I've recently been getting more into mountain biking. I like to take my bike out every so often onto unpaved trails, but the closest designated mountain biking trails in my area are not a short trip away.

However, there are several un-paved trails that are within my area that are not designated as solely hiking or biking trails. I've been taking my bike out on these trails recently, but am worried if what I'm doing is acceptable practice. A lot of the trails I tend to go on are narrow trails that are wide enough for a single bike to ride on. It feels that if there is a hiker on the trail, there is very little room for them to pass if I yield.

This made me wonder if there were any regulations on biking down these trails. I know that larger parks designate their trails for either biking or hiking, but is it right to assume that small parks that have no noted designation on their trails can be used as a shared trail?

  • 2
    Where are you? It's illegal in the UK, but may be permissible in France, for example, so a location should be in the question. – Chris H Oct 22 at 15:48
  • Get in touch with the local IMBA chapter. They most likely know which trails in the area are open to biking. Also, phone apps like Trail Forks and MTB Project will show you mtb trails in an area. Usually what you see on those apps are trails you can ride without consequence, but don't take that as gospel--you should still check with the bike club or the land manager/owner. – Kenneth K. Oct 22 at 16:42
  • Hopefully you've found this by now, but the DNR has a nice site... dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/starter_kit/wheels.html Then there's also morcmtb.org It may be that you're closer to actual trails than you believe? – Ross Oct 22 at 17:55
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It depends on the local laws, both regional and countrywide. It's not really a question of acceptable or not.

e.g In England trails can be strictly footpath which means no bikes. Bridleways, Byeways and Byeways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) can be ridden by bike with pedestrian priority.

Find out the local laws for your region.

If you do find that all your local trails are fair game it's still up to you to ride in control and with courtesy. Any person & bike collision will be your fault.

  • 1
    Thanks for that, looked up my local law(Minnesota). Looks like trails are usable for all recreational activities and only subject to change if there are enacted statues, rules, ordinances, or is prohibited by the commissioner. – Russ Wilkie Oct 22 at 15:54
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    To save anyone else who needs to look it up - a BOAT is a Byway Open to All Traffic – Digital Trauma Oct 22 at 17:32
  • To further add, in the Bulgarian mountainside paths are marked accordingly, with additional warning signs if both bicycles and foot-sloggers are allowed. – fragamemnon Oct 23 at 6:32

Russ, for the USA you would want to locate the landowner of this trail perhaps via Google Maps. If the land is is public (local town/city, county, state, federal) you can then look at their regulations online which should be easy. If there is no specific regulation for the land owner then you can probably assume cycling is OK. For example my town, Spokane, all trails (unless designated hiking only... and they are specifically marked that way) you are allowed to ride bicycles on them by default.

If the property is private, then tread lightly (I'm going to assume there are no signs indicating no trespassing here) and if you do encounter the landowner be polite no matter what... kindness might give you a "pass" and permission.

Finally in the USA, its best practice/proper etiquette for cyclists to yield to hikers and horses on trail.

  • Welcome to the site! Your answer seems to cover the legal aspects well but I'm wondering if the question is as much about what is socially acceptable as what is legal. – David Richerby Oct 22 at 16:50
  • I would think that horseback riders should yield to bikes as they're just sitting while biking actually takes energy – reggaeguitar Oct 22 at 22:10
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    @reggaeguitar Horeseback riding isn't "just sitting" for the rider and certainly isn't for the horse. – David Richerby Oct 22 at 22:16
  • @DavidRicherby It's certainly a lot less work for the human than pedaling a bike – reggaeguitar Oct 22 at 22:18
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    @reggaeguitar: Standard etiquette is for everyone to yield to horses because they're skittish and will be more comfortable if they can pass others while they're still and out of the way. – Soren Bjornstad Oct 23 at 0:38

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