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Trail Etiquette on Community Trails
December 5, 2019
Jenny White

(Updated 12/2019)

Managing multiple users on winter trail systems is always challenging. As a reminder, each venue that BSF grooms in the Community Nordic Trail System has a different user agreement. Some of the rules are dictated by the landowners and others are formed by best management practices. If you explore your options, there's something for everyone. AND there's some fabulous world-class skiing right in town. 


Foot traffic is not permitted on groomed trails at Highland Glen, Sunset Hills (Lindley), and Bridger Creek Golf Course. That includes the edge of the trail. Remember, this is a small portion of the available trails in town. All ungroomed trails in the Main Street to the Mountains network are fair game all winter long, so you have plenty of alternatives.

Sourdough and Hyalite do allow both foot traffic and dogs; in these areas be sure to avoid walking/running in the classic track and stay on the opposite side of the trail in order to preserve its longevity. (i.e. It's poor form to posthole down the middle of the trail.)

Here's how it works at Bozeman Creek/Sourdough:


Fat-tire bikes are not permitted on any groomed ski trails in the Community Nordic Trails System. (See below for why.) Bikes should not cross groomed tracks.  All ungroomed Main St. to the Mountain trails can be ridden. (Update for 2019/20: Crosscut Mountain Sports Center has some fat tire opportunities now, too!) The local bike community has been working hard on access issues and is a good resource for riding info. BSF Trails Manager Kyle Marvinney has also met with them to advise them as they research grooming singletrack trails specifically for winter biking. 

‍Ruts like these are difficult (and expensive) to remove, especially in low-snow conditions and during freeze-thaw cycles. 


You can ski groomed trails with your pups at both Sourdough and Hyalite. e sure to pick up after your dog; "brown klister" is no fun for anyone.Please no dogs at Bridger Creek, Highland Glen, or Sunset Hills (Lindley Center). 


If we all follow good trail etiquette, then more people have a positive experience. Please review our recommendations for winter trail etiquette. That includes:

When passing, let others know that you are approaching them from behind by politely calling out, “on you left.”

Slow down in congested areas. Especially in the first few miles of Sourdough, check your speed, and pass with patience.

When you come upon slower skiers, announce yourself, reduce your speed while you pass on their left, and then take off again once you have safely passed them.  Think of other trail users as yield signs.


Cost. For one, BSF's grooming effort is a nonprofit, donation/grant-funded effort. Grooming for multiple uses adds a lot of labor and expenses, and we have to be efficient with our limited budget. With our thin snowpack in town, damage to trails is very difficult, and potentially impossible, to fix--especially when the snow is too thin for larger machinery.  

Safe, quality skiing. The wear and tear of foot/bike traffic compromises the quality of skiing and in some cases can create hazardous conditions (ex. when ruts cross a steep downhill). In addition, our in-town venues tend to go through multiple freeze/thaw cycles and low-snow situations that make it difficult to recover from foot prints and tire ruts. In assessing safety, we also take into account intersections and steep grades.

Landowner agreements. Community Nordic Trails are the result of multiple user agreements. Highland Glen is private property owned by Bozeman Health and access is provided through seasonal use agreements (not a general trail easement). Likewise, Bridger Creek Golf Course is private property. We work through an agreement with the City of Bozeman for Sunset Hills (Lindley). Hyalite and Sourdough are managed via agreements with the Gallatin-Custer National Forest. We must work within the restrictions set forth in each agreement, as well as the Forest Service's management plan.


A huge thanks to the fat-tire bike community and the running community for their help in spreading the word on trail etiquette, rules, and which winter trails are best for each user group. The Gallatin Valley Trail Ambassadors, backed by BSF and several other nonprofits, are also interacting and educating the growing number of trail users.  

PLEASE, BE NICE. If you see an individual not abiding by trail-use rules, provide a gentle explanation and suggest a better route or behavior. With new residents arriving daily, education is key, and more often than not it's simply a matter of not knowing. We all love these trails and our outdoor time. Let's help each other have the best possible walking, running, skiing, and biking experiences.