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Most of the country’s national parks look like the perfect place to crank up your dirt bike. The winding path, cutting through picturesque woods, is always very inviting, but is it legal? Are you allowed to ride in any park you choose?
You can’t ride dirt bikes in national parks. However, the laws will vary from one state to the other. Most states have banned dirt bikes and other ATVs from national parks, but some have provided recreation areas, allowing some ATV use in some parks, National Forests, and BLM land.
The rest of the article will take a look at what you need to know about riding dirt bikes in national parks and the laws guiding them. You’ll also see some of the most popular parks in the country that allow dirt bikes.
Laws Guiding National Parks and OHV Use
Two main laws are guiding against the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) such as dirt bikes on federal lands. The first one is the Executive Order 11644, February 8, 1972, which defined the types of banned vehicles from federal lands. A subsequent amendment to the order, E.O. 11989, May 24, 1977, removed military and emergency vehicles from the definition of banned vehicles.
However, the law gave the administrators of any federal land the authority to immediately close off a trail or area if dirt bikes and other OHVs are causing or can damage vegetation, soil, or wildlife in an area.
So, if there is no way to accommodate OHV activities in a park without endangering flora and fauna, you can be sure the park will get closed off to dirt bikes, quads, and other such vehicles.
National Parks and Dirt Bikes Today
The National Park Service currently limits OHV use in the park system to these four land units:
- National preserves
- National lakeshores
- National seashores
- National recreational areas
The regulations guiding the service also require the service to make special rules, considering public comment and environmental impact analysis to come up with routes and areas for dirt bikes and other OHVs in the different parks. Their policies allow OHV use in locations that won’t have any adverse effects on the land’s cultural, natural, scenic, and aesthetic values.
The National Park Service is designed to provide enjoyment to the public, but they are also charged with conservation. Presently, they always tend to favor conservation when there’s a conflict between recreational use and preservation.
This is why the National Park Service has few lands open to dirt bikes and other OHVs compared to other agencies in charge of federal land management like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. In 2013, the National Park Service reported over 286 million recreational visits for 2012, using OHVs soaring in popularity.
They have since designated 12 out of the 398 park units as open for ATV use. These units include the following:
- Cape Lookout National Seashore
- Padre Island National Seashore
- Gulf Islands National Seashore
- Fire Island National Seashore
- Assateague National Seashore
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore
- Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
- Cape Cod National Seashore
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Gateway National Recreation Area
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- Curecanti National Recreation Area
Different levels of use are also allowed in each of these parks.
Riding Dirt Bikes in National Forest and BLM Lands
There are no collective regulations for dirt bike or general OHV use in National Forests. This is because each forest has its specific restrictions.
This makes things a bit difficult to find out what works where, but the National Forest Service is unrivaled when it comes to providing information for where ATVs or OHVs are permitted. All you need to do is visit the specific National Forest website to see what is allowed.
Don’t know the website? A quick Google search should show you the website. Once there, click on the “Recreation” tab on the left, and then choose “OHV Riding” to see all the details you need. You can also use this resource on the Motor Vehicle Use Map for each National Forest. Everything is organized by state, making it easy to find the specific forest you’re looking for.
With BLM lands, there’s a lot more freedom on where you can ride dirt bikes. Only 6% of the BLM land (13.1 million acres) is closed off to OHV use. On the remaining lands, OHV use is restricted to either specific trails or completely free of any restrictions.
If you’re in Alaska, the bulk of the BLM lands are very much open to using, as most of them are not designated. To find out exactly what each BLM land permits is more difficult, but the BLM maps site does a decent job.
The Best Location for a Legal Dirt Bike Park Experience
Are you looking for the perfect place to go for an outdoor adventure with your dirt bike without worrying about breaking the law? You’ll find some of the best below:
Taylor Park, Colorado
Taylor Park is a top dirt bike riding location that attracts many enthusiasts all year round. This mountain playground has everything you need for a great riding experience. When you want a break for your bike, you can go fishing or unwind at the designated camping grounds.
Windrock Park, Tennessee
Windrock Park holds 300 miles of trails spread over 72,000 acres. It’s the largest privately owned park in the country, welcoming all kinds of OHVs all year round.
There are trails for riders of all experience levels, so you should research carefully before deciding on the park areas to explore. Stairsteps, gavel washes, mountainside trails, it has it all. The knowledgeable locals on the ground will guide you anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to be adequately prepared.
Red River Motorcycle Park
As the name implies, this park offers over 2,500 acres geared towards dirt bikes and motorcycles. You’ll find a wide selection of moderate to advanced trails to test your skills, with surfaces made of sand, clay, rocks, etc. However, the park is only open on weekends.
The Grand Canyon National Park Arizona
The trails in this National Park are some of the most challenging you’ll experience. It’s divided into a North and South Rim, with the latter typically the busier.
The North is the best if you are an experienced rider looking for a little or no disturbance while riding. However, the North Rim isn’t safe in the winter as the snow can get very deep, making it impossible to get around, let alone ride your bike.
These are just a few outdoor dirt bike trials that deliver an exhilarating experience. As you’ve seen above, most of them are not protected by the National Park Service. However, you’re sure to enjoy an experience similar to what you’ll find in most of the National Parks, or better, especially compared to the National Seashore Park units in the list above.
The National Park Service’s regulations mean you can’t ride dirt bikes in most of the 398 National Parks. However, some of the parks have been designated for some OHV use. Go over the 12 of them listed above to see if they are close to you and also have bike trails worthy of your experience level.
If you are just looking for a great outdoor experience on your bike, you can explore the National Forests and BLM land in your area using the tips we’ve covered above. Alternatively, you can visit some of the private or local parks in your area.