Volunteer Trail Patrols Improve Equestrian Mountain Biking Experiences

Riders on horses pose in front of a parking area and oak covered hillsides.
A group of riders on horseback prepare for a day on the trail in a recruitment effort for the mounted Volunteer Trail Patrol. Photo by Somer Shaw, a contractor with BLM partner Sierra Unified School District.

A volunteer patrol is making sure horse-riders and mountain bikers get the most out of trails in the San Joaquin River Gorge.

The patrol, called the San Joaquin River Gorge Volunteer Trail Patrol, regularly rides trails in the area and is known for its strong interaction with visitors and for supporting local events. For example, Trail Patrol members have assisted with several competitive races and special events such as the Big Sandy Pro-Am mountain bike race, the San Joaquin River Gorge Ultra Half- Marathon, the Search for Sasquatch Day and the quarterly Family Fun Days.

The Trail Patrol consists of both equestrian and mountain bike riders who provide front-line visitor information on rules, regulations and interpretive features in a “user to user” context. The patrol is also equipped to offer first aid and emergency assistance, as needed.

People in bright red jerseys stand beneath a canopy in an oak forest.
Bike patrol members staff a booth for National Trails Day to introduce the Volunteer Trail Patrol to the public.  Both the bike unit and mounted unit participated in the event. Photo by Tracy Rowland, BLM San Joaquin River Gorge manager.

Equestrians are from the San Joaquin/Sierra Unit & Sierra Freepackers Unit of the Backcountry Horsemen of California. The local Central California Off-Road Cyclists make up the core of the mountain bike unit.

The patrol continually finds ways to make the trails enjoyable for all users. For example, the mountain bike unit started a program that offers cyclists bike-bells to use on the trail. The bells warn others that a bike is approaching, helping to reduce conflicts. The patrol worked with local bike shops to supply the bells, which users are welcome to keep.

A man rides away on a horse while leading another wearing packs.
Ted Fischer of San Joaquin Unit of Backcountry Horsemen of California takes chainsaws up to remove a fallen tree from a trail. Mr. Fischer and other patrol members possess valuable chainsaw certifications that make them invaluable in helping to keep trails open during a time when trees are drought-stressed and topple over or lose large limbs during high winds. Photo by Tracy Rowland, BLM San Joaquin River Gorge manager.