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Trail and Travel - ATV Illustrated's Favorite Ride Areas!

Find A Place To Ride Near You!
Written By: 
John Arens

location.2010.canada.honda-rancher.parked.by-lake.jpgEverybody loves to explore a new ride area, and regardless of where you live there is almost certainly a great riding area within a days drive. With summer here it's time to load up the truck and trailer, gather up your family and riding buddies, and head out for a little vacation spent exploring unknown territory. We've picked out a few of our favorites, and it sure beats standing behind sleeveless mullet man in a sweltering, never ending line for the Tilt-A-Whirl!

Canada

Some of the most beautiful, most remote, and best riding we have ever experienced has been in Canada. With a country that spans a big chunk of the northern hemisphere there is bound to be good riding someplace, and if you were to throw a dart at the map you would almost certainly find a great trail nearby. Out west the Canadian Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful, and the Whistler area is a great place to start. In case your cable was out last winter that's where they held the Olympics about 3 hours north of Vancouver. We would LOVE to go back there anytime! The provinces of Alberta and Manitoba are loaded with big whitetails, big wheat farms and trails as well, but the terrain is more rolling than the mountain trails of the west. Ontario offers excellent riding, and we loved the trails near Elliot Lake on the north side of Lake Huron, but the Ontario trail system is fairly well developed and you can find excellent trails practically anywhere. French speaking Quebec offers great riding as well, 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.location.2010.hatfield-mccoy-trails.west-virginia.cub-cadet-volunteer.parked.outside-lodge.jpg

With one of the worlds largest countries, greatly differing geography in each region, and huge, unexplored, and even some uncharted areas, you can find any type of riding you're looking for in Canada. Whether it's rocky mountains, cedar lined marshes, or rolling terrain, they've got plenty of it, and they're very ATV friendly in many areas. Expect to see lots of wildlife from moose, to beavers, to bears as well! When the riding area stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and ranges north to the Arctic Circle and beyond, our best advice is to research the area you want to explore, and carry a GPS and bear spray. Keep your stick on the ice!

West Virginia – Trail Heaven! 

It may be a long way to the dunes, but Eastern riders have an answer to their sand slinging brothers of the west and it's called the Hatfield McCoy trail system. Recognizing the states natural beauty and mountainous terrain offered a unique opportunity for a new type of tourism, the West Virginia legislature and local government bodies worked together very proactively to help develop the Hatfield McCoy trail system, making it one of the most advanced in the country.location.2010.hatfield-mccoy-trails.west-virginia.cub-cadet-volunteer.riding.through-mud.jpg

There are six unique trail heads, and today much of the ongoing work is headed up by our buddy Mike Pinkerton. One section at a time they are completing a vast trail network with the goal of being the premier destination for trail riding east of the Mississippi. It's working, and on a recent trip to the Indian Ridge trail in southern West Virginia we met riders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Tennessee, and Hatfield McCoy is an easy days drive from just about anywhere on the east coast. We've tried much of the system already and we're happy to report the riding is excellent! Just as important to the adventure is the local support with restaurants, stores, camping, and great places to stay such as the Ashland ATV Resort, and system planners like Mike wisely placed trail heads in areas that could support the visiting riders. The Hatfield-McCoy system also has one of the best web sites we’ve ever seen for a ride area, and info on places to stay, restaurants, maps, camp grounds, and everything else you could need can be found there. If you haven't already visited Hatfield McCoy, you owe it to yourself to explore what is sure to be the off-road Mecca of the east. The system is rapidly becoming one of those "must do" adventures every rider recognizes and wants to try.

www.TrailsHeaven.com Visitors Center: 304-369-9342.

Utah – Moab & Paiute Trail

Western riders have long been exploring the rugged and beautiful mountains of Utah, often times on the Paiute Trail or Great Western trail system. Many riders choose Richfield as their base camp, and the town is more than ATV friendly! On one side of the highway the trail climbs up the side of a sometimes steep, rock infested trail that is a challenge, but also an incredible thrill as you look at the trail you just conquered and the awesome view below. As you climb higher into the mountains the trail wanders through quaking Aspens, around a beautiful lake, through dense pines, and generally provides beautiful riding.location.2010.moab_.utah_.honda-rancher.riding.on-trails.jpg

On the opposite side of the highway the terrain is very different and here you can explore red rock canyons, cliffs, open desert, and huge rock formations. If you're lucky you'll even spot the centuries old drawings of the Native Americans who inhabited the area and told their story in the fascinating rock drawings they left.

Moab is famous for their unique rock formations as well, and you'll never run out of places to explore here. Be sure to pack your camera because every twist of the trail presents an awesome photo opportunity! From the desert floor to well above the tree line the riding is great, and once again the town in extremely ATV friendly. We guarantee you'll find awesome adventure on the Utah trails.

www.atvutah.com

Tennessee– Brimstone! 

In the movie Field of Dreams Ray Kinsella converts part of his Iowa cornfield into a baseball diamond, and enthusiasts young and old are drawn to his field to capture a part of themselves and a game they loved in its purest form. Brimstone is an off road lovers Field of Dreams but also an enormous multiple use recreation area.

The Brimstone recreation area is nearly 20,000 acres and over 300 miles of trails that wind through the hills and valleys of Tennessee, making for some of the best riding anywhere. They’ve got trails and hills of every variety and skill level, and the trails are well marked and color coded beginning with green for the easy, to the most difficult in red, and some we would recommend being marked in black with skull and crossbones. Luckily, the Brimstone people have also put together the best trail map we’ve ever seen, and one look at the well marked map will give you an idea of just how enormous the area is. You will likely never see the same trail twice!location.2010.brimestone.tennesse.kawasaki-teryx.riding.over-rocks.jpg

Brimstone is located in the town of Huntsville, Tennessee, which is just 13 miles west of I-75 at exits 141 or 144, on Highway 63. There are several local motels that welcome ATV riders and are close to the trails, excellent local restaurants, and just about everything else you could need. Camping is also available and there is an organized camp ground located at Half Cabin, which is just off trail No. 3 and less than 15 minutes from the Brimstone office. Primitive camping is available in scattered locations throughout the park, but is limited in hunting season. Yes you can hunt here too! The best way to go, and the easiest, is to rent one of the excellent cabins on the property. You can ride right from the cabins, and they include all the amenities you could need. A trail permit is required for all this fun, and we think it is extremely reasonable at $15 per day, $30 for a week or $55 for a year. With all they have to explore and enjoy, it’s a bargain!

Hours: The Brimstone Area is open 24/7 Toll-Free Phone: 1-800-BRIMSTONE

www.brimstonerecreation.com

Indiana – The Badlands

Attica, Indiana is a typical Midwestern farm town with one exception. Just past the towering grain elevator is The Badlands Off Road Park. While many ride areas are looked upon as one step below a Leper colony on the social ladder, and placed as far from town as possible, the BADLANDS is right on the edge of town next to middle class houses with neatly trimmed lawns, just like the local country club! A private campground adjoins the property, and many park users make the most of it. Set up your tent, unload your machine, and relax by the fire for the evening. If camping is not your thing, there are plenty of local lodging options, restaurants, and everything else you could need nearby. location.2010.badlands.indiana.yamaha-raptor.jumping.in-air.jpg

We were amazed at the varying terrain within the 800 acre park. It's like a small slice of North America, and it makes the park seem much bigger than it actually is! Just off the main parking area is a large, sandy section with good sized hills to climb. After blasting up one sandy hill, jumping down the back side, and then far up the other side, we were suddenly dropped from open dunes to northern forest. The sandy main trail wound through trees, with other trails branching off in every direction. It was amazing how rapidly the territory changed, and before long, we were at a Deep South style creek crossing and mud bogs. Here the leafy hardwood’s canopy covered the trail and riders dove into the creek, carefully picking their lines as they paddled to the other side.

There are 5 main trails that wind through the facility, and we never saw all of them. 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, ranging from red, yellow, orange, green and white. Oddly enough, orange is the most difficult with yellow the easiest. There are even a couple motocross tracks as well!

The Badlands Off Road Park is a hidden gem. It’s like riding in nearly every region of the country, all in the same day, and they’re even open in the winter! We can’t wait to go back to the fields of Indiana!

www.badlandsoffroad.com Toll Free Phone: 866.762.2981

Georgia – Rocky Creek ATV Trail 

The Rocky Creek ATV Trail near Culloden, Georgia is a riding park with a little bit of everything. There are 19 miles of trails, hill climbs, rocks, and natural jumps, but if there is one thing they specialize in it is MUD. They LOVE it!

The trails at Rocky Creek are designed for riders of every skill level, and hill climbs even have several routes, including bypass routes so less experienced riders can challenge themselves but not be intimidated. Many of the trails are one-way only so there's not much worry about oncoming traffic, and the trails are open to ATVs, UTVs, and dirt bikes. With several mud pits on the property there are seven creeks that wind through the park, along with five ponds.

Unlike some parks that are open every day, at Rocky Creek they run a limited schedule, with the park open the 1st and 3rd weekend of each month. This allows them to make changes and ensure the property is in top shape.

Should you have a breakdown, they do keep normally replaced parts on hand, such as spark plugs, tire plugs, chain, etc. to get you back on the trail. Overnight guests can find free primitive camping within the park, but for those with RVs, there are 14 spaces with RV hookups, and even two rental cabins! Showers are available for all riders. Nearby are plenty of ATV friendly hotels as well, and just about everything else can be found in town.

Rocky Creek ATV Trail is a family park, and outdoor adventure with friends and family is what it is all about. Head to Rocky Creek and dive in!

www.rockycreekatv.com Day: 888-581-2983 Night: 478-885-2296 location.2010.carolina-adventure-world.south-carolina.lodge_.on-lake.jpg

South Carolina – Carolina Adventure World

Since it's opening only a few years ago, Carolina Adventure World has quickly become one of the premier destinations for East Coast riders of ATVs, UTVs, Dirt Bikes, and mountain bikes. In fact, we've been to many factory events here, and every year at least one of the manufacturers uses Carolina Adventure World to debut new models, or to test in secret. With 2600 acres, there is plenty of room to explore. Throughout the year there are many special events from mud bogs to motocross races held as well.

There are several tracks at Carolina Adventure World, tons of trails, creek crossings, hills to climb, mud bogs, and just about every type of terrain you could want to test yourself and your machine. We've done a lot of testing here, and many photos you've seen in ATV & SxS Illustrated have been shot at Carolina Adventure World. While the riding is excellent, it's not the only thing to love.

Carolina Adventure World also likes to make sure their guests are comfortable, and they've got an excellent pro-shop stocked with gear you might need, plenty of stuff to eat, a clean shower building, a bike wash, and even rocking chairs for relaxing between rides while taking in the awesome view. Camping is available with power and water sites, and RV spots with full hookups are available on site as well. The crew at Carolina Adventure World are riders also, and they know exactly what you need for a great adventure.

Located just two miles off I-77 at exit 46, Carolina Adventure World is only 30 minutes north of Columbia and 50 minutes south of Charlotte.

www.carolinaadventureworld.com phone: 803.482.3534location.2010.michigan.suzuki-kingquad.riding.on-trails.jpg

Michigan – Great Riding in the Great Lakes state

There are very few places where you can explore endless forest trails, climb huge sand dunes, and venture down the shore of thousands of lakes, including the worlds largest, all in one day. The area where that is all possible is Michigan.

Snowmobile riders have been enjoying a blanketed winter woods for years, and in many areas they're an enormously important contributor to local economies, but when the snow is gone, so are tourist dollars. Restaurants, hotels, and sleepy towns have found an economic source for the summer as well though, and it's been ATV riders to the rescue.

Michigan currently has a couple thousand miles of ATV & UTV trails, both in the Upper and Lower Peninsula. Below the enormous Mackinaw Bridge that connects the two halves the riding is excellent, and one place we have been riding for years is the Silver Lake dunes near the little town of Mears on the shores of Lake Michigan. The dunes are constantly being reshaped by the wind, and at the top the magnificent view is unobstructed across the green pine forest to the east, and to the west across the inviting blue waters of Lake Michigan. It's great to ride the trails and dunes in the morning, and then hit the waves in the afternoon. Just outside the entrance to the dunes are shops with anything you would need for a days riding, including ATVs to rent, and nearby hotels, campgrounds, and cafes all cater to the dune riders as well.

To the north, Michigan's Upper Peninsula (or U.P. for short) is an overlooked gem. Vast areas of the U.P. are heavily forested, and here just about every type of terrain can be found. To the far west are the Porcupine Mountains, to the south, little farms and logging camps, but in nearly every direction there is water, cedar and pine forests, and excellent opportunities to explore. There are hundreds of beautiful spots to stop for a quick swim in the cool, clear, and inviting waves of Lake Michigan, and we’ve done so on may occasions, often with an endless sandy beach to ourselves.

We’ve been trail riding around the world, but our best trailside memories are from the U.P. The scent of the cedars, the endless lakes, adventure around every turn of the trail, and the hospitality will always call us back to the U.P.

www.michigan.gov/dnr location.2010.north-country-rivers.maine_.side-x-sides.riding.on-trails.jpg

Maine – The Great Northern Trail System

Good things are happening in Maine! There are already several thousand miles of trails in the state, and one section at a time the individual loops and trails are being connected in what could potentially become the largest and longest trail system in the country. Cooperation between landowners (often timber companies) and land managers from the state and local governments has fostered positive trail development, and with over 90 active clubs pitching in, riders from across New England have an enormous trail system to explore.

We tried a small part of the Maine trails, and the geography offers rolling terrain, generally wide trails that also served as logging or fire roads in many areas, and great views in every direction. Its easy riding and covering over 100 miles in a day is not uncommon. It is also common to see moose wandering across the trail, so be aware! Bullwinkle will probably survive any unfortunate encounter, but you may not! A justifiably angry moose is not something you want to tangle with, especially after you just ran your bumper into his shin!

Such a vast territory to explore can be a little intimidating to some, and should you prefer a guided tour that can show you the best sights, and even provide ATVs if needed, NORTH COUNTRY RIVERS will be happy to help you out. Their service is open year round, and experienced guides can take you on multiple rides and insure you enjoy the adventure. They can even take you white water rafting to cool off after a long ride!

For more Maine riding info, please check out the North Country River web site, or an excellent site from a group called ATV Maine.

www.northcountryrivers.com 800-348-8871 www.atvmaine.org 207- 767-5412location.2010.elko-county.nevada.suzuki-kingquad.riding.on-trails.jpg

Kentucky – Mine Made Paradise

Every area of the country has its own unique industries, and a major one in Eastern Kentucky is coal mining. The trouble is, after the coal is extracted, the economic value to the area is effectively reduced. Reclamation replaces the mines and turns the territory back to nature, but progressive leaders from the community of Knott County Kentucky and from the State Government have developed a second, sustainable industry they intend to serve, and off road riders have found a home in the former coal fields. Mine Made Paradise is a new and vast – over 43,000 acres – ride area just outside of Hazard, Kentucky. In fact, it's not being officially opened until fall, but already they've got many trails constructed, a nice community building, and a one of a kind training center for new riders. The local community is well prepared to serve off roaders with excellent restaurants and hotels, a few dealerships for parts, grocery shopping, and excellent roads to accommodate visitors. Luckily we got to try some of the trails prior to the official opening, and we learned that the master plan calls for hooking up with the Hatfield McCoy system in West Virginia, expanding the multi state system even more.

The trails at Mine Made Paradise remind us very much of the Hatfield McCoy system, as they should since it's in the same geographic region, but also because one of the main guys responsible for trail development at Hatfield McCoy is now working on trail development here. We did find differences as well however, and in some areas the trails wind under the canopy of large pine forests, and the riding there was very much like riding in the Northwest such as in Washington or Oregon, or even the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Mine Made Paradise will be a trail riders paradise when it officially opens. We got to try it before the brochure, maps, or web site was completed, but by fall it will be a premier destination for off-road lovers, and another jewel in the crown of riding areas in this part of the country. Hats off to the people of Knott County, Hazard, and local and state officials for creative, insightful, and sustainable development from their natural resources, both under the ground, and on top of it.

www.knottcountyadventure.com 800-532-1622location.2010.elko-county.nevada.atvs_.riding.on-trails.jpg

Nevada – Western Roundup 

It's hard not to be a little envious of the early prospectors, mountain men, and cowboys in western movies. It was living on ones own terms, and it must have been exhilarating to crest a mountain ridge or lead your horse into a canyon and look out onto territory you had not seen before. 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.

The Spruce Mountain trail featured excellent riding for riders of all skill levels, and the trail offered many elevation changes. Some of the climbs were even quite challenging, but there were alternative route for the less experienced. Either way the views and riding are spectacular, with rocky, snow capped peaks in the distance and valleys down below.

The Merritt Mountain Trail is about an hour from Elko, and starts at Gold Creek Road. An information kiosk features route maps and valuable info, and trail markers even offer GPS info. The first part of the trail is accessible to passenger vehicles, but as the trail climbs higher it narrows, eventually winding through high desert, across a few small streams, and through fields of wild sunflowers. More than once we found ourselves admiring the breathtaking views instead of watching the trail, and that can be a mistake. Though most of the trail is rather smooth, there are plenty of challenges for riders of every skill level, and you can expect off-camber turns, hill climbs, and rocky ledges. Towering above everything are the mountains, and the trail climbs through the last of the pines, past the last of the snow cap, and finally ends at the peak where the view is captivating. Riding to the top of 9000-foot Merritt Mountain was a challenge and a thrill. Exploration and Elko go hand in hand, but there’s as much to discover today as there ever has been in the area’s history, and they even have a yearly ATV jamboree. From the wildlife outside of town such as antelope or eagles, to the nightlife inside town, there is something for everyone in Elko. We can’t wait to go back!

www.elkoatvjamboree.org www.exploreelko.comlocation.2010.ocala-north-ohv-trail-system.florida.kawasaki-bruteforce.riding.on-trails.jpg

Florida – The Off-Road Magic Kingdom!

Florida is up to its tanned neck in theme parks, but until the Pirates of the Caribbean really start shooting at the tour boats, no theme park ride is going to be as exhilarating as piloting an ATV through the Florida outback.

The Ocala North OHV Trail System offers many trails, some for ATVs, some for bikes, and some for UTVs, and there are plenty of exploration opportunities for all. Most trails accommodate a mix of riders and vehicles, but usually we had the trail to ourselves. We like the mix of terrain and challenges you will find on the Ocala trail system. In some areas the trail wound tightly between trees and heavy scrub. In another section we encountered oaks and an overhead canopy draped with hanging moss that made for cool temperatures and a unique tunnel effect. Pine forests were common throughout the system, but the one thing riders will find at every location is sand. Often sand trails can become very rough and whooped out, but the Rangers in charge of the Ocala Forest do an excellent job of keeping groomers on the trail, and from what found, the trails were very well maintained.

The master plan for the system calls for many interconnecting trails as well, and that means a huge expansion of areas to explore. The planned system will include routes that will take you to swimming, camping, and recreation areas, fuel and grocery stops, and will offer excellent riding. There are several camping areas in the Ocala National Forest 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 NEVER tie your best friend Sparky to a tree or post anywhere near water. Alligators are drawn to dogs like you are to Buffalo wings, and for the same reason: they’re tasty treats.

The Ocala National Forest trail system has a great deal to offer already, and they’re just getting started. Thanks to mother-nature, they may already have the most magical kingdom of all and we can think of no better mid winter vacation than several days of exploring the central Florida backcountry on our ATV. We promise it’ll be far more enjoyable than the Tea-Cup rides down the road!

Trail Condition Hotline: 866-607-2016 www.floridaohv.org

Lake George Ranger District: 352-625-2520

Ride Area Wrapup

By no means in our list of ride areas complete, and there are hundreds of great places to ride across the country. Here are several others we suggest you explore, and we can't wait to get back to.

California – California has always been an off road lovers dream despite having some rather stringent restrictions in some areas. They've got the four jewels of off-road adventure though: 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. They're bitchin' dude!location.2010.brimestone.tennesse.polaris-ranger.riding.on-trails.jpg

Oregon & Washington – This is real west coast riding as it was meant to be. Beautiful Northwest forests and you can go from sand, to forest, to desert all in the same ride. Try Coos Bay and Florence, Oregon.

Idaho – Again incredible natural beauty of the mountains such as near Wallace, but don't forget the popular St. Anthony dunes. One trip here and UDAHO for Idaho riding!

South Dakota – The Black Hills! Tons of trails, great riding, and great 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.!

Oklahoma – Where the wind comes whipping down the Little Sahara dunes!

Minnesota – Try da Iron Range mining country nort of Duluth der. Friendly locals, lots of trails, lots of places to explore, and even the Hockey hall of Fame!

Pennsylvania – Lots of trails, hilly terrain in most areas, and some rocks. There is even one area with an old mine to ride in at Mines & Meadows! Try Rock Run recreation area as well.

Arizona – A rock climber and desert explorers dream! Lots of places to explore, and terrain can be either canyons (including trails leading to the biggest one of all – the Grand Canyon), sand washes, or mountains.

Missouri – Try the Mark Twain National Forest. Streams, rocky bluffs, shaded trails, and great woods riding.