Trail and Travel Special - Born to Ride
A Great Riding Area Near You!
Written By:John Arens
Everybody loves to explore new trails 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’s a vacation your family will remember forever.
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 awesome riding someplace and in the west British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful. The Whistler area is about 3 hours north of Vancouver and is a great place to start your adventure. Further east 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. Centrally located, the province of Ontario offers excellent riding, and we loved the trails near Elliot Lake on the north side of Lake Huron, and the Ontario trail system is fairly well developed and you can find excellent trails practically anywhere.
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 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. 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!
The most famous trail system in the off-road world is undoubtedly the Hatfield-McCoy system of West Virginia. Excellent partnership between local business leaders, government officials, and riding enthusiasts has resulted in fantastic outdoor recreation with economic benefit to rural communities.
There are six Hatfield-McCoy trail systems: Rockhouse, Buffalo Mountain, Bearwallow, Indian Ridge, Little Coal, and Pinnacle Creek, and after trying much of the system, we’re happy to report the riding is excellent. One section at a time, they are being interconnected forming a vast trail network with the ultimate goal of being the premier riding destination east of the Mississippi. There are trails for riders of all skill levels and whichever system you choose we promise it won’t be your typical flat Iowa cow path. Each of its six trail systems is open 365 days a year to ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs.
Many of the trail systems also offer community 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 Ashland ATV Resort. The Hatfield-McCoy system also has one of the best web sites we’ve ever seen for a ride area and everything else you could need can be found there. If you haven't already visited Hatfield-McCoy, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
http://www.trailsheaven.com/ Toll Free: 800-592-2217
TENNESSEE – Brimstone Recreation
If 20,000 acres and over 300 miles of trails aren’t enough, Brimstone is quickly becoming the country music capital of the off-road world. Not content to simply offer great riding, the people at Brimstone like to throw seasonal off-road festivals with major country stars holding a concert as part of the event.
The trails at Brimstone wind through hills and valleys, over rocks, across streams, and vary greatly. They’ve got trails for riders of all skill levels, they’re well marked and color coded, and thankfully, there is a great map as well. One look at the well marked map will give you an idea of just how enormous the area is and you will likely never see the same trail twice!
Brimstone is located in the town of Huntsville, Tennessee just off I-75. Local motels and restaurants welcome ATV riders and camping is also available. Primitive camping is available in the park but is limited during hunting season. The best way to go is to rent one of the excellent cabins on the property which include all the amenities you will need. A trail permit is required and is available by the day, weekend, or year, and with all they have to offer, it’s a bargain!
http://www.brimstonerecreation.com/ Toll-Free: 1-800-BRIMSTONE
INDIANA – The Badlands
Attica, Indiana may be a typical Midwestern farm town, but it has one major difference. Where the soybean fields end at the edge of town, the Badlands Off Road Park begins, tucked between neatly trimmed lawns and towering grain bins. A private campground adjoins the park and many park visitors stay for the weekend. For those who don’t camp, there are plenty of local lodging options, restaurants, and everything else you could need nearby.
The 800 acre Badlands Park is a little like riding in every part of North America all in one day and the park seems bigger than it actually is. There are large, sandy sections with good sized hills to climb, drops into northern forests, Deep South style creek crossings, mud bogs, rocks to climb, and much of the park is covered by a leafy, green hardwoods canopy. There are 5 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!
The Badlands Off Road Park is a great place to spend a day or even a weekend playing on every type of terrain and trail you could want, and they’re even open in the winter! We can’t wait to go back!
http://www.badlandsoffroad.com/ Toll Free Phone: 866.762.2981
GEORGIA – Rocky Creek ATV Trail
The Rocky Creek ATV Trail near Culloden, Georgia features a little bit of everything in a ride area. There are trails, rocks, rolling jumps and lots of mud! Don’t worry though; there are bypass routes so riders of every skill level can challenge themselves but still be safe. 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. There are also seven creeks that wind through the park, along with five ponds and mud pits.
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!
http://www.rockycreekatv.com/ Day: 888-581-2983 Night: 478-885-2296
MICHIGAN – Great Riding in the Great Lakes state
Michigan has a couple thousand miles of trails and it’s possible to explore forests, climb huge sand dunes, and venture down the shore of thousands of lakes all in one day. We’ve been to Silver Lake many times and as you crest the hills, the magnificent view is unobstructed across a green pine forest to the east, and to the west across the inviting, blue waters of Lake Michigan. The dunes are located near the summer town of Mears, Michigan, and there are shops with anything you could need, including ATVs to rent, and nearby hotels, campgrounds, and cafes all cater to off-road lovers.
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 photo or a quick swim in the cool, clear, and inviting 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.
BUNDY HILL OFF-ROAD is a new ride are in Southern Michigan just a stones throw from the Indiana and Ohio border near the little town of Jerome, Michigan. Unlike the northern trails, BUNDY HILL is an off-road park with a little of everything 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 spend a weekend.
With thousands of miles of trails, great off-road parks, like Silver Lake and Bundy Hill, and dozens of active clubs, Michigan is also the GREAT OFF-ROAD state.
SOUTH CAROLINA – Carolina Adventure World
Carolina Adventure World has quickly become one of the premier destinations for East Coast riders and many of the factories even debut new models here. With 2600 acres to explore, there are several tracks, over 100 miles of trails, creek crossings, hill climbs, mud bogs, and just about every type of terrain you could want. We’ve done a lot of testing here and while the riding is excellent, it's not the only thing to love. Throughout the year they hold special events from mud bogs to motocross races and there is something for everyone.
For time between rides, there is a well stocked pro shop, plenty of tasty stuff to munch on, a clean shower building, a bike wash, and even rocking chairs on the patio featuring an excellent view! Camp sites with power and water are available, and RV spots with full hookups are on site as well. Clearly, the Carolina Adventure World crew knows what riders need.
Carolina Adventure World is conveniently located just off I-77, 30 minutes north of Columbia, SC, and 50 minutes south of Charlotte, NC.
http://www.carolinaadventureworld.com/ phone: 803.482.3534
MAINE – The Great Northern Trail System
There is nothing like the cedar scent of a northern forest and Maine has the trails for you to experience it. With several thousand miles of trails in the state already, many developed as individual pieces one section at a time; they are being connected into what could become the longest trail system in the country. Cooperation between landowners (often mining and timber companies) and 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 system to explore.
Like many northern forest trails, parts of the Maine system pull double duty as logging haul roads and sled trails in the winter, with widely varying terrain from gentle hills to the steep and deep! Expect great scenery in every direction and a chance to see all types of wildlife including the occasional moose.
Vast territory can be a little intimidating and a guided tour can often show you the best sights. NORTH COUNTRY RIVERS will be happy to help and they can even arrange ATVs if needed! Their service is open year round and experienced guides will make sure you enjoy the adventure, and you can even go white water rafting after a long ride! Good things are happening in Maine!
KENTUCKY – Knott County’s Mine Made Paradise
Every area has its own unique industries and Eastern Kentucky is one of the country’s major coal suppliers, but after mining operations wrap up, local economies often suffer. Knott County and the State Government of Kentucky have taken a unique approach to mine reclamation, however; turn it back to nature and into a sustainable major recreation area! Mine Made Paradise is a vast – and at over 43,000 acres, we mean vast – ride area just outside of Hazard, Kentucky and it’s a model we hope to see repeated elsewhere.
Centrally located in the same geographic region as the Hatfield-McCoy system, the trails are very familiar and wind up, down, and around the hills. There are differences though, and in some areas the trails reminded us very much of Washington State or the Black Hills of South Dakota as they pass through dense pine forests. Supporting the new ride area is a local community well suited to all types of outdoor recreation with excellent restaurants and hotels, dealerships for parts, grocery shopping, and excellent roads to accommodate visitors. There is even a nice community building and training center on site for new riders! Excellent maps help you find your way around, and the long term plan calls for hooking up with the Hatfield McCoy system in West Virginia making the area even more of a “must-do” destination for off-road lovers.
NEVADA – Western Roundup
There is nothing like exploring new territory and one of the best places to discover part of the Old West is Elko, Nevada. There are two main trail systems out of Elko, the Spruce Mountain trail and the Merritt Mountain trail and we’ve tried both. Both offer excellent trails for riders of all skill levels with many elevation changes, sunflower covered meadows, exhilarating climbs, spectacular views, and rocky, snow capped peaks in the distance with green valleys down below.
The Elko Convention and Visitors Authority makes a considerable effort to accommodate all manner of outdoors enthusiasts and there’s as much to discover today as there has ever been in the area’s past. They even have a yearly ATV jamboree! From the wildlife outside of town to the nightlife inside town, there is something for everyone in Elko.
Nevada is also home to huge sections of open desert as well and you can ride point to point from town to town as we did on a recent ride from Big Bear, California to Las Vegas. Next up for us is a ride from Vegas to Reno! 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!
FLORIDA – The Off-Road Magic Kingdom!
Florida is chock full of adventure rides, but none are more fun than the state’s OHV parks. The Ocala North OHV Trail System offers many trails for ATVs, bikes, and UTVs, and we like the mix of terrain and challenges you will find. In some areas the trail wound tightly between trees and heavy scrub. In other sections we encountered oaks and an overhead canopy of hanging moss that created a unique tunnel effect. Pine forests were common throughout the system, but the one thing riders will find everywhere is sand and the Rangers do an excellent job of keeping the trails very well maintained.
The master plan for the system calls for many interconnecting trails 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, to 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 - so be aware of where you tie Sparky. Regardless of where you ride, 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
Lake George Ranger District: 352-625-2520
UTAH – Moab & Paiute Trail
Utah is chock full of great trails and off-road festivals, and it’s one of our favorite places to ride. The Paiute Trail and the Great Western trail system run through the state, and many riders choose Richfield as their base camp. The area is very rider friendly and as soon as you leave town limits, there are awesome trails with cliffs, canyons, open desert, and huge rock formations to explore. Climbing higher into the mountains will take you through quaking Aspens, dense pines, and past a beautiful lake. Some of the trails are quite challenging, but it’s a huge thrill to look at the endless views, awesome scenery, and trails you’ve conquered. We especially like the red rock canyons and with a careful eye, you can spot the century’s old drawings left by the Native Americans who told their story through their artwork.
Moab is famous for their unique rock formations as well, and you'll never run out of canyons and trails to explore. It’s rock crawling heaven, but there is something for everybody in Moab. From the desert floor to well above the tree line, the riding and scenery are fantastic, and once again the town in extremely ATV friendly. We guarantee you'll find memories for a lifetime in Moab and on the Utah trails.
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.
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, or you could try any of the open desert ride areas. We recently did a point to point ride from Big Bear to Las Vegas, and wherever you go you can find great riding in the Golden State.
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!
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.!
Oklahoma – Only a couple miles from Waynoka, OK, the Little Sahara dunes have been a favorite Midwestern destination for years. With 1500 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.
Idaho – Again incredible natural beauty of the mountains such as those near Wallace, but don't forget the popular St. Anthony dunes.
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, and 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 stones 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.
Tennessee – Coal Creek! We really like this former mining territory and there are tons of trails to explore! Ride to the top of the mountain for the best views.