7 Impressive ATV Destinations in the Southwest

From the mountains to the desert, discover the region's premier ATVing gems. 

By Trent Jonas

7 Impressive ATV Destinations in the Southwest
Photograph Courtesy of Bryce Canyon Country

With wide open spaces, mountains, forests and stunning scenery, the Southwestern United States is an amazing place for ATV riders. The arid terrain actually invites the use of rugged ATVs and, therefore, there are thousands of miles of scenic off-road trails in the region. That being said, always remember that many of the trails are remote and water can be scarce, so always let someone know where you’re going, make sure you have adequate fuel, and carry plenty of water. When you head to the Southwest to ride, we think you’ll appreciate these impressive ATV destinations.

Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle Area, Flagstaff, AZ

In Northern Arizona, near Flagstaff, the Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle Area is a dense network of off-road trails that traverse 13,500 acres of the Coconino National Forest. Free, dispersed camping is available in the national forest—check with the Flagstaff office or recreation.gov for information on camping locations and availability. The Highland Country Inn offers reasonable rates and ample parking for trailers just a few minutes away from Cinder Hills.

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Manzanita Mountains Recreation Zone, Tijeras, NM

You will find some of the most scenic off-road riding to be had in the Southwest at the Manzanita Mountains Recreation Zone in New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands. Miles of rugged trails with panoramic views crisscross canyonlands and scrub forests. Dispersed and designated camping are both available inside the recreation zone. Get the required riding and camping permits at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras or at the Forest Supervisor’s office in Albuquerque. Nearby lodging options include the Cedar Crest Inn and Hostel and the Lazy K Ranch Bed and Breakfast

RAM Off-Road Park, Colorado Springs, CO

RAM Off-Road Park is a private, 86-acre paradise for off-road enthusiasts near Colorado Springs. The park’s much-sought-after terrain hosts many races and other off-road events every year. And, of course, you can get in on the action, as well. Practice your rock-crawling techniques or crank the throttle and launch your ATV for some heart-pounding airborne thrills. Stay at the nearby Hotel Elegante, which offers plenty of trailer parking.

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River Run ATV Park, Jacksonville, TX

River Run ATV Park, along the Neches River, near Jacksonville Texas, boasts more than 2,000 acres of off-road adventure, as well as on-site camping, rental cabins, and a convenience store. The park hosts several events each year, including ATV races and scavenger hunts. Riders can also take a break to fish or swim in the Neches and are welcome to use the park’s free shower facilities.

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Bryce Canyon Area, Hatch, UT

Some of Utah’s best rides can be found near Bryce Canyon National Park (please note there is no riding within the park) and in the adjacent Dixie National Forest. With more than a dozen designated trails in the forest and around the park, riders will find miles and miles of awesome terrain spread across some of the Southwest’s most stunning scenery. If you stay at Mountain Ridge Cabins and Lodging in Hatch, you can step out of your room and hit the trails from the parking lot.

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Bulldog Canyon, Fountain Hills, AZ

Another awesome option for ATV riders in Arizona is Bulldog Canyon in the Tonto National Forest. Half a dozen entrance points allow riders access to Bulldog Canyon’s dozens of miles of trails. The rough, hilly terrain is punctuated with mountain views, scrublands, and massive saguaro cacti. Free permits are required in the national forest, and camping is allowed. Bulldog Canyon is located just northeast of greater Phoenix, so there are plenty of nearby amenities, as well as lodging like the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch

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Great Western Trail

The Great Western Trail is a 4,500-mile trail system stretching from Canada to Mexico (or vice versa) across the western United States. Portions of the trail that allow ATVs and other off-road vehicles can be found in Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. For example, 80 ATV-friendly miles of the GWT can be found in the Escalante Ranger District of the Dixie National Forest in Utah. If you can’t decide on what part of the Southwestern United States to explore on your ATV, the Great Western Trail is a great way to see a lot of it on a single trail system.

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