Navigating Wisconsin’s Winter Trails: A Guide to Etiquette and Safety

Tips for Enjoying Wisconsin’s Winter Trails Responsibly

As winter blankets Wisconsin with snow, outdoor enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the opportunity to hit the state’s numerous trails. Whether on skis, bikes, or snowmobiles, these trails provide a winter wonderland for adventure seekers. However, it is crucial for trail users to be considerate and practice good etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. In this article, we will explore expert tips and best practices for winter trail etiquette in Wisconsin.

General Trail Etiquette in Wisconsin

To start, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has outlined some essential guidelines in their “Wisconsin Trail Etiquette and Safety Guidelines” pamphlet:

– Stay to the right and pass on the left.
– Uphill traffic has the right of way over downhill traffic, and faster users yield to slower users.
– Stay on the designated trail to protect the surrounding landscape, avoiding shortcuts or cutting switchbacks.
– Respect trail closures and adhere to any posted signs.
– Carry out all litter, including pet waste, to maintain the cleanliness of the trails.

Courteous Cross-Country Skiing

For Nordic skiers, the Loppet Foundation, an organization dedicated to maintaining trails in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area, offers the following tips:

– Classic skiers should primarily use classic tracks.
– When passing another skier, give a little warning by saying “passing on your left” or “passing on your right.”
– Skate skiers should avoid skating over the classic tracks and strive to maintain a straight line.

Respectful Winter Cycling

When cycling on multi-use trails and urban pathways, cyclists should adhere to the following guidelines:

– Cyclists should always yield the right of way to pedestrians on multi-use trails.
– Use verbal cues like “on your left” when overtaking pedestrians or other cyclists.
– Control your speed to avoid collisions and ensure the safety of all trail users.
– Utilize proper lighting, including a headlight, taillight, and reflectors, when cycling at night.

For fat-tire bike riders on groomed single-track trails, additional tips are provided by the Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC), the International Mountain Biking Association, and the New Moon Ski/Bike Shop:

– Avoid riding on groomed trails in warm conditions to prevent rutting and trail damage.
– Use a minimum tire width of 3.8 inches to minimize trail impact.
– Adjust tire pressure based on trail conditions, using lower pressure (one to four PSI) on softer trails.

Etiquette for Snowmobilers and Motorized Trail Users

Snowmobilers should follow these guidelines to be considerate and respectful while enjoying the trails:

– Stay on designated trails and avoid areas that are closed or off-limits.
– Operate snowmobiles safely, avoiding actions that may endanger others or cause property damage.
– When visiting sensitive areas, such as historic or scenic sites, park your snowmobile and explore on foot.
– Maintain a slow and steady pace when passing houses or non-riders, minimizing noise disturbances.
– Slow down when being passed by other snowmobilers, ensuring a safe and smooth maneuver.


As winter arrives in Wisconsin, the state’s winter trails beckon outdoor enthusiasts to embrace the snowy landscape. By following these etiquette guidelines, trail users can ensure a positive experience for themselves and others. Whether skiing, cycling, or snowmobiling, practicing trail etiquette fosters a sense of community and respect for Wisconsin’s natural beauty. So, bundle up, venture out, and enjoy the winter wonderland that awaits on Wisconsin’s trails.






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