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Can You Ride Dirt Bikes on Forest Service Roads?

Got a dirt bike and find yourself interested in taking a good old-fashioned forest bath? If so, the Forest Service roads you see running through your local National Forest might be a great opportunity for you.

Can you ride dirt bikes on U.S. Forest Service roads? Many Forest Service roads in National Forests allow are open to use with a dirt bike. Forest Service roads may be open to dirt bikes only in specified seasons, and some National Forests may limit the kind of activities a dirt biker can participate in.

With that being said, keep reading if you’re interested in learning more about how to make the most out of our National Forests with your dirt bike.

Determining Where You Can Ride Your Dirt Bike in a National Forest

When trying to figure out where you can ride your dirt bike in the National Forest, the unfortunate reality is that you have a good amount of reading to do. While you’ll have to carefully read the materials that your National Forest provides, the U.S. Forest Service does provide some great tools to help you along your way.

This post will cover step-by-step instructions as to how this information can be found, as well as what you need to know to make the right decisions.

Understand How the U.S. Forest Service Classifies Your Dirt Bike

The first thing to understand before we begin is that the U.S. Forest Service considers your dirt bike to be an Off Highway Vehicle, otherwise abbreviated as OHV. You want to keep this in mind while you’re browsing the website of your National Forest, as this will be the best spot for you to get relevant information.

The most helpful information regarding how your National Forest classifies dirt bikes will likely be found in a Motor Vehicle Use Map, otherwise known as an MVUM. You can find more information about how exactly to use MVUMs in this post that covers them in great detail.

What Riding Allowed is Highly Specific to Each National Forest

As you probably already know, what opportunities you have to ride your dirt bike in a National Forest is highly dependent upon the specific National Forest that you’re interested in. Therefore you must know the local rules of that forest before you start using its vast network of roads and trails. Not everything will be open to dirt bikes throughout the year, and it’s your job to understand what roads are open to you at the time.

You can generally assume that you’ll be prohibited from traveling off-trail or off-road while in the National Forest. Most locations keep dirt bike travel to specific roads or trails, but there are exceptions to this. If you’re looking to ride your dirt bike and don’t necessarily want to be confined to the trails, you’ll be looking for something referred to as ‘OHV Open Area Riding.’ This doesn’t appear to be available in many locations, but it could be possible in your National Forest.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to go to the website of the U.S. Forest Service and select your specific National Forest from the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the screen. This will take you to a website devoted to that National Forest, and then you’ll want to find the recreation menu item in the navigational menu on the left side of the screen. After you click through to this part of the menu, you want to look for an OHV riding and camping menu item that might look like this:

screenshot of the recreation menu for a us forest service site with a red arrow pointing to the OHV Riding and Camping menu option

Please note that not every National Forest has the section listed in the recreation part of the menu. This may very well indicate that your opportunities for riding dirt bikes in this specific National Forest may be limited. Assuming you do have that option in the menu, you’ll be presented with a screen that may look something like this:

screenshot of the OHV riding and camping page of a us forest service site

There may be additional text presents on this page, but you can at least expect to have several OHV links present on the page, as you see in the above screenshot. These different lengths cover the different types of activities that are available to off-highway vehicles in this National Forest, so you want to click through to the areas that interest you the most.

One other thing to note is that the right-hand side of the screen may have a menu that contains links you might want to check out. These could be links for additional applicable regulations, riding clubs, or specific trails dedicated to motor vehicle usage.

When you click through to a specific site, you’ll likely be presented with a page that looks something like this:

screenshot showing a list of OHV road riding areas of a us forest service location

If you click on the links for the individual locations listed on this screen, it is possible that you’ll find greater details about that location. However, this doesn’t appear to happen very often, as the majority of locations merely list that that activity is an available option.

Your Best Bet: Read Everything You can Find in the ‘OHV Riding & Camping’ Section

With all that being said, the best thing you can do before riding your dirt bike in the National Forest is to spend the time needed to read all the different rules and regulations found on the website. What you might encounter is highly variable from one National Forest to another, so it’s quite difficult to summarize effectively.

I’ll be the first to admit that reading the rules and regulations isn’t my favorite activity in the world, but it’s an essential part of using these tremendous resources responsibly. It’s also a good opportunity to find out interesting and unique things that might be offered by your local National Forest.

How to Use the Interactive Visitor Map to Find Open Forest Service Roads

The Interactive Visitor Map is an application maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. Its job is to take the Motor Vehicle Use Maps’ relevant information and turn it into an interactive and searchable platform.

Finding Forest Service Roads Open for Dirt Bikes

To use the Interactive Visitor Map, you’ll want to open this link, and you can expect to get a screen that looks like this:

screenshot of the menu of the interactive visitor map from the us forest service with the dirt bike option highlighted in red

You want to select the dirt bike option on the lower right-hand side of the menu, and then zoom in to your area until you see Forest Service Roads on the map. Once the roads are visible, the first thing you want to do is expand the legend, which is found on the left side of the map. This will contain all the information that you need to find local roads open for dirt bikes.

screenshot of us forest service map in the interactive visitor map with yellow shading on the roads open to dirt bikes

Ultimately, we’re looking for Forest Service roads or trails shaded in either a yellow or green hue. Green shaded trails indicate that they are open for dirt bike use at the time and that they are ultimately maintained for dirt bikes. On the other hand, yellow shaded trails indicated that Forest Service road is currently open to dirt bike usage.

Getting Information Regarding That Specific Road

Once you find a Forest Service road that you’re interested in learning more about, you can look to the Legend on the left to learn more about that specific road. The styling that you see applied to the road will indicate how the road is constructed.

screenshot of the legend of the dirt bike option in the interactive visitor map from the us forest service

For additional information, you’ll want to find an icon on the map that looks like a trail marker, and you want to click it. This will bring up a window of information that corresponds to that specific forest service road.

information pane of a forest service road in the interactive visitor map

You will see the seasons available for the different classes of vehicles and other relevant information about the road’s grade or the length.

Reasons Why a Road Might be Closed to Dirt Bikes

You might be noticing at this point is that a lot of Forest Service roads are not open to use by dirt bikes. There are many possible reasons why a road may not allow dirt bikes, but here are some to keep in mind.

Generally speaking, you can assume that any national forests that experience wet springs will do what they can to ensure that their roads received minimal damage at this time of year. You might also run into temporary closures resulting from storm damage or related to ongoing construction, which is why it’s always a good idea to check the interactive visitor map before heading out.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this article valuable and that you came away having learned a thing or two.

If you’re interested in other articles on similar topics, you should check out the below links:

By Drew Meulemans

I've long admired forests and devote much energy to learning about them and exploring. I enjoy sharing what I learn and wish to inspire others to do the same.