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Adventure & Travel: Where To Ride ATV's

Explore the USA on your ATV

Larry Walton
May 18, 2007
Photographers: Bruce W. Smith
Looking for a place to ride? We recently asked experienced ATV riders what their favorite ride areas are across the U.S. Before visiting any of these trail areas, however, check with the local land manager regarding current registration, equipment and gear requirements, and opening/closure dates and times.
Trail-Finder Web Sites is a powerful trail locating site for ATV, bike, hike, ski, sled, OHV, horse, and dirt-bike trails. You have to pay a fee to get full use of the site, but the search capabilities and maps make it well worth the cost. is a free membership site that's constantly growing. Rider reviews are helpful in determining what a ride area is like.
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Hieroglyphic Mountains Loop is 35 miles northwest of Phoenix and features amazing cactus landscapes. If you encounter a desert tortoise and can't avoid crossing paths with it, carry it to the shade, not tilted, no more than 50 feet away. Bring plenty of water. Arizona BLM; 623/580-5500,
The Hungry Valley State Recreation Area north of Los Angeles has 19,000 acres of riding with 130 miles of ATV trails. According to, the wide variety of trails "provide excitement for beginner and experienced off-roaders. For experienced OHVers, challenging trails can be found in the hills and sand washes of the backcountry section of the SVRA. Beginners can enjoy the scenery and relative ease of the trails in the Native Grasslands Management Area. Trails in the adjoining Los Padres National Forest are recommended for experienced riders only."
One cool thing about this area is the 4000-plus acres available for open riding. OHV use isn't restricted to designated trails and is allowed in virtually all locations within this zone. The open riding zone contains a variety of terrain, from flat areas and sand washes to rolling hills and steep hillclimb areas. HVSRA; 661/248-7007, California Tourism; 800/862-2543,

Glamis Dunes (aka Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area), just west of Yuma, Arizona, is an ATV rider's paradise. This 40-mile-long system of rolling white dunes is sculpted by the intense winds constantly blowing through the Imperial Valley. Annual rainfall averages less than two inches and summer temperatures can top 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Glamis BLM; 760/337-4400,; California Tourism; 800/862-2543, Academy ATV/Dirt Bike Rental; 619/294-2227,
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The Rainbow Falls OHV Area in the Rampart Range of Pike National Forest has miles of forest roads open to ATV and dirt-bike riding. "Beautiful country with a variety of terrain and wildlife," says Nessl. Nonresidents aren't required to register their vehicles in Colorado, as long as they're registered in their home states. All off-highway vehicles must have an approved muffler and spark arrester. Colorado State Parks; 303/866-3437,
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Biolsi also likes the great variety of terrain of Turkey Bay OHV Park in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. With 100 miles of ATV trails on 2500 acres, riding areas include flat meadows, mud bogs, and rolling hills. Biolsi particularly enjoys the steep terrain and views near Kentucky Lake, where elevation changes reach 600 feet. Land Between The Lakes; 270/924-2000, Kentucky Tourism; 800/225-TRIP.
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Iron Mountain, in the western part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is a favorite ride spot of the Polaris Way Out Training Tour team. Located on the state border with Wisconsin, rides can take you into both states. On the Iron Mountain Web site, you'll find trail maps and the Dickinson County ATV Guide. Iron Mountain;
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Biolsi also recommends Chadwick ATV Trails in the Mark Twain National Forest. Located southeast of Springfield, this area features a 100-mile network of trails that weave among thick stands of oak, hickory, and pine. Difficulty ranges from steep climbs and technically challenging rock steps to easy open logging roads. Many of the scenic rides have creek crossings, ridge sections, tight trails with switchbacks, and even a cave or two to visit. Call Kay's Country Store for permits; 417/634-5225. MTNF; 417/683-4428, Missouri Tourism; 800/877-1234.
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Like the idea of roughing it in luxury? Paws Up Resort straddles the famous Blackfoot River just east of Missoula, Montana. Ride the resort's ATVs on its 60 square miles of ranch land, or bring your own and enjoy the regional BLM trails while your family members ride horses, hike, or mountain bike on the resort property. Paws Up Resort; 866/894-7969,
New York
ATV New York is an off-road vehicle park that caters to ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, go-karts, and mountain bikes. Featuring almost 400 acres, you'll find lots of trails running over and through hills, grass, rock, sand, and mud. ATV New York; 845/883-7135,
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East Fort Rock, Oregon, "is one of the most organized trail systems I've ever been on," says Pat Biolsi of Yamaha. "The map is completely accurate, as is the trail-rating system. It's a well-organized, well-put-together riding area." Located in the Deschutes National Forest, East Fort Rock OHV Trail System has 318 miles of trails over 110,000 acres. The trails provide a full range of difficulty from easiest to most difficult. There are two staging areas, two trailheads, and four designated play areas. The trails range in elevation from 4400 to 6400 feet. They're open to horses, mountain bikes, and other outdoor enthusiasts, so please watch for others. East Fort Rock OHV Area;
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, one of our favorites, extends for 40 miles along the Oregon coast, making it the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. The wind-sculpted dunes tower 500 feet above base camp. Three main off-highway-vehicle riding areas include South Jetty To Siltcoos, Winchester Bay/Umpqua Dunes, and Spinreel (Tenmile Creek) To Horsfall. Riders can enjoy a variety of experiences including dune hillclimbs, sand bowls, sand roads, forested areas, freshwater lakes, and beach rides. Siuslaw National Forest; Oregon Dunes; 541/750-7000. Oregon Tourism; 800/547-7842.
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South Carolina
Privately owned ride destinations like Carolina Adventure World may prove to be the future of ATV riding. The 2600-acre facility features 100 miles of ATV and single-track trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Trails are rated for rider skill.

The rental fleet at CAW includes ATVs, dirt bikes, and golf carts (four- and six-seat models). The trail system is enhanced with a motocross area that features a championship motocross course and a course for ATV competitors. The park even has an enduro course to challenge "the skills and stamina of the best of the best."

Other amenities like nature trails, picnic areas, camping, cabins, and a lodge where non-riders can kick back make CAW a great family destination. CAW;
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Windrock Mountain (aka Coal Creek OHV) west of Knoxville has 250 miles of ATV trails over 73,000 acres. The 62 trails, on property owned by the Coal Creek Mining Company, are maintained by the Windrock ATV club. There are plenty of rocks, creek crossings, and mud. Windrock; 865/435-0486,
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West Virginia
Steve Nessl of Yamaha says the Hatfield-McCoy trail system "is organized and has quite a few trailheads and a variety of terrain. It's not only well marked but also evaluated so that everyone from novices to advanced riders can find trails that match their skill level." Trail administrators do a good job of maintaining the 500 miles of trails, building new ones and linking trail systems while being environmentally friendly. "They really try to do it the right way," says Nessl. Chief Logan State Park; 800/592-2217,



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