How to Be a Responsible Trail User
For All Humans
Here are some easy steps all trail users can do to help keep the Fells a nice, clean, friendly place to visit.
Be Nice Be nice and friendly. Most everyone comes to the fells to have an enjoyable time. A friendly nod, or a "hi how ya doin'" goes a long way. Nothing is accomplished by trying to lecture people on the trails (i.e. an angry "your dog is supposed to be on a leash!"), things like that can only cause problems.
Be courteous and yield to other users. Don't blow by hikers at full speed. Don't stand there blocking a trail so bikes have to squeeze around you. Hold on to your dog when other users approach. Trails in the Fells are all heavily used, don't be surprised when you there is a user around every corner, expect it.
Don't Litter! Obviously, don't litter. Take it out with you. Fortunately litter isn't a big problem in the Fells, but still keep it in mind. If you see some trash on the trail, don't be afraid to pick it up, and throw it away.
Keep The Trails Narrow Being so close to Boston, the trails in the Fells see a lot of novice traffic. It is very important to try and keep the trails as narrow as possible. Always try to stay centered on the trails. Walking and riding around obstacles, on the edges of the trails, always lead to wider trails, which are no fun for anyone.
As you can see above, if you go on the edges of a trail, that trail will just get wider and wider. Every bike counts, as does every pair of boots. The wider you make the trails, the more Trail Maintenance has to be done.
This doesn't mean, stay centered on the trail unless its too hard. Trail obstacles are the number one area where trails widen. If you are on a trail and think "This is too hard, there should be a path around this" then you belong on easier trails! The rock above is a perfect example, I've seen so many beginners going around the edges of this rock. This is not a particularly challenging trail, if going over the center of the trail is too difficult, you should probably be sticking to fire roads (aka dirt roads).
There are lots of puddles in the Fells, go through them! That's right, go right through the middle. When you try to go around the edge, that's what makes the trails wider. Once the standing water is gone, it gets very easy to form a clean line through the center of the mud. I know most hikers would look at me like I was joking, but every time you walk around a puddle, you make the trail wider.
Don't go around obstacles on the trails. Rocks, as previously mentioned, are common points for trails to get wider as trail users hike and bike around them.
Fallen trees are another prime example. When a tree happens to fall in the middle of a trail, go over it. Don't make 4 different paths going around it.
Let me drive the point home:
Fork In The Trail? When the above guides are ignored, you can often get two or more 'lines' over a particular area. One for the original trail and one or more for new lines. You're going to have to use your judgement again. If the newer lines are getting the bulk of the traffic, then it may be better to use the new one and leave the original behind. Let nature reclaim it and the trail will still be narrow. But the point is, decide which line is best for the trail, not for you! Don't think the original line on a trail should be abandoned just because its too hard for you, and the new line is easier! Ideally, one of the two lines would be closed properly during a trail maintenance day.
Skidding and Peeling Out It's commonly thought that Skidding does a lot of harm to a trail. In actuality, skidding does a relatively small amount of harm to a trail, but does significant damage to your tire. The same area of rubber on your tire rubs across a large area of ground. What really does a lot of damage is peeling out. If your climbing up a hill and your back tire starts to spin, STOP! First off, you're not going to make it once you loose traction anyway. Also, what you are doing is the opposite of skidding, are you putting your entire tire over the same small area of dirt. That does much more damage than skidding. It really cuts into the top soil which is bad. Hikers also have to deal with this on the more technical of trails. Sliding feet dig into soil just like tires, and slipping around does very little to get you up or down a trail safely.
Where Can I Ride My Bike?
Here's a Million Dollar Question. Where can you ride in the Fells? The question should be simple but it's not. Heres how it works.
Anti-Bikers like to lie about where you can ride. So I'll start with the Myths:
All four of these statements are FALSE. ALL Fire Roads are open to bikes. The Mountain Bike Loop is open to bikes. The Loop is mostly fireroad but does have a few singletrack sections. This includes two small singletrack trails that connect the loop to major parking areas. The Skyline Trail and Reservoir Trail overlap each other, and the Mountain Bike Loop, and many sections of Fire Road. Therefor many sections of both trails are open to bikes. In Fact every marked colored trail in the Fells has at least a few sections of Fire Road, so no trails at all is COMPLETELY off limits to bikes. So what does a map of the fells look like with all of the trails open to bikes highlighted?
All of the red trails above are where Mountain Bikes are allowed, approximately. That is of course in addition to all of the paved roads that are black on the map. This is a very different picture than many anti-moutain bikers like to paint. I've also been criticized that the little map above makes people think they can ride their bike everywhere in the Fells. However there is no room for opinion here. Every red line above is a trail or fire road where biking is allowed by the DCR. This is fact, not opinion.
What's the deal with the Sheepsfold?
It's probably as safe as the rest of the woods. I've never heard of anyone ever being attacked in there, ever. However the rumors you heard are probably true. Although the sheepsfold itself is just a big field, which is mostly used by dog walkers as a place their dogs can run free (although technically this isn't kosher). But the woods between the sheepsfold and Rt 28 are "shady". Not an ideal place to bring young kids, unless when you get home you want to try and explain why men have sex with men in the woods. Generally I try to avoid the whole area from Bear Hill to the Sheepsfold, between 28 and the Mountain Bike Loop. Problem is, avoiding the area just makes the problem worse. I don't really know what the solution to this problem is, but it is clearly the prime problem in the Fells. I also feel compelled to point out that this isn't an issue of wanting to get gay people out of the Fells. That's not it at all! This is just about wanted people to stop getting naked in the Fells.