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Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads and Campgrounds--Continued

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Chapter 12--Providing Signs and Public Information--Continued

Regulatory Signs--Continued

Visitor Information Stations

Visitor information stations--sometimes called information kiosks--are useful at campgrounds and trailheads. They contain information that:

  • Familiarizes recreationists with the site or trail
  • Discusses facility use, trail conditions, and safety
  • Provides instructions regarding rules, regulations, and etiquette

Information station design must be appropriate for the level of development and the amount of information provided. Permanent sign panels or bulletin boards with one to three panels usually are adequate. If the information changes frequently, bulletin boards allow the land manager to post new items easily. Figure 12-14 shows an information station suitable for a campground with a moderate level of development. It would not be safe for riders to lead or ride their stock under a roof. If there is a roof over the information station, provide a hitch rail nearby so riders can dismount and tie their stock to the hitch rail while viewing signs.

Photo of an information station with seating around it and a person looking up information.
Figure 12-14--This information station is appropriate for an area
with a moderate to high level of development. The information is
displayed in an attractive, uncluttered manner.

Write sign text clearly and concisely, because riders may have to keep their stock on the move. Mounted riders may just take a quick glance. Make important messages obvious, and communicate more detailed information in brochures or printed handouts. Brochure boxes (figure 12-15) can provide such material at the site. Visitor information stations often provide safety information and display instructions regarding recreation site fees and trail registration.

Photo of a sign with a map on it for the Sawmill-Curry Trail System.
Figure 12-15--Detailed information, such
as maps or regulations, can be provided in
weather-resistant brochure boxes.

On visitor information stations without a roof, mount posters so they can be read from horseback by placing the poster's center about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above the ground. To increase readability, size the text according to the distance between the viewer and the poster. Add 1 inch (25.4 millimeters) of letter height for every 10 feet (3 meters) of viewing distance. For example, use letters that are at least 1 inch (25.4 millimeters) high on a poster that is 1 to 10 feet (0.3 to 3 meters) from the reader. Make sure posters are made from weather-resistant materials.

Maps posted at visitor information stations familiarize recreationists with the site's facilities so they can select a camp unit or find a trail access point. Figure 12-16 shows a simple and effective recreation site map. Similarly, maps posted at trail access points familiarize riders with the trail routes. Consider having printed handouts with more specific details. Figure 12-17 is a trail map handout that has clear and concise information. Table 12-3 lists suggested locations for visitor information stations. Locate information stations a safe distance from vehicle and horse traffic.

Photo of a sign with a site map of a recreation area.
Figure 12-16--A simple site map is easy to understand.

Screen shot of a trail map handout.
Figure 12-17--Trail map handouts provide specific information
that can help trail users before and during a recreation visit.
--Courtesy of the Arizona Trail Association.

Table 12-3-Suggested locations for information stations.
Type of information station Station location
Trail Trail access points
Recreation site Recreation site entrance, toilet or shower buildings, group gathering areas, group camp parking areas, campground host sites, and water troughs
Visitor Information Stations at Recreation Sites

Some information is useful to recreationists before their arrival at a recreation site, and some information is beneficial once they are onsite. For information relevant to all users, refer to the land agency's sign guidelines. Table 12-4 lists information beneficial to riders recreating at trailheads or campgrounds.

Along with the standard recreation site rules, provide riders with the rules pertaining to horses and mules. Two important subjects are the disposal of animal manure and the use of weed-free feed. For more information and resources on these topics, consult Chapter 13--Reducing Environmental and Health Concerns.

Table 12-4-Information that could be provided at equestrian recreation sites.
  Equestrian recreation site sign and handout information Signs Handouts Critical Desirable
General information Location of equestrian facilities (parking, camp and picnic units, group camps, accessible units, water sources, hitching and confinement areas, manure disposal, wash racks, accessible mounting ramp, stock loading ramp, and so forth) X X   X
Camp unit restrictions (riders with horses and mules only) X X X  
Number of horses allowed in the camp unit X X X  
Number of vehicles and trailers allowed in the camp unit X X X  
Number of riders allowed in the camp unit X X X  
Size restrictions for horse trailers X X X  
Method of manure disposal X X X  
Regulations Regulations regarding weed-free feed X X X  
Horse use restrictions (designated roads, parking pads, horse areas, and trails) X X X  
Stock speed restrictions in the recreation site X X X  
Vehicle speed restrictions in the recreation site X X X  
Tethering restrictions (types of gear, number of stock) X X X  
Prohibitions (excessive noise, barking dogs, or other annoying behavior) X X X  
Facilities Road conditions (suitability for horse trailers) X*


Parking area description (space for turning horse trailers around) X* X   X
Safety Presence of dangerous predators or creatures X X X  
Presence of vegetation toxic to stock X X X  
* The use of road signs must be determined on a case-by-case basis using an engineering study or application of engineering judgment.
Visitor Information Stations at Trail Access Points

Visitor information stations at trail access points are similar to those in recreation sites. These information stations (figure 12-18) familiarize riders with trail conditions, etiquette, and hazards. Table 12-5 lists suggested information to display at trail information stations and in trail handouts. Riders want to know trail conditions because the conditions determine the kind of ride they can expect. Provide updated information to help them make informed decisions. Figure 12-19 is an example of trail information suitable for a printed handout.

Photo of a rider riding by a trail information station.
Figure 12-18--This trail information station is
near a wilderness entrance.

Table 12-5-Information that could be included on trail signs and in handouts.
  Trail sign and handout information for riders Signs Handouts Critical Desirable
Trail conditions Trail length X X X  
Typical and maximum trail grade X X X  
Typical and minimum tread width X X   X
Trail surface materials X X X  
Obstructions Location of water crossings X X  


Location of stepover gates X X   X
Location and type of gates (operated from ground or horseback) X X   X
Locations where the vertical clearance is less than 10 feet   X   X
Locations of above-grade crossings (bridges and so forth) X X X  
Locations of below-grade crossings (culverts, tunnels, and so forth) X X X  
Facilities Locations of stock watering sources along the route X X X*  
Location of toilets along the route X X   X
Safety Presence of vegetation toxic to stock X X X  
Areas impassable by stock X X X  
Presence of poisonous or dangerous creatures X X X  
Etiquette Intended trail users X X X  
Trail user with right-of-way (stock, bicyclist, or hiker) X X X  
Bicyclist instructions for approaching stock X X X  
Hiker instructions for approaching stock X X X  
* This is important in dry climates or when water access is limited.

Screen shot of a trail handout for the 3_Canelo Hills-West area.
Figure 12-19--Effective trail handouts contain just
enough information to be useful.
--Courtesy of the Arizona Trail Association.

One of the most important messages to convey to users on shared-use trails is who has the right-of-way. The philosophy varies across the country and with land management agencies. In many regions, hikers and mountain bikers yield to riders, and mountain bikers yield to hikers (figure 12-20). Yielding the right-of-way is a courtesy--generally it is not enforceable by law. No matter who has the right-of-way, all users need to know who is expected to yield. Post right-of-way information at the trail access point and along the trail. To be effective, the sign and the information on it must be large enough to be seen at a distance, and the message must be easy to understand. Follow the guidelines established by the land management agency.

Illustration of a sign demonstrating trail right-of-way. On the sign the text reads, Yield To.
Figure 12-20--Trail right-of-way etiquette is usually based on
courtesy--not regulation--and varies from region to region.

Interpretive Signs

Interpretive signs communicate messages that can change behavior, educate, or evoke emotion (figure 12-22). These signs may be used for self-guiding trails or wayside exhibits at cultural, natural, or geographical points of interest. Seek assistance from specialists when planning interpretive signs at trail access points, in a campground, or along a trail. In addition to conveying information effectively, interpretive signs must meet accessibility guidelines. (See the Accessible Signs Resource Roundup on page 234.)

Illustration of an interpreteve sign with riders and text.
Figure 12-22--Interpretive signs communicate a variety
of messages. This artistic sign educates riders
about appropriate recreation behavior.

Exhibit Structures

Shelters often protect viewers, printed literature, or interpretive signs from the weather and they can be inviting. Because it is dangerous to lead or ride a trail animal under a shelter, design the structure to discourage entry while on horseback. Install a hitch rail nearby to encourage riders to dismount and tether stock before reading the information.

Viewing Areas

To help users read signs with detailed text, include a viewing area at visitor information stations or interpretive signs. A viewing area is an open, cleared space in front of the sign for up to three riders on horseback. The extra space allows riders to read the information while trail traffic keeps moving a safe distance away from stock. If visitor information stations are near roads in a recreation site, the viewing area provides separation from motor vehicles.

A clear space of 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide by 16 feet (4.9 meters) long accommodates three animals. One or two animals need an area 16 feet (4.9 meters) square (figure 12-23). If substantial vegetation or restrictive slopes make it impossible to provide a large enough cleared space for stock, place a hitch rail in a clearing near the sign.

Drawing of a sign viewing area. In the drawing the text reads, Trail or parking area, 16 ft, Interpretive sign or information station, 16 to 24 ft, and Suitable surface material.
Figure 12-23--A sign viewing area.

Accessibility Information

Some riders have difficulty using trails that require dismounting for obstacles or negotiating steep or uneven terrain. Provide maps, signs, or handouts to help trail users make informed choices. Standard posted messages include the trail name, number, destination, and distance. If pedestrian trails have been evaluated for accessibility, post the following additional information:

  • Typical and maximum trail grade
  • Minimum trail width
  • Typical and maximum cross slope
  • Trail surface--type and firmness of surface
  • Any major obstacle--such as boulders in the trail tread

At a campground, let campers know which equestrian camp units and related facilities are accessible and provide information concerning barriers to facilities or trails. Show accessible camp units on the site map with wording such as:

Sites 2, 4, 6, and 10 are accessible. If no one in your group needs accessible facilities, please do not use these sites unless all other sites are filled.

Don't place signs indicating accessibility at the individual camp units. Such signs tend to draw needless attention to campers with a disability.

Accessible camp units are generally available to all on a fill last basis if they are a small portion of total units. If all or most units are accessible, they're generally available with no restrictions.

Riders, Signs, and Safety

If riders must dismount to read a sign or use facilities, provide a hitch rail nearby. The hitch rail should be located where riders can monitor their stock. It is a good idea to provide a mounting block as well.

Try to leave more than enough room for stock to pass safely when installing signs. It is easy for a sign or post to catch a leg, stirrup, or tack. A horse or mule can scrape its side. Besides causing injuries, such encounters may startle stock, especially if part of the saddle catches. Reduce the possibility of injury by rounding all sign corners and removing sharp objects from posts.

Vehicles towing horse trailers are relatively large and drivers can have difficulties maneuvering them at trailheads and campgrounds. Avoid placing signs near areas where towing vehicles travel, turn, or back, or near entries to back-in or pullthrough parking pads. To avoid damage by bored stock, install signs at least 7 feet (2.1 meters) from areas where stock are confined.

Photo of a horse and a rider off the horse on a remote trail.

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Updated: 10/20/2015
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