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By Tim Donaldson

Places to Ride – Wayne National Forest Ohio

Skid plate inspectionIf you are tired of riding in your back yard or at your local riding areas, try Ohio’s Wayne National Forest (WNF). Located in the rolling hills of south central Ohio, the trails offer something for every rider.

Last fall, my wife and I purchased a 2006 Kawasaki Prairie 360 4x4 and Honda Rancher AT. Like many new ATV purchasers, or at least those who are not familiar with the riding hot spots, we were interested in finding the trails. Our close friends, guiding us in the selection of these bikes and having years of trail riding experience, chose Wayne National Forest as our first multi-day riding excursion. Part of that decision not being based on the fact that WNF is a great place to ride, but rather a good starting point for a couple of “newbies."

Our journey began at the Monday Creek Trail System. WNF offers three off-road vehicle (ORV) riding areas from which riders can choose. They include the Hanging Rock, Pine Creek, and Monday Creek Trails Systems. Each trail system boasts multiple trailheads and miles of trails.

Camping abound in WNF
Camping abound in WNF


Lifeline landing area.
Lifeline landing area.

Since this was our first big trip, we spent the time traveling to our destination listening to valuable riding advice from our friends. We learned the meaning of hand signals used to notify oncoming riders of the number of those following in a group riding together - the last member of the group holding up a clenched fist, signaling the end of the group. Although widely recognized, the “you’re number one” hand signal was not advised for usage.

Once we started to ride the trails we discovered there were a variety of challenges with various degrees of difficulty to suit the preferences of all the riders in our group. Each trail at WNF is clearly marked, indicating easiest, more difficult, and most difficult routes.

Adjacent to many of the trails were large hill climbs for further exploration and trial. Of course, being very interested in these and wanting to measure my skill against them, I blazed up the slopes. On one occasion, my buddy decided to follow me to assure nothing bad happened on the way up. After successfully reaching the top of the hill, I turned around to find that he didn’t make the climb. So much for good intentions!

Periodically, as we traversed the routes, we would drive past noticeably large flat areas surrounded by guard rails. Later, during a rest break near one of these spots, I was informed that these areas were designated as helicopter landing sites for rescue emergencies. Fortunately, we did not need that particular service on the trip, but it was nice knowing that we could have been expedited quickly, given a serious mishap like the one my buddy almost had.

It had been raining most of the week before our arrival, so the trails were very muddy, as expected. We had a great time challenging the power of our quads and tire traction through the mud bogs. Being a first-time trail rider, I was certainly amazed by the deceptiveness of an innocent, or so seeming, mud puddle. These holes were amazingly deep, presumably made so by others doing the same as we were.

Deeper than it looked!
Deeper than it looked!

The main corridor trails were wide and allowed easy flow of two-way traffic. Most other trails were also accommodating to two-way traffic. However, at times, riders would be required to yield to other drivers by moving to the side of the path. WNF restricts APV’s to 50” in width or less in order to access the trails. As with any trail system, trail conditions vary by current weather conditions. WNF afforded hard-packed soil for most trails with the typical rocks, roots, tree branches, and tire or rain washout ruts. Areas where erosion had taken its toll were reinforced by block or stone. Just be especially careful straddling rocks with low undercarriages, or short ground clearances. The rocks are not very friendly to skid plates.

With working headlights and taillights, riders at WNF can enjoy riding anytime day or night. Even at slow speeds, the perception of going fast is magnified as you wind through the forest-lined trails.

All in all, riders of all skill levels will enjoy what WNF has to offer. Given the length and amount of trails, an entire weekend will be needed to span the entire trail system, so get out there this spring and enjoy it!

The WNF trails are open from April 15 to December 15 each year. Riders must have a current license and possess an Ohio All-Purpose Vehicle (APV) registration. The cost for the Ohio registration is very reasonably priced at $8.50 and is valid for 3 years. A Forest Trail Permit is also required to ride the trails. Current pricing is $5 daily and $25 for a season pass. For more information, visit

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