Summer is the perfect time for a road trip, especially if it’s part of an off-road trip. Wherever you live, there is almost certainly a great riding area and plenty of trails to explore within a day’s drive. Whether you’ve got an afternoon, a weekend, or a week for your adventure, we’ve created a guide about some of our favorite riding areas and what you can expect to find at each location. Gather up your friends and family, load up the truck and trailer, and head out for some quality trail time.
UTAH – A State of Adventure
Western riders have long been exploring the rugged and beautiful mountains of Utah, often times on the Paiute Trail or Great Western Trail which, according to locals, have no beginning and no end. That’s pretty much the truth, and with connecting trails, there are over 2000 miles of marked trail and back road byway to explore. Many riders choose the ATV friendly towns of Marysvale, Richfield, and Fillmore as their base camps, and the towns allow ATV travel on their streets so riders can get needed food, gas, repairs and lodging. Along the trail you’ll find cliffs, canyons, open desert, and huge rock formations. Higher into the mountains, you’ll find quaking Aspens, dense pines, and beautiful lakes. Some of the trails are quite challenging, but it’s a huge thrill to look at the endless views and unforgettable scenery. With a careful eye, you can even spot centuries old paintings left by the Native Americans who told their story through their artwork.
Moab, located in southeast Utah, is one of the West's most distinctive landmarks. With two Alpine mountain ranges, awe-inspiring red rock formations, clear blue skies, crisp clean air and tons of ATV trails, this is one of the best areas we've ever ridden. The variety of terrain here far exceeds any area we know of and with most of the trails being remote, it’s intensely demanding both physically and mechanically. Moab is adventure in its purest form. Looking for novice trails? They have it. Looking for "super-extreme" stuff? They've got that too and lots of it. Once you’ve ridden Moab, you’ll always want to go back.
The most famous trail system in the country just keeps getting better. With the recent opening of the new Ivy Ridge branch, the Hatfield-McCoy trail system has seven unique areas to explore. One thing they all have in common though is excellent riding and trail organizers have thought of all the details. Partnership between local business leaders, government officials, and riding enthusiasts has resulted in fantastic outdoor recreation with economic benefit to rural communities, and one by one the individual loops are being interconnected forming a vast trail network. Many of the trail systems also offer connecting trails that allow visitors to access ATV-friendly towns and there is excellent local support with restaurants, stores, camping, and great places to stay such as the award-winning Elkhorn Inn. The Hatfield-McCoy system also has one of the best websites we’ve ever seen for a ride area and all the info you need can be found on their site. There are trails for riders of all skill levels with plenty of challenges, and we promise you won’t be disappointed. Each of the seven Hatfield-McCoy branches is open 365 days a year to ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs. You owe it to yourself to give the most famous trail system in the off-road world a try.
www.TrailsHeaven.com Toll Free: 800-592-2217
Like many northern forest trails, parts of the Maine system double as logging or mining haul roads, with widely varying terrain from gentle hills to the steep and deep! Thanks to the cooperation between land owners, government officials, and over 90 dedicated clubs, there are several thousand miles of loops currently in place in Maine, and one section at a time, they are being connected into what could quite possibly be the longest trail system in the country. Expect great scenery in every direction and a chance to see all types of wildlife, including the occasional moose. In Maine you always want to be prepared for anything big to step into the trail!
One of our favorite groups to visit is North Country Rivers. The North Country Rivers crew can guide you to the best trails and sights, and they’ll even provide you with a machine if needed. Their service is open year round and after a long, dusty ride, you can even go white water rafting. There’s nothing like a ride through a cool pine forest and one of the best places to experience it is Maine. There are even festivals that cater to ATV and Side x Side riders like the annual Moxie Fest held in the town of Lisbon. You can’t go wrong in Maine.
NEVADA – Western Roundup
It's hard not to be a little envious of the early prospectors, mountain men, and cowboys. They were living life on their own terms, and it must have been exhilarating to crest a mountain ridge and look out onto new territory. There are still places where one can explore a new trail, climb the back of a mountain, or venture into territory that has changed little in the last thousand years, and one of the best places we know to discover part of the Old West is Elko, Nevada. Recognizing they are surrounded by some of the best trail riding in the world, the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority makes a considerable effort to accommodate all manner of outdoors enthusiasts with two unique trail systems and we've tried both.
There are two main trail systems out of Elko, the Spruce Mountain trail and the Merritt Mountain trail. Both offer excellent trails for riders of all skill levels with many elevation changes, sunflower covered meadows, exhilarating climbs, spectacular views, and rocky, snowcapped peaks. The view from the top of 9,000-foot Merritt Mountain is especially captivating.
A truly amazing place to ride is known as the “Valley of Fire” near Logandale, Nevada. This place has everything from rock crawling, to red sand, to beautiful red rock formations, and even Native American petroglyphs carved into the rock. We love the diversity of this place and we guarantee we’ll be heading back. Nevada is also home to huge sections of open desert and in some areas you can ride from town to town as we did recently. Just be sure to bring a GPS, a map, your phone, and supplies because it can be a long way between towns in Nevada. Saddle up, cowboy! www.elkoatvjamboree.org www.exploreelko.com
Tennessee is home to several great ride areas like Brimstone, Coal Creek, and Ride Royal Blue. Brimstone features woods riding, rock crawling, water crossings, and plenty of elevation changes. It has also been the site of several new model introductions and continues to be one of our favorite ride areas. Coal Creek (Also known as Windrock) is located near Oliver Springs and is 72,000 acres of area to explore. We’ve been there several times and there is a wide variety of trails, from open gravel roads to challenging hill climbs with plenty of rocks. There are over 250 miles of trails at Coal Creek and all trails are well marked. One of the best things about Coal Creek, though, is the scenery. Climb higher and enjoy the awesome views. Every vehicle on the trails will need a trail permit, and maps are available at the trail head as well as several local businesses. You’ll likely never see the same trail twice at Coal Creek. Ride Royal Blue offers a unique mix of Tennessee style riding – hills, rocks, woods – but also areas that are very much like western riding with huge sweeping meadows and enormous views. You can’t go wrong with any of the riding in Tennessee.
www.coalcreekohv.com (865) 435-1251
www.rideroyalblue.com (423) 784-9445(937) 286-7658
INDIANA – The Badlands
The Badlands Off Road Park near Attica, Indiana is a great place to spend a day or even a weekend playing on every type of terrain you could want. The 800 acre park offers large, sandy sections with good sized hills, northern forests, southern style creek crossings, mud bogs, rocks to climb, and leafy, green hardwoods. It’s a little like riding in every part of North America all in one day and they’re even open in the winter! There are five main trails that wind through the facility and we never saw them all. Side trails branch off in every direction, but all main trails are marked with directional arrows that are color coded for the level of difficulty. There are even a couple fun motocross tracks as well!
A private campground adjoins the park and many park visitors stay for the weekend. There are also plenty of local lodging options, restaurants, and everything else you could need nearby. We can’t wait to go back!
www.badlandsoffroad.com Toll Free Phone: 866.762.2981
SOUTH CAROLINA – Carolina Adventure World
Carolina Adventure World can make one claim no other ride area can - they’ve hosted more new model introductions than anyplace else. With over 2,600 acres, several tracks, over 100 miles of trails, creek crossings, hill climbs, mud bogs, and just about every type of terrain you could want, it’s one of the premier destinations for East Coast riders. We’ve been there many times and always had a great time.
Throughout the year, Carolina Adventure World holds special events from mud bogs to motocross races and there is something for everyone, plus they have all the extras, including a zip line for the really adventurous. There are camp sites with power and water, RV spots with full hookups, clean showers, a bike wash, and the best “Pro-Shop” at any riding area we know of. They’ve got everything you need.
Carolina Adventure World is conveniently located just off I-77, 30 minutes north of Columbia, SC. and 50 minutes south of Charlotte, NC.
www.carolinaadventureworld.com phone: 803.482.3534
FLORIDA – The Off-Road Magic Kingdom!
Florida is up to its tanned neck in theme parks, but until you can steer the coaster and have your foot on the gas, no theme park ride is going to be as exhilarating as piloting an ATV through the Florida outback.
Most Florida trail systems are open to ATVs, bikes, and UTVs, and we like the unique mix of terrain. Expect everything from trails that wind through the palmettos to mud. In some places an overhead canopy of moss hangs across the trail for a tunnel effect, but everywhere we tried there was sand and that means whoops. Trail rangers do an excellent job of keeping trails groomed and they are genuinely interested in making sure you enjoy your ride.
The Ocala National Forest trail system has a great deal to offer and the master plan calls for more interconnecting trails. That means a huge expansion and easy routes between swimming, camping, recreation areas, and fuel and grocery stops. There are several camping areas already offering everything from primitive camping to full hookups for RVs, but be aware of where you set up camp. Every stream and pond in Florida has the potential for alligators and they think of dogs like you do buffalo wings. Regardless of where you ride, we promise there won’t be any lines.
Trail Condition Hotline: 866-607-2016 www.floridaohv.org
Lake George Ranger District: 352-625-2520
www.atvflorida.com – An excellent website with lots of good info.
MICHIGAN – Great Riding State
Off-Road lovers in Michigan can explore forests, climb huge sand dunes, and venture to the shore of shimmering lakes, including the world’s largest, all in one day. With 9000 miles of trails, it’s a great place to play.
Michigan's Upper Peninsula (or U.P.) is an overlooked gem. Vast areas of the U.P. are heavily forested, but in nearly every direction there is water, pine forests, and excellent trails. There are hundreds of beautiful spots to stop for a photo or a quick swim in the cool, clear, waves of countless lakes, and you’ll often have the trails and beach to yourself. The scent of the cedars, the lakes, the trails, and the hospitality will always call us back to the U.P. Try the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Porcupine Mountains, or the Curtis area.
Michigan’s Lower Peninsula has a well-developed trail system, with both loops and dedicated play areas. On the shore of Lake Michigan is Silver Lake, one of the most famous dune areas in the country, but other ride parks, such as the St. Helen ORV Area, the Mounds ORV Park, and now Bundy Hill, serve ATV & Side x Side enthusiasts as well.
BUNDY HILL OFF-ROAD is a ride park in Southern Michigan just a stone’s throw from the Indiana and Ohio border near the little town of Jerome, Michigan. They’ve got a little bit of everything at Bundy Hill including trails, dunes, extreme rock crawling, drop-offs, and bottomless mud pits. The owners of BUNDY HILL also strive to make sure it is very family friendly, and it’s a great place to explore.
www.michigan.gov/dnrwww.bundyhilloffroad.com ph: 517-917-0493
KENTUCKY – Harlan County and Mine Made Paradise
Kentucky offers numerous opportunities for trail riding, with new areas being formed all the time. Coal is a necessary energy source but when the mining winds down, you’re left with a big hole either above or below ground, and local economies often suffer. The State of Kentucky and local government branches have taken a proactive approach to mine reclamation with a unique solution. Knott Counties Mine Made Paradise is a vast new ride area (43,000 acres) just outside of Hazard, Kentucky and it’s an excellent model of energy resource, recreation, and wildlife management integration.
Since Mine Made Paradise is in the same geographic region as some parts of the Hatfield- McCoy trail system, the riding is very similar, but there are also differences. Parts of Mine Made Paradise wind through dense, pine forests, and feel much like the Black Hills. At the main trail head, there is a nice community building with the only off-road training center we know of, but they also have maps and trail info. Long term plans include hooking up with the Hatfield McCoy system making the area even more of a “must-do” destination for off-road lovers.
Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park in Bell County offers over 9,000 acres of trails to explore with camping, fishing spots, mud bogs and ponds, and excellent scenery. Best of all, it’s FREE! The riding at Wilderness Trail reminds us of western-style mountain riding.
Harlan County Kentucky offers the Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area which has 8,000 acres to explore and over 150 miles of trails. Black Mountain is open year round and the two trail heads – Putney and Evarts - take you in different directions. For a very reasonable $50.00 you can park at the Harlan County Campground. A general store carries supplies, maps, etc. near the southern access and several campgrounds with tent sites, cabin rentals, and full RV hookups are available in the area. There are even two miles of zip lines to carry you above the forest canopy.
Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area General Store (606) 837-3205
Canada is truly a paradise for trail exploration. Vast, yet sparsely populated territory abounds in the North, and the riding is as varied as the terrain. In the West, British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful. Further East in the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, the terrain is more rolling rather than mountain trails. In the centrally located province of Ontario, there is a little bit of everything from mud, to rocks, to tight woods. We loved the trails near Elliot Lake on the north side of Lake Huron, and the Ontario trail system is fairly well developed. French speaking Quebec offers great riding as well with a European twist, and the Sacacomie Area north of Montreal was an awesome place that seemed a world away even though it was only a couple hours north of the city. Even the Atlantic hugging Eastern Islands offer their own unique riding opportunities with huge forests, stream crossings, and lots of rocks.
With one of the world’s largest countries, greatly differing geography in each region, and huge, unexplored, and even uncharted areas, Canada is chock full of awesome riding and you’ll rarely meet another group on the trails. You could probably find a trail from the shores of the Pacific to the Arctic Circle and all the way to the Atlantic in Canada. Sounds like an awesome ride!
GEORGIA – Durhamtown Plantation
Durhamtown offers the total off-road experience. With SIX motocross tracks, two peewee tracks, a dirt drag strip, mud pits, a dirt oval track, a European style Gran Prix course, and over 200 miles of trails, you’ll never get bored here. They’ve got riding for all tastes and skill levels and on the trails expect a little of everything from tight trees, to mud, to rocks. Some trails are single track and some open to all vehicles, but most require one-way traffic for everyone’s safety. The tracks and trails are built on a base of red, Georgia clay so they hold up well without getting completely rutted, but the red clay will leave its telltale mark on light colored riding gear.
Located about an hour from Augusta, Georgia, Durhamtown has camping, cabins, and RV rentals for your stay, an on-site lodge with a restaurant, a large, well-stocked pro-shop with extra parts, and if you don't have your own machine, they have a huge rental fleet of ATVs, Dirt Bikes, and Side x Sides. Just as important, they have the safety gear to go with it. Durhamtown is more than just a ride area, however, and if you like hunting and fishing, you’ll be at home there also. They have deer, wild hog, turkey, small game, and two, well stocked ponds to fish from. As usual, they've got all the gear you need, but if you would just rather shoot, they have a practice range that covers everything from 25 to 300 yards and a skeet shooting range as well.
We don't know of anyplace else quite like Durhamtown Plantation. They have everything you could possibly need for a day, a weekend, or even a year of riding.
RIDE AREA WRAPUP
By no means is our list of ride areas complete and there are thousands of miles of trails, dunes, and desert to explore. Here are a few other suggestions.
These two sites have an excellent database of trails across the country and can get you started on your adventure:
California – California has the four jewels of off-road adventure: mountains, desert, sand, and surf! Try any of the forest trail systems (i.e. Rubicon Trail), or major riding areas like Glamis, Pismo Beach, Dumont, or Gorman. Desert riding is particularly popular, and we recently tested the trails around the sleepy, former mining town of Randsburg while staying at Goats Sky Ranch. The high mountain trails near Big Bear offer excellent rock climbing challenges with spectacular views. Wherever you go, you can find great riding in the Golden State.
IDAHO – Awesome Mountain Riding – Whether it’s the St. Anthony Dunes or incredible natural beauty of the mountains such as those near Wallace, there is plenty to explore in Idaho. Check out the great site below for complete trail info.
Oregon & Washington – This is real West Coast riding as it was meant to be with beautiful northwest forests, and you can go from sand, to forest, to desert all in the same ride. In Oregon try the Coos Bay and the Florence Dunes on the shores of the Pacific. Further inland go for the awesome Jackson Hills riding area near Medford and ride to the mountain top as we recently did.
When in Washington, explore the Capital Forest trails and once again work your way through challenging and beautiful trails as you climb ever higher. Along the way, you’ll find water, off-cambers, a little dust, tight trails, rocks, and logs, but the views from the top of the mountain are awesome!
www.waatva.org/Trails.html - GREAT site. Info. on trails for Washington, Idaho, and Oregon
South Dakota – The Black Hills! Tons of trails, great riding, and incredible scenery. Start in Rapid City, SD, check out Mt. Rushmore, and explore the back country. Stop at the Nemo store for lunch one day. We can't wait to go back to S.D.!
Arkansas & Oklahoma – Only a couple miles from Waynoka, OK., the Little Sahara Dunes have been a favorite Midwestern destination for years. With 1,500 acres and camping available, it’s a great place to spend a weekend. Other areas include the Ouachita National Forest in
Minnesota – You would expect a state that two of the sport’s major manufacturers (Arctic Cat & Polaris) call home to offer plenty of riding, and Minnesota does not disappoint. Between private ride areas and those managed by the state or local officials, you can find a place to ride nearly anywhere. In the South, you’ll find hardwood trails. In the North are cedars, lakes, and mining territory. Try the Iron Range mining country north of Duluth and expect friendly locals, lots of trails, and plenty of places to explore.
Pennsylvania – One of the best states for ATV & UTV lovers! Lots of trails, hilly terrain in most areas, forests, rocks, and mud. The Mines & Meadows ride area has all that with one added twist; you can even ride through an old, underground coal mine! Try the Rock Run recreation area as well.
Arizona – A rock climber and desert explorer’s dream! Thousands of miles to explore and terrain that can be mountain trails, canyons, sand washes, or desert. Try the Boulders OHV area for excellent desert riding complete with cactus, desert plants and wildlife.
Missouri – Missouri offers a dizzying combination of riding areas, some National Forest and some private, but wherever you go, there is a great riding area only a stone’s throw away. Try the Chadwick Motorcycle and ATV area, the Mark Twain National Forest, and the St. Joe State Park. Expect stream crossings, rocky bluffs, shaded trails, and great woods riding.