on private lands too.

Respect granted access to private property or ruin it for all.

Forest Road 711, also known as the back road to Crown King, is a great example. The trail passes through an active, privately owned, patented mining claim. The property has been privately owned since the mid-1800s. The caretaker of the property receives threats and harassment almost every weekend while he allows hundreds of 4×4 vehicles to pass through his property.

Imagine if you will. On a busy weekend, 300 to 400 Motorcycles, UTV, ATV, and other 4WD vehicles pass right through your property. Then, more than half of those vehicles come back. Within 12 hours, the caretaker will see an estimated 1.2 off-road vehicles every minute. I think it’s crucial to prize the stomach this man has for the offroad community.

Years ago, the caretaker closed the original trail and rerouted traffic through Humbug Creek to keep the public out of his mining operation. Shortly after, a pile of rocks fell in the river, making the road impassable. ,The landowner later cleared the road but that didn’t stop a neverending battle between 4×4 enthusiasts and the caretaker. Ever since, he has gotten nothing but hate for his continued generosity. The animosity towards him is unreasonable, unjustified, and downright ignorant.

If you are scared of a few rocks and a river, you should probably stay home. The Crown King backroad is not a drive to the grocery store. It’s a primitive, unmaintained, 4×4 trail that is meant to be challenging, and like all trails, conditions can change overnight.

The trail still travels through the property, and there is no detour. The caretaker of the property fully understands the impact on the small town of Crown King if he decided to close the trail for good. The fate of the Crown King trail relies on his private decision to keep it open. Without him, the famous Crown King trail would be a dead end, and Crown King would be nothing more than a ghost town. Shake his hand, hug him, and bring him a pork loin… He loves pork loin!

When the landowner closes the gate, it stirs up some problems.

The Coke Ovens near Florence has been a popular destination for decades. It’s published in books and several online publications. It’s located on private property, and visitors have always been allowed until recently. Over the past few years, several acts of vandalism have destroyed the ovens. Bricks have been removed, fences are pulled down, signs disappear, and now one oven has collapsed.

The landowner and caretaker have been generous for a long time. To preserve the historic charcoal ovens, visitors are no longer allowed. Over 100 no trespassing signs are posted all over the property. The caretaker receives threats every week. Trespassers arrive drunk, belligerent, and looking for problems. When asked to leave, some comply, and others refuse.

Now the landowner has had enough and is looking to sell the property. The local governments and environmental groups are advocating for federal acquisition and protection of the property through the Bureau of Land Management. We believe this is the wrong decision and will make the historical ovens more receptive to the public, thus acquiring even more visitors and damage.

CLOSED - Coke ovens 4x4 trail in Arizona

CLOSED - Coke ovens 4x4 trail in Arizona

Tip Top Mine

The Tip Top Mine is another example of a private landowner who had enough. The Tip Top mine is also published in several online and print publications. It’s one of several places that 4×4 enthusiasts used to visit on a daily basis. There are several remains of the massive mining operation that was active in the early days. However, recent issues have forced the landowner to close the property to the public for good.

Besides the fact that the mine is reopened; vandalism has occurred, old wood has been stolen, and his cattle were being shot. The owner rightfully decided to close the attraction to the public for good. To this day, despite the No Trespassing signs and heavy gate, visitors still arrive and walk right in like they own the place.

Conclusion

This should be a lesson learned for everyone. When the landowner has had enough, the experience can be ruined for all. We should be thankful that we have such wide-open public lands. The disrespect towards property owners is not justifiable when there are hundreds of thousands of square miles to enjoy. As long as these problems keep happening, we will lose more and more access to public lands if private property is not respected. We must respect private land and save the opportunity for the next person.

It all boils down to common courtesy for the next man. If you see a no trespassing sign, stay out! Trespassing could land you in jail with hefty fines. Making threats could get you shot. Because let’s face it, this is still the wild west. It’s not smart to threaten someone who spends every day of their life surviving the harshest environment in America.

The facts about using a light bar on Arizona roads.

From pitch black to damn near daylight. Lightbars can illuminate the night sky with around 90,000 lumens or more. They light up the mountainsides and canyons and make sightseeing possible at night. It’s an attraction to every bug in the range, like a tunnel to heaven. Using them on the trail and at camp is great. It makes setting up camp in the dark easy and provides plenty of light while navigating at night. But I would never consider using them on the I 17…

Using your light bars on the street is typically considered unacceptable. The light is obnoxiously bright on roadways and can blind other oncoming drivers and pedestrians. You’ve never seen a street sign glow until you shine a 90,000 lumen light on it. Although it’s considered unacceptable, I got news for you, It’s 100% legal in Arizona when done properly.

Night ride on the back way to Black Canyon City.

Arizona law allows the use of multiple auxiliary lights on roadways, with a few exceptions. In a nutshell, you must treat your auxiliary lights like your high beams. Turn them off 500 feet away from an oncoming vehicle. Likewise, turn them off 200 feet away when approaching from the rear unless your passing. There must be an indicator light visible to the driver when the auxiliary lights are illuminated. Lastly, you’re limited to 4 auxiliary lights if they exceed 300 candle watt.

Below you’ll find 5 laws. Each law applies to the other. Together they dictate where and when it is appropriate to use your auxiliary lights on the roadway. Some cities, towns, and counties may have local ordinances prohibiting the use of auxiliary lights. If you choose to use your auxiliary lights on the roadway, please do it right. Check your local laws and always have common courtesy for other drivers. Don’t forget about the Trail Etiquette guidelines that everyone should know.

The laws that allow the use of auxiliary lights on Arizona roads.

 

ARS 28-946 Allows the use of multiple auxiliary lights on Arizona roadways. If the lights exceed 300 candle watts, then you are limited to 4 auxiliary lights.
ARS 28-938 Allows the use of no more than 2 auxiliary passing lights. The lights must be mounted no less than 16 inches and no more than 42 inches above the ground. Likewise, it allows the use of 2 fog lamps that are mounted no less than 12 inches and no more than 30 inches above the ground, so they project no more than 25 feet ahead. It also allows the use of 1 spot lamp aimed, so the high-intensity portion of the beam is not shining to the left and no more than 100 feet ahead.
ARS 28-942 Allows the use of multiple-beam lighting equipment. This is basically Arizona high beam law. While approaching a vehicle head-on, you must dim your high beams at 500 feet. While approaching a vehicle from behind, you must dim your high beams at 200 feet except while passing.
ARS 28-941 Requires newer motor vehicles to be equipped with high beam lights. Your high beam lights must reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of 350 feet or more. Low beams must reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of 100 feet. Likewise, this law requires a high beam indicator lamp to be illuminated in a position where it’s visible without glare to the vehicle’s driver.

ARS 28-947 Allows the use of any other additional lighted lamp or device other than headlamps, spot lamps, and auxiliary lamps pointed to aim no more than 75 feet in front of the vehicle.

Why are auxiliary lights allowed?

There are legitimate reasons to use auxiliary lights on Arizona roads but let’s honest, most vehicles come factory equipped with barely legal lighting, to begin with. If you live in the city, likely, law enforcement won’t be happy when you use certain auxiliary lights within city limits.
Although it’s considered unacceptable, additional lighting can be useful on many of Arizona’s rural dirt highways. Of course, these roads don’t have much traffic, and the chances of encountering another driver are slim. Auxiliary lights provide a level of comfort when traveling these roads at high rates of speed.

My recommendations

Just because light bars and other auxiliary lights are legal on Arizona roadways doesn’t mean you should use them. I use them while traveling on rural highways, with a few exceptions. I never use them within city limits and always turn them off when approaching a 4 way stop. I turn off my light bars at first sight of oncoming traffic, exceeding the required 500 feet. All of these things give the law and other drivers the recognition they deserve.
Let’s have common courtesy for other divers, ok?

15 trail etiquette guidelines every 4X4 and OHV enthusiast should know

With all the new people exploring the backcountry, it’s important to remember a few guidelines. These guidelines have been developed over the years by sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts. They display common courtesy and respect to others, like you, who are out enjoying the Arizona backcountry.

This article will go through several of these guidelines to educate the public about trail etiquette. It’s essential to know these things if you’re new to the off-road community. These guidelines have been developed to promote the responsible and safe use of our public lands. We all share a common interest.

Trail etiquette is important for all Arizona Backcountry Explorers
Anderson Mill in the Wickenburg Mountains
We asked a total of 6000 off-road enthusiasts what they considered proper trail etiquette. We got over 250 responses, and this is what they had to say…

Trail etiquette promotes safe, responsible, common sense use of public and private lands. 

Stay on the existing trail. It seems so simple, yet so many people don’t follow this easy rule. You find this problem around nearly every populated area in Arizona. It makes the off-road community and those who use these trails look bad.

There are other instances where driving off the trail is permitted, like emergency situations, ranchers doing fence repair, and various other reasons. While out driving your four by four, side-by-side, or motorcycle, you cannot drive off the trail whatsoever. In fact, destroying the natural landscape is a Class 6 felony in Arizona.

Don’t be a slob. Another commonsense issue we are battling. I’m sure we all learned this as a child. Yet we see piles of trash everywhere. This trash doesn’t only hurt the off-road community but all who visit the Arizona backcountry. Nor can it solely be blamed on the off-road community.

High traffic areas are being shut down because of the trash left behind. Luckily, volunteers from all over the state come together to remove tons of trash from our rivers, lakes, and high traffic camping areas. We have to counterbalance the trash dumpers, and we’re doing a good job.

If you see somebody dumping trash, don’t be afraid to approach them. If you find a trash dump, you can contact one of the organizations listed on the reference page.

Don’t be destructive. Many places have immense cultural significance and should be cherished. Some of these places have been around for thousands of years. It is illegal to destroy, deface, or vandalize any site of historical or cultural significance.
Save the booze for camp. There are all too many reasons not to drink and drive on the trail. While drinking on the trail, you are endangering yourself, your family, and everyone else. Every year we hear about and see fatal accidents involving drunk drivers. It’s just not a good idea.
Burn it right, or don’t burn it at all. The most dangerous part of burning a campfire is when you pack up camp and take off. Please make sure it’s out when you’re done. Always build your fire pit correctly. Dig a sound hole and circle it with rocks. Bury the fire pit and dump water on it when you’re done. Bury any burning logs or embers lying outside the fire pit.
Pullover for faster-moving traffic. Everybody likes to move at their own pace. It’s best not to agitate other drivers. Slower moving traffic can cause congestion and issues for oncoming traffic. If you’re driving a lesser equipped vehicle or a car, please remember to check your rearview.
Relax and enjoy the ride. Too many people think the trail is a racetrack. It’s important to remember you’re not the only one on the trail. Just because your rig can handle the terrain doesn’t mean you need to pretend you’re in the Baja or King of the Hammers. Too many accidents have occurred because someone decided it was a good idea. The last thing you want to do is kill a little kid, your family, friends, or yourself.

If you’re passing a campsite, slow down. If you’re passing hikers on the trail, slow down. If you’re passing horses on the trail, slow down. When you see a bicycle on the trail, slow down. When you’re on the trail, slow down. Arizona is a beautiful place. Why not enjoy it?

Vehicles traveling uphill have the right of way. If you approach another vehicle head-on, whoever moves in the downhill direction must yield to the vehicle coming uphill. It is much easier for the downhill vehicle to maneuver and position themselves to pass the oncoming vehicle. Traveling upward requires momentum, and stopping can be problematic in certain conditions. Sometimes, it may be necessary to back up and maneuver out of the way.
Always keep an eye on the vehicle behind you. This is important, especially when riding in a group on a technical trail. You never know when someone might need a tug or break something. Usually, simple radio communication can solve this issue, but there’s always someone who doesn’t have a radio. Never leave anyone behind.
Use hand signals. Hand signals can save lives, and everybody should use them. When approaching oncoming traffic, inform them how many are behind you. You can show them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 fingers or actually stop and talk with them. Because we can often be spread out on the trail, the yielding driver may try to continue if you don’t inform them more are coming. This will help the oncoming driver better judge when to proceed.
Turn off your bright lights. Lightbars are stupid bright nowadays. There is no concentration of view, and they can be blinding from many angles. Let’s keep that into consideration when passing by others on the trail. Please remember to turn off your lights while passing by campsites, oncoming traffic, homes, hikers, horses, or anybody else on the trail. Cattle and other animals can become disoriented from the bright lights.
Leave gates as you find them. If you approach a gate and it’s closed, make sure to close the gate behind you. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s essential to make sure the last person closes the gate. If you approach a gate and it’s already open, you should just leave the gate as it is. If you believe somebody failed to close the gate, check for an Arizona Game and Fish Tag, indicating the gate should be closed.

Ranchers will sometimes leave gates open so cattle can access water. Be very careful closing gates you find open. You could cut livestock off from the only water source in the area. Furthermore, if you leave the gates open, you could cause thousands of dollars in Damages. That’s why we say leave gates as you find them. Likewise, never cut a fence or use a fence post as a winch anchor.

Try to be self-sufficient. Pack your own food, your own drinks, and your own camping supplies. Make sure to carry your own tow straps, clevis, snatch block, and keep them on hand, ready to go. The less of a burden you have on the group, the further your resources will stretch during an emergency.

Always carry some type of radio equipment to keep in contact. Learn how to repair a flat and always carry a Jack and spare tire. It’s a good idea to learn basic survival, recovery, and mechanical repair.

Keep the dust down. Many recreational areas are near or pass through residential developments and private property. These particular areas are under threat of closure because of air quality concerns and angry homeowners. While traveling through private property or near a residence, please keep the dust down. It’s just common courtesy, which brings us to our next point.
Have common courtesy for other adventures. We’re all out here for the same reason. Whether you’re a hiker, mountain biker, or rock crawler, we should all respect each other. If somebody looks like they need help, offer your assistance. All of the things mentioned in this article revolve around one idea, common courtesy.

When I see somebody else in the backcountry, I give them the proper common courtesy they deserve, expecting the same return.