We take trail signage very seriously at Overland Base Camp. We make sure to follow those signs carefully. One of the more common trail signs - on the kind of rides we like best - are "no trespassing" signs. Of course, when we see these, we don't trespass.
The laws for no trespassing signs vary from state to state. Regardless, essentially, if you see a "no trespassing" sign, don't trespass.
The only subtly or confusion we hear about trail signs are in relation to the orientation of the sign. Many people think that if they can see a sign they have to turn back. However, it really depends on where the sign sits relative to the road or trail. Here's the facts: if the sign is perpendicular to the road or trail, you better stop and head back. If the sign is parallel or closer to parallel than perpendicular, you can continue. A sign that aligns roughly parallel to a trail simply means that if you go off-trail you'll be trespassing. If the sign is on your left, sty out of that area. If the sign is on your right, stay out of that area. Stay on the trail and all will be well.
No Signs On Open Land
If you see open land with no signs anywhere, legally you can ride the trails if the following is true:
- There is no fence
- The land has not been improved - of course trails indicate improvement
- The land looks unoccupied
- The land has no posted sign
If these are true, you can assume the land is public for the use of anyone. "The law tries to keep a balance between the rights of regular people to enjoy land and the rights of land owners. [...] Under the natural squatter law, land should be used by the community for productive purposes. Unused land returns to communal ownership." However, if you use this kind of land, and the land owner shows up and asks you to leave, you have to.
"No Trespassing" Signs
Here are the basic statutes for each New England state. They're all fairly similar but we want to keep them all straight so we've posted them all together. We've also included the source link laws for each state.
The laws do not clarify any details for signage except that "notice posted thereon" constitutes sufficient notice. Trespassers can be fined and/or imprisoned, depending on the offense. Refer to general law sections 115, 120 and 120B and 123 for more details.
"Premises that are posted in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders." Trespassers are charged with an infraction and levied a fine. Refer to general law sections CGS § 53a-109 for more details.
Signage is to be posted in a way that is “reasonably likely to come to the attention of the intruder.” Further, signage must indicate that access is prohibited without proper consent or that certain activities are expressly prohibited; signs must be placed at intervals of no greater than 100 feet; signs must be placed at all vehicular access points from public roads. Trespassers are guilty of a Class D or Class E crime, depending on circumstances. Refer to general law sections Chapter 17 Section 402 of Maine’s Revised Statutes for more details.
The property has to display "signage to ensure that the property or land is considered a secured premises.” Trespassing on a secured premises is a misdemeanor. Subsequent violations of the law can result in a class B felony. Refer to general law Section 635:2 for more details.
"No trespassing signage that is visible." Trespassing may result in a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both. Refer to general law sections 11-44-26 to 11-44-28 for more details.
“signs or placards so designed and situated as to give reasonable notice.” Trespassers are subject to up to 3-months in prison and a fine of $500, or both. Refer to general law Title 13 Chapter 81 Section 3705 for more details.