By Brad Lane
There’s nothing quite as thrilling as taking out an ATV for an adventure. Spread across the state of Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources operates six OHV parks that welcome all sorts of off-road vehicles and levels of riders. Enjoy a variety of terrain, and vast open space at these off-roading locations. To get those wheels turning toward a fun journey, check out these six great ATV off-roading spots in the state.
Located on the western edge of Iowa, the River Valley OHV Park features 23 miles of off-road track that explores over 190 acres of rolling terrain next to the Missouri River. You can expect some sandy track at River Valley, as well as a few hills and manicured berms along the way. Whether your transportation of choice is an off-road motorcycle or an ATV, it’s easy to spend all day exploring what this OHV park has to offer. River Valley is open year-round, but the trails are subject to close due to inclement weather or poor conditions, and it’s best to check on the status of the trails through the Iowa DNR before heading out.
Located between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, near the small town of Solon and Lake Macbride State Park, Lakeview OHV Park is one of the top OHV destinations in the state of Iowa. Featuring multiple tracks to facilitate all levels of riders, the trails at Lakeview also feature a varying terrain including loose sand, hard-packed dirt and mud bogs to make your way out of. Lakeview is a popular place to play, but with over 160 acres to explore, there is plenty of room for everyone to explore. Camping is not allowed at the OHV trail system itself, but Lakeview is located within short distance to some of the best campgrounds in Iowa at the neighboring state park.
Located in the northwest section of Iowa, Nicholson-Ford OHV Park provides 20 miles of woodland trails that are free to explore year-round. In proximity to the Iowa River, the Nicholson-Ford trails tend to reflect the near-water environment it finds itself in, and can at times produce stagnant conditions and many dry and wet creek bed crossings to mix things up. Noted as a great place for beginners to ride, even expert OHV riders can find something they like in the large length of trails.
Located at what was once a working rock quarry, the Rathbun OHV Park features a unique set of trails that wind and loop through the land, crossing dirt, rock, and many different features. The 125 acres encompassing Rathbun OHV Park has something for every rider in your family to enjoy, including expert-only tracks to practice for competitions, a tot lot for the littler riders in your life, and roughly 20 miles of trail in total that covers everything in between. The entire facility is in proximity to Rathbun Lake, which provides plentiful views throughout your ride and a unique opportunity to cool off at the end of a hot summer day.
Noted around the state as one of the best places to find off-road trails, Gypsum City is located two miles southeast of Fort Dodge at what was once an active gypsum mine. Thanks to state and community support, Gypsum City has grown over the last two decades to include miles of trails designed specifically for off-road motorcycles and vehicles. Featuring rolling hills and perimeter trails, Gypsum City is welcoming for all levels and styles of riders. Despite this being a popular place during every weekend of warm weather, there is plenty and more to explore to let everyone enjoy the space.
Encompassing 300 acres and including a public camping area to stay the night, the Tama County OHV Park is one of the largest in Iowa, and provides some of the best hard-packed trails to really let the throttle out. The 15 miles of trails found at the Tama County OHV Park spend a lot of time exploring the woodlands surrounding the Iowa River, including a handful of scenic bridge crossings. Alongside the winding routes through the trees, the park also provides 15 miles of perimeter trails to explore, as well as a kid track and motocross specific trail. With a camping area connected to the trails and staging space, the Tama County OHV Park is the perfect place to stay the weekend and rev your engines from morning to night.
*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.