Great weather and spectacular autumn leaves make these 5 destinations some of the best fall ATV rides in the United States.
By David Halsey
Of the four seasons, fall is by far the most popular for riding ATVs that seat one or two people, and “side-by-sides” that seat two to six. The cooler temperatures and spectacular autumn leaves make for great riding all across the country. Here are five outstanding ATV trail systems to add to your bucket list for fall riding, with your own or rented vehicles.
New England is world-renowned for its fall colors and visitor attractions, and Ride The Wilds has everything you need to see them from the seat of an ATV. Dedicated in 2013, this system has over 1,000 miles of interconnected trails in northern New Hampshire. Along the entire route, Ride The Wilds is connected to small towns that welcome ATV riders to enjoy their hospitality, fall festivals, and rider services, including food, fuel and lodging.
Ride The Wilds is popular with both novice and experienced riders. The terrain varies from easy-riding gravel roads and trails that wind their way through scenic woods and pastures, to routes for more experienced riders up into the mountains of New Hampshire, with many scenic stops for panoramic views of fall colors.
The Ride the Wilds website has many resources to help you plan your trip, including information on registering your vehicle or renting one, plus dining, shopping, attractions and lodging.
Quick Tip: Trail conditions change with the weather on this fall adventure. Carry both a dust mask and rain gear to keep the fun rolling no matter what Mother Nature sends your way.
TrailsHeaven is the name of the website for Hatfield-McCoy Trails. And for good reason. This expansive, professionally managed trail system offers over 600 miles of trails for off-road enthusiasts of all skill levels. Riders trailer their vehicles here from across the country, knowing they will experience a wide variety of fun, scenic and sometimes challenging routes, with heavenly views of the mountains of southern West Virginia.
Hatfield-McCoy is actually seven different trail systems, all connected to ATV-friendly towns where riders can find great places to eat and shop, with generous doses of Southern hospitality. Trails range from the scenic mountain views of the Pinnacle Creek Trail, to the tight and twisting trails of the Bearwallow Trail. Bed & Breakfasts, cabins and campgrounds are plentiful, all welcoming ATV owners year-round.
The Hatfield-McCoy website takes you step-by-step through trip planning, including how to get a trail permit, choose the right trail for your experience level, find lodging to match your group size and budget…and more.
Quick Tip: There’s a good chance you’ll encounter puddles and mud on any ATV outing. Store your smartphone, tablet and chargers in a waterproof case or plastic sandwich bag while riding.
Paul Bunyan is a giant of American folklore. Just south of Bemidji, Minnesota, site of the famous statue of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox, stands the giant of all ATV trail systems in the Midwest. The Round River Drive Trail : attracts ATV and dirt bike riders from across the state as well as neighboring states and Canadian provinces.
Here, they can ride up to 100 miles of signed and maintained trails, choosing easy-riding forest roads winding their way through pine forests, or narrow, twisting, rock-filled ATV trails designated as moderate to difficult. An additional 100 miles of single-track trails are open to off-highway motorcycles only.
The public trailhead features a large parking area that accommodates RVs and trailers, with a few spots for free camping, no reservations required. The Stompin' Grounds Campground and Lodge, located right off the trail on the southern end of Round River Drive, caters to day-trippers and week-enders, with free parking and a wash station, plus a bar and grill, and many reservable campsites.
Quick Tip: This trail has a lot of rocks and boulders. Wear over-the-ankle boots for good balance and foot protection.
Riding the trails of Moab is unlike anything else in the country. This area of Utah has hundreds of miles of unique trails on “slickrock,” with breathtaking views of rock formations sculpted by the wind. Choose any of 30 trails, from easy-riding routes geared toward families new to the sport to difficult trails that challenge the technical skills of the most experienced riders.
There are many steep climbs and descents, with dramatic views of La Sal Mountains, Abyss Canyon, and the Colorado River. Want to ride but don’t own an ATV? There are adventure tour companies where you can rent a side-by-side ATV or 4-wheel drive truck and head out on your own or sign on to a guided trail ride of non-stop outdoor adventure.
Quick Tip: When you see a trail of dark, rubber residue on the rocks, consider taking that line, especially if you are a novice rider. It may not be the only route, but it could be the safest.
It’s official name is Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. But everyone calls this open riding area of golden sand by the name of the local community: Glamis.
Located in the southeast corner of California and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Glamis is the largest mass of sand dunes in the state. While you won’t find fall foliage here, in late fall, Glamis is a sight to see, for the variety of ATVs, side-by-sides and sand rails riding and racing each other, and the beauty of the dunes that reach heights of 300 feet above the desert floor. A note of trivia: these sand dunes were featured in the movies Star Wars and The Scorpion King.
The Glamis dunes stretch for 40 miles, with most of the riding activity in the area south of Highway 78. You’ll need to know the rules and regulations before riding there. Two “must-haves” are a riding permit and a tall safety flag, so other riders can see you coming over the top of a dune. Fall is a great time to get out to Glamis and enjoy a roller coaster ride on the sand.
Quick Tip: Dunes are constantly changing. Use stationary landmarks or a GPS to help you navigate. And always ride with caution, watching for ravines, depressions and steep drop-offs formed by blowing sand.
About The Author: David Halsey has been riding ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles for 50 years, and writing about them for 35 years. He is the president of the 400-member Woodtick Wheelers ATV/OHM club in Minnesota and writes a monthly newsletter for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council.