America’s Great Outdoors is filled with amazing off-road destinations for ATV and UTV enthusiasts. Narrowing them down to the best isn’t easy, and different people will come up with different lists. However, we’ve done our best to present 11 favorites selected for the size, scenery, and range of opportunities. Some of these are trails, and others are areas with extensive trail systems.
Alpine Loop, Colorado
Honestly, we could ride an entire blog on Colorado’s off-road offerings. Located in the colorful and rugged San Juan Mountains in the southwestern part of the state, the Alpine Loop is a journey you don’t want to miss. Highlights include waterfalls, wildflowers, mining ruins, high mountain passes (Engineer Pass is at 13,000’!), and spectacular mountain scenery. Access to the system is from the towns of Ouray and Silverton on the west side and Lake City from the east. All have a selection of lodging and restaurants, and you can rent Jeeps and ATVs from outfitters if you don’t have your own. Set aside a full day or two to explore this area.
Cooke City, Montana
Just outside this tiny town at the northeastern edge of Yellowstone National Park is a trail system linking high mountain passes in the Absaroka and Beartooth Ranges, some at nearly 10,000’. Some of this is true ATV fare that even stock Jeeps will have trouble managing. The mountain views and wildflowers are stunning, and there are plenty of mining ruins to check out. Keep an eye open for wildlife such as foxes, moose, and grizzly bears. (Don’t forget pepper spray!) For more adventure, drive the extremely rugged Goose Lake Road to its end and then hike past beautiful Goose Lake to a mountain pass overlooking the Grasshopper Glacier.
Great Divide Basin, Wyoming
From South Pass and Bridger Pass in Wyoming, something odd happens to the Continental Divide: it splits. The land in between is called the Great Divide Basin, part of the larger Red Desert. This rugged and remote wilderness isn’t heavily traveled. Trunk and spur roads provide access to destinations such as the Oregon Buttes, the Honeycomb Buttes, Boar’s Tusk, and, maybe most appealing to off-roaders, the Killpecker Sand Dunes, the eastern portion of which is open to motorized use. The region also has abundant populations of wild horses and pronghorns, North America’s fastest land mammal, which can hit 60 mph!
Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, West Virginia
For many ATV/UTV riders, this place needs no introduction. With more than 600 miles of trails created specifically for ATV usage, this is a paradise for off-roaders. You can also enjoy the trails, forests, and mountain views all year long and in any weather conditions.
Imperial Sand Dunes, California
Most often seen while driving by on Interstate 8 at the southernmost end of California, the Imperial Sand Dunes are one of the best dune destinations in the country. In fact, it’s the largest area of sand dunes in the U.S. open to motorized recreation. With more than 20,000 acres to explore and some dunes reaching 300’ in height, you’re guaranteed to have a blast here! Although the recreation area is open year-round, summer is not a good time to go because of the high temperatures. Air temperatures of over 110 F are common, with surface temperatures even hotter!
Joe State Park, Missouri
At this park, more than 2000 acres are open to off-roaders. Usage areas include hills, woodlands, sand flats, and other play areas. Dirt, mud, sand, and water crossings all add to the fun and the challenge. Don’t miss this underhyped gem!
Maine is not a trail, of course, but the state has more that 6000 miles of legal ATV/UTV trails! Difficulty levels of all types are widely available, and the terrain frequently features wooded areas, mud, dirt, and water crossings. Aroostook County, occupying the northern tip of Maine and with over 1200 miles, might be the top destination. Watch out for the moose; collisions don’t go so well for riders!
Unofficially known as the off-road capital of the world, this town in southern Utah’s amazing slickrock country has a full range of lodging, dining, and vehicle rental options. Hundreds of trails constituting thousands of miles in the region take you to otherworldly rock formations, soaring canyon walls, natural arches, sweeping vistas, and more. Take some time to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, among the crown jewels in our park system. You can’t ride ATVs there, but they do have rugged roads open to Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs, and there are great hiking trails.
Ocala National Forest, Florida
Just north of family-friendly Orlando, this national forest has over 200 miles of dedicated ATV trails. Highlights include lakes, rivers, springs, and wildlife. And after a thrilling trail session, the beach isn’t far away!
Paiute Trail, Utah
Yes, another Utah entry. Utah, like Colorado, could generate its own off-roading blog. Located in south-central Utah, the Paiute Trail is the country’s largest designated ATV and UTV system. There are more than 2000 miles of trails running through national forest and BLM land, with mountain views, forests, lakes, and photogenic rock formations. The main loop takes 25 hours to complete. The Paiute Trail will keep you busy!
Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado
Another one from Colorado to finish our list! Just outside Ouray in the San Juan Mountains, Yankee Boy Basin is renowned for its wildflower displays, especially the state flower, the blue columbine. But that’s not all. There are mining ruins, mountain views, crystal-clear streams, and even an alpine lake. The road gets narrower and steeper as it gets closer to its end, and most stock trucks and SUVs can’t make it all the way, so it’s truly suited for ATVs. The road finally ends at 12,000’, where a short hike to Blue Lakes Pass yields unforgettable views. If you’re feeling more adventurous, take on the scrambling route to the summit of 14,157’ Mount Sneffels, one of Colorado’s iconic peaks. Expert hikers only!
This is just a small sampling of the awesome off-road destinations this country has to offer, some of the best of the best. Wherever you go, remember to have the proper equipment, ride safely, and stick to areas designated for motorized use. Let’s keep these amazing places accessible for generations to come!