Minnesota may be known as the land of 10,000 lakes (it’s actually around 11,000) but it’s also the land of dozens of fantastic trails for ATV riders. We’re sharing a few of the best and we’ll link you to the rest.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. National forest lands in Minnesota are open, with exceptions and rules, to ATV operation.
What are the Minnesota laws regarding ATVs?
In Minnesota, they classify OHVs (off-highway vehicles) as ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), OHMs (off-highway motorcycles) and ORVs (off-road vehicles). ATVs are further classified as Class 1 (ATVs 50 inches wide or less) or Class 2 (ATVs more than 50 inches wide but less than 65 inches). To make sure your vehicle is Minnesota-legal, read the regulations here.
You can use ATVs or UTVs for trail riding, off-road transportation, competition and other activities. But remember that how you ride affects other outdoor users, landowners and lawmakers. If you’re kind to the environment, courteous to others, respect private property and obey the law, you can have an amazing time riding Minnesota’s challenging and drop-dead beautiful trails.
Appleton Area Recreational Park
Appleton used to be a gravel mine but now it’s a huge, 330-acre OHV park with 20 miles of trails for riders of all skill levels. The city of Appleton even allows ATVs to travel on select, posted roads. The trails include stairs and rock crawls so you can have fun with your lifted suspension as you clear the rocks and climb the stairs.
- 15 miles of ATV/OHM Trails
- 2.5 mile OHM Practice track, 3 Enduro tracks
- Youth ATV training course
- Youth OHV practice track available
- Off-Road Motorcycle Trails, Enduro Trail, Jumps, Sand Dunes, and Other OHV Activities
Open: Sunrise to Sunset
Forest Riders Trail
The Forest Riders Trail delivers a tour of some of Minnesota’s scenic, remote state forests: Two Inlets, Smoky Hills, Paul Bunyan and White Earth. Starting near Park Rapids, the trail has a little bit of everything, from gently curving forest roads to more challenging terrain. Stay overnight at campsites in the Paul Bunyan and Two Inlets state forests, or at any of the many area resorts and hotels. A set of good, all terrain tires will help you navigate the over 122 miles of trails.
Vehicles allowed: All ATVs, including Class 2
Trail availability: May 1 – November 1
At a whopping 170 miles, the Fourtown-Grygle is among the state’s longest ATV trails. Much of the trail system follows county roads, ditch banks and existing trails. With generally flat and easy riding, Fourtown-Grygle isn’t the most challenging trail in Minnesota—but it’s the perfect spot to lay on the gas and test your engine. Much of the trail system follows county roads, township roads, ditch banks and existing trails. County ordinances allow ATVs to operate on the far right side of the travel lane; highway-licensed vehicles share parts of the route so use caution. Keep an eye out for motorists with large side mirrors like these from Assault Industries.
Trail Use Designation: ATV/OHM (off-highway motorcycle)
Trail Attributes: Accessible to disabled
Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area
Considered Minnesota’s premier ATV park, Iron Range is the closest thing we’ve got to a playground for OHVs. Located in the heart of Minnesota’s mining country, the park’s 36 miles of trails range from rock crawls to sand and mud drags, and a tough-truck competition course. Trails accommodate easy rides to some of the gnarliest riding in the state. With the hilly terrain, you’ll also get some primo vistas at the top of the hill. A set of portals will help you climb both rubble piles and longer inclines.
Trail Use Designation:
- ATV (All-terrain vehicles)
- OHM (Off-highway motorcycle)
- ORV (Off-road vehicles)
- Accessible to disabled
- Can accommodate groups of 45 or more
Located way up north in Beltrami County, Timber Trails is a network of five trail systems that connect and provide access to businesses, wilderness and plenty of wildlife. The 114 miles of trail are easy riding, but this trail is less about testing your machine’s limits than it is about getting into the backcountry and seeing wildlife including bear, deer, wild turkey, grouse, fox, porcupine and wolves. If you’re riding into October and November, the weather can get into the teens and single digits in northern Minnesota, so it pays to have a cab heater or enclosure for longer rides.
Vehicles Allowed: All ATVs, including Class 2
Trail availability: May 1 – November 1
Minnesota ATV and UTV laws: Stuff you need to know before you ride
Do you need an ATV license in Minnesota?
If you were born after July 1, 1987, Minnesota law requires you to complete an approved ATV safety course. After you have completed your safety course, you will receive a safety certificate, which you must carry whenever you are riding an ATV on Minnesota’s public lands.
What are the equipment requirements for ATVs and UTVs?
Whenever your ATV or UTV is operated on public land or streets you must have:
- Operable brakes.
- A throttle that returns the engine to idle when pressure is removed.
- A muffler, with a spark arrester, that keeps noise below 96 dB from 20 inches.
Do you need to wear helmets and seat belts?
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources strongly encourages ALL ATV riders to wear a proper helmet, eye protection, gloves and over-the-ankle boots when riding any ATV. If you’re less than 18 years old, you always have to wear a safety helmet approved by the commissioner of public safety. No bike helmets or in-line skating helmets are allowed, only DOT approved helmets.
Can you drink in a UTV or ATV in Minnesota?
ATVs are exempt from Minnesota’s open container law unless they are being operated on roadways or shoulder of a roadway that is not part of a grant-in-aid trail or trail designated for that vehicle.
Are UTVs or ATVs allowed in Minnesota state parks?
Absolutely, depending on the park. Check here to see which parks are open to what kinds of vehicles.
Can you ride a UTV or ATV in ditches in Minnesota?
You definitely can. According to Minnesota law, A person may operate a class 1 all-terrain vehicle in the ditch or the outside bank or slope of a trunk, county state-aid, or county highway unless prohibited under paragraph (d) or (f). (3) on the bank or ditch of a public road right-of-way on a designated class 2 all-terrain vehicle trail.
However, you may not drive an ATV within the right-of-way (ditch) of a state or county road from April 1 to August 1 in the agricultural zone. This does not apply to ATVs licensed and used for agricultural purposes.
Is it legal to drive a UTV or ATV on the street in Minnesota?
Again, according to Minnesota law: A person may operate an all-terrain vehicle registered for private use and used for agricultural purposes on a public road right-of-way of a trunk, county state-aid, or county highway in this state if the all-terrain vehicle is operated on the extreme right-hand side of the road, and left turns may be made from any part of the road if it is safe to do so under the prevailing conditions. DOT-approved tires or a street legal kit while not required in MN, can keep you safer when riding on roadways.
Side By Side Stuff is always on your side
If you’re looking for a combination of challenging trails and jaw-dropping scenery, Minnesota is one heck of a great place to ride. And we’ll keep you up to date on everything you need to know about trail riding in the Northstar State.