What You Need to Know to Get on the Trails this Year

Getting everything in order so you can enjoy your first ATV trip can seem overwhelming. Here we've laid it all out to keep it simple and get you started.

You’ve purchased your ATV, bought all your gear, got your license plate and insurance, now you want to hit the road and take that ATV on a trip! Where do you start?

ATVers registering their vehicles in Elliot Lake, Ontario

First, you need to figure out where you want to go. What type of terrain? How long of a trip? Is there a map? Will I need fuel?  Where can I get food? Are the trails signed? Will I need to find somewhere to stay overnight? What pass will I require for my machine? What are the bylaws in the area? Where can I ride my ATV and where can’t I?

Sounds daunting? Don’t worry; once you’ve got the planning of your first trip under your belt, it actually becomes fun!

ATV Clubs and Events

The easiest place to start is the complete list of ATV events in Ontario. You can take most of the guessing out of the whole situation by hooking up with an organized ride. These events generally cover all of the bases for you. Clubs and their volunteers have already done all of the legwork for you. They’ve figured out where to start, and all of the ABCs you’ll need to know. You’ll be riding with other newcomers to the sport and seasoned veterans alike, all for the same purpose of enjoying the trails and your ATV.

But there aren’t always rides happening when and where you want to go. I recommend touching base with the local club in the region you want to explore. They are the ATV experts in their area and can hook you up with information about the trails (including maps), where you can get fuel while out on the trail (or if you’ll need to bring fuel with you!), the best places to get food, and where to stay overnight. More times than not, they’ll even find someone to head out and enjoy the trails with you.

Where You Can and Cannot Ride

While ATVs are not permitted on major highway in Ontario (see the list here), the regulations are, generally speaking, mandated by the municipal by-laws of the area you are intending to ride in. Regardless of the recent positive changes made by the province, each municipality sets their own rules in their bylaws and not every municipal bylaw is the same. It is your responsibility to know the rules of the area you are riding. There can be restrictions on which roads you are allowed to travel to get to trails, there can be restrictions on times of use and curfews for when the ATV’s have to be off the trail. The club in the area should have all of this information for you, but you should also check out the by-laws for the area to make sure you are following the rules.

Getting the Right Trail Pass

In Ontario there are several ATV organizations, as well as private clubs and riding areas.  So you’ll need to know which trail-pass you’ll require for the trail system you intend to ride. Don’t worry if you want to try out a trail system that you may not have a membership for already, most trail systems offer temporary passes to accommodate the ATV explorer. If you’re unsure of what membership you require, check out OFATV’s Membership/Permit pageATVOntario's Power Pass or the EOTA's Trail Pass to learn more.

Planning Your Route

Go Tour Ontario is another great resource for planning an ATV trip. Their site has numerous day and multiple day trips to choose from, and gives you all of the information you require, right from leaving your driveway up to where to eat, stay, fuel up, and the GPS tracks to download or print out to take with you.

There’s nothing better than heading out on a great adventure on your ATV. Doing your homework before you go will make it that much more enjoyable, and ensure you have a great trip.

About Dave Baker

An avid outdoors enthusiast, Dave is active in hunting, fishing, trapping and ATVing. He has been involved with the Nation Valley ATV Club since its inception, and is a past president of the Ontario Federations of ATV Clubs.

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