Explore These ATV Trails
By Midwest Traction on June 28, 2018
Before you head out on your next adventure trail, we want you to know a few things.
How Does the US Forest Service Designate ATV Trails?
Park staff completes an inventory of all roads and forests residing within their boundaries. They are then assessed for safety, access, use for recreation, and how sustainable a trail will be to maintain without hurting the current ecosystem.
Off-highway vehicle riders have the most versatility in where they can go and what they can do, whether it’s conquering sand dunes with paddles or sloshing through mud with deep lugged tires. They work for utility, carrying equipment, winches, and storage boxes. And they provide access to the wilderness that larger vehicles can’t explore. But most importantly, they respect the land.
Benefits of Public Lands
There are a lot of reasons why having public land access is a benefit:
- Hunting and Fishing
- Hiking and Biking
- Rock Hounding
- Cave exploring
- Bird watching
- Rock climbing
Depending on location, public lands will have a combination of the things listed above or cooler options (parasailing off mountain tops or ziplining through trees) that offer visitors many different ways to interact with and appreciate nature.
ATV Trail Etiquette
When you’re out on the trails, it’s important to remember your manners. Below are a few things you should pay attention to.
Many trails have width restrictions. Some are single tracks designed for bikes and motorcycles. Others may be gated for reasons unclear. Always follow the signage.
Research the skill level required for the trails you want to ride. Maps are available online, and guides are available for purchase at many off-road vehicle dealerships. https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/map Also be familiar with the type of weather to expect during your visit. It's best to dress in layers. Always wear a helmet.
Most states require all OHVs on public lands to have OHV registration tags from the state parks system. If you plan to ride out of state, check their registration requirements in advance. Some areas have noise limitations, so do your research.
- When encountering hikers or horseback riders, pull to the side and shut off your machine
- If a faster rider comes from behind, pull over and let them pass; find a wide spot (but stay on the trail) with a clear view. This is safer for all riders and minimizes trail damage
- Use hand signals to let others know how many are in your riding group; the number of fingers displayed represents the number of riders in your group; a closed fist indicates the last rider
- When meeting other riders on a hill, the rider going uphill generally has the right of way
- If you pack it in, pack it out! Properly dispose of all trash
- Be aware of wildlife and leave them alone. Some animals attack when provoked
- Leave vegetation as you find it; there are some delicate species in the forest close to extinction
- When you park in a staging area, do not block the trailhead.
- If you are pulling a trailer, park out the way
Now onto the adventures! We’ve picked a small handful of states that we think have trails worth trying.
Bluff Creek is a 350-acre off-road park that used to be an abandoned coal mine. With 20 miles of trails and 4 motocross tracks, this year-round park is worth a visit. Various tracks are designated to different levels of experience, ranging from beginner to an extremely challenging trail nicknamed the “Gravity Cavity.”
This site does not require a fee, but current registration for Iowa riders and out-of-state permits are needed. The park contains 13 primitive shelters, flush toilets, showers, and water spigots. Expect semi-rocky terrain with deep pits and hills. We recommend investing in some quality Dunlop ATV tires.
Lakeview OHV Park
Located just outside of Solon, this 147-acre park requires an Iowa titled and registered vehicle. Non-residents may purchase permits. Helmets are required, and machines must be less than 64” wide to fit through gates. No jeeps allowed. This off-road park is located close to Lake Macbride State Park, and the Macbride Spillway is a gorgeous site worth the few extra miles' drive, especially at sunset.
Depending on the season, you'll likely want all-terrain tires with some extra grip. For a variety of options, check out what Carlisle has to offer.
Windrock Park on the edge of the Appalachians in Tennessee guarantees a great ride in the mid-southern part of the country that offers 72,000 acres of varying difficulties. Permits are required, as are release forms.18 and under must wear helmets. Rules and regulations can be found on their site, as well as downloadable maps, a trail of the month, and a listing of all the mountain bike-friendly trails in the park.
Windrock also offers camping, mountain biking courses, hiking trails, an R/C park, and a shooting range. Nearby windmills situated at Buffalo Mountain Wind Far, provide an incredible sunrise and sunset view. An on-site General Store allows for Side by Side ATV rentals to tour the trails in a more leisurely fashion. If you're looking for an Appalachian adventure, Windrock park has plenty to offer.
These trails tend to be hard pack, so you'll want some good all-terrain tires for that. Check out what Duro has to offer!
Central Utah is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hunting, hiking, rockhounding, and riding ATVs. A majority of the land belongs to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. In fact, Utah ranks number three nationally for the total percentage of a state's lands that are public. Check out these numbers for comparison.
- Utah 70.4% Rank: 3
- Iowa 1.04% Rank: 49
- Texas 1.92% Rank: 47
- Michigan 22.47% Rank: 15
- West Virginia 9.92% Rank: 24
- Oregon 31.58% Rank: 13
One of the best western ATV trails is the Paiute Trail System located in Sevier County. It spans 1900 miles of Fishlake National Forest with existing trails and roads as well as several sections of track developed just for ATVs. The main route is a circular loop that stretches 250 miles and has dozens of tentacle-like side trails that lead riders to high mountain lakes, scenic vistas, and campgrounds.
Nearly 20 communities are accessible to off-highway vehicles, so riders can get food and water, ATV tires, gas, hotels, and repairs as needed. Every town has an information kiosk located at a primary trailhead with trail maps, timely messages about closures, and information about local happenings.
Riders of the Paiute ATV Trail can access three state parks, all with campgrounds. One of them, Fremont Indian State Park and Museum, is located at a key position on the main loop and contains over 3,600 petroglyphs. The world famous Big Rock Candy Mountain is located on a side trail near a historic mining district that the Forest Service keeps well maintained and open to riders.
Not counting width restrictions (50”), about 80% of the Paiute Trail is open to any side-by-side machine.
Jackman-Moose River Region trails in Maine cover 300 miles of wilderness. The trails snake through multiple types of terrain and afford riders excellent opportunities for hunting, camping, and fishing. Jackman also offers an ATV Jamboree every September, and with fall views like this, you won't want to miss it.
Note that this trail opens around Memorial Day weekend (weather permitting) and closes around mid-November. Specific info on closures can be found here.
If you’re looking for other fun things to do, the area offers kayaking, canoeing, fishing, boating, whitewater rafting, maple sugaring and more.
Colorado is the mecca of outdoor exploration. If you’re looking for something that suits a wide range of experience levels, the Wagon Wheel Trail system in Meeker has 250 miles of trail running through White River National Forest with 16 different loops that range from easy to challenging.
Make sure you've invested in some sturdy tires with reinforced sidewalls. Crawling over rocks is fun until you pop a tire. We recommend something with run-flat technology, like the Moapa Run Flat or the Goodyear Rawhide Grip.
The Mojave Desert receives high marks. With several well-maintained trails to choose from, you can hardly go wrong. Jawbone Canyon offers 7000+ acres of open use public land to explore. Dove Springs provides a variety of terrain over 5000+ acres of land. Just make sure you select good sand tires. Below are a few of our top recommendations.
Where's Your Trail?
Didn't see your favorite place on here? Tell us about where you like to ride your ATV on social media!