Weber Pathways: Trail safety & etiquette for mountain bikers and horses
By Harrison Fuller
Plan, Promote and Preserve; that is what Weber Pathways is all about. They are the face behind the curtain that keeps the trails in Ogden not only accessible but clean. They are the people who collect volunteers to build and maintain the trails as well as provide information on the do’s and do-nots while you are out enjoying the local wilds. They got their start in 1995 with a path to Eden and Pineview through Ogden Canyon. Since, the area has been taken over by private land and is no long accessible, but they have expanded to make trails all over the Wasatch front and Weber County.
Along with making trails, Weber Pathways has a strong connection with IMBA, or the International Mountain Biking Association. Although there is no longer a Utah Chapter, there are plenty of worthy members and representatives all over the state. They are one of Weber Pathways largest customer groups.
One major concern that Weber pathways says needs to be addressed is a small group of bikers who charge down the mountain side to mimic hardcore mountain bikers, and this can be really fun- but the downside comes when the fall-line they choose is not a trail. In some cases the fastest way down is a small canal created by runoff. The more people use the ditch, the more it will be eroded out- causing artificial erosion damage. There is nothing wrong with downhill mountain biking, but it needs to be done responsibly. What adds to the damage is the extensive web of “social trails” throughout the Wasatch Front. These trails are made by wanderers, cutting switch backs or connecting entirely different trails together across formerly untouched land. These social trails, plus the runoff in the erosion canals, increase the erosion damage exponentially. This damage can cause mudslides and close trails off for recreational use.
This is where Weber Pathways comes in. They recruit volunteers ( who are often local mountain bikers ) to repair, maintain and properly mark the trails above Ogden and all over Weber County. Its a tough job and it requires moving hundreds of pounds of dead-fall over the social trails and placing signs that clearly state which trails are meant to be used. The worst example of this is at the 27th street trail-head and the boulder field abode St. Josephs High School. The good folks at Weber Pathways are always on the lookout for serious volunteers to help with the restoration of these areas, so spread the word!
There is another very important thing to discuss with regards to Weber Pathways and the trails; trail conflicts. Horses and riders are one of the biggest and most dangerous conflicts on the trails. Picture this situation: A biker comes barreling down the mountain with a bright riding suit, helmet, and reflective glasses on. Bikes do not make as much noise as you would think, and even with their excellent hearing, a horse might not know you are approaching until it is too late. The horse doesn’t recognize you as a human, but as a predator or danger. This creates a dangerous situation for all involved- the horse, the rider, and the biker. Horse owners alike should also be aware of their surroundings and make sure the horse and rider are both familiar with trail riding and safety rules.
The best thing to do in this situation is descend trails at a safe speed. If you see a horse and rider, slow down- speak to the horse so it recognizes you as a human, and it will be less likely to be startled by you the biker. Slow down and let the horse and rider pass. If the horse is nervous, remove your glasses so the horses can see your face. Seeing that you are a human will calm the horses nerves. Use common sense. If you are on foot, just be courteous and let the horse and rider pass. Horse riders should make sure to be aware of their surroundings, make sure you are on approved equestrian trails and keep and eye our for approaching cyclists and hikers.
Some Basic Trail Tips :
- Horses always have the right of way, be courteous
- Be smart, don’t ride your bike on wet trails or off trail, as it damages them
- Bring plenty of water/snacks if you are going on a longer ride or hike.
- Observe the wildlife- don’t take it home with you (pack it in, pack it out including pet waste)
- Bicyclists must yield to hikers and horses, and hikers must yield to horses
- Call out “Passing on your left (or right)!” when overtaking someone else
- Be excellent to each other!:
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Donations are always accepted, you can scan this awesome QR code to do so!
Harrison Fuller is 19 years old and works at WSU Outdoor Program. He enjoys most things under the sun, but mainly long-boarding, hiking, and playing music. He likes Rush, Tool, NIN, Korn and many other bands that are completely different from the aforementioned.