UTV Create New Class
of Motorized Trail Machines
Using Public Lands;
Find Out Where It’s Legal To Ride
Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) are bigger,
faster, and more comfortable with plenty of
pickup and horsepower, and thus, they’re rapidly
increasing in popularity statewide. Most of the
models are made for jeep trails and dirt roads,
but several models, including the Polaris RZR,
are legal to ride on narrower ATV trails, which
are built to only accommodate machines that
measuring 50 inches or less in width.
“Some folks are buying these new recreational
vehicles without learning what the rules are,
and out of ignorance, they’re getting in
trouble,” said Dennis Duehren, Montpelier
District Ranger for the Caribou-Targhee National
Patrick Baker of Caldwell is one person who
did his homework, and bought a 50-inch RZR
because he wanted to ride on ATV trails. “We
love it. It’s great,” said Baker. “My wife and I
love to ride on Forest Service roads and trails,
so I wanted to make sure that I was perfectly
With big-game rifle hunting seasons coming up
statewide in October, officials with the U.S.
Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho
Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Department
of Lands encourage
owners of UTVs, ATVs and motorcycles to check
with land managers to determine which trails and
roads are legal to use during hunting season.
The Polaris RZR is legal to use on ATV
Public use and regulation of off-highway
vehicles is an important issue in Idaho because
approximately 132,000 motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs
were registered with the state in 2007, and that
number is growing about 10 percent every year. A
cornerstone of the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle
Education Campaign is to remind people to Stay
on the Trail.
In addition, all motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs
operated on public land must be registered and
display a valid license plate and/or
registration sticker. Get your registration
sticker from one of many OHV vendors across the
state before you go.
Here are 10 tips for safe and legal hunting.
Tip #1: Cross-country use of trail machines
is illegal in most national forests and BLM
districts in Idaho. New travel management plans
for many Idaho public lands have outlawed
cross-country travel. Some travel plans are
still pending. Again, check with local land
managers on what trails/roads are open before
you go hunting.
Tip #2: UTVs wider than 50 inches are
restricted to open roads – old logging and
mining roads, jeep trails and forest gravel
roads. UTVs wider than 50 inches are not allowed
on ATV trails or singletrack trails. Anyone who
drives UTVs on major dirt roads that are open to
normal motor vehicle use also needs a driver’s
license and liability insurance or they could be
cited by the county sheriff.
“The biggest growing issue is that motor
vehicles over 50 inches in width are not allowed
on ATV trails,” Duehren said. “I don’t care what
it looks like. If it’s over 50 inches, then it’s
not allowed on our
The Polaris Ranger is too wide for ATV
trails. This model didn’t fit on
an ATV bridge.
Forest Service law enforcement
officers will cite UTV riders if they are caught
violating the 50-inch standard, he said.
Tip #3: Stay on trails that are open during
hunting season. Use your trail machine to ride
on designated trails to your hunting area, but
do not hunt from your trail machine. That is
“You can use your ATV to move your hunting
camp into where you want to go, but you can’t
hunt from an ATV,” said Bill Jones, president of
the Idaho ATV Association. “Set up your camp,
throw a rifle over your shoulder and go hunting
Tip #4: It is legal to use a trail machine to
ride on an open ATV trail to get close to where
you need to retrieve a big-game animal, but it
is not legal to ride cross-country to retrieve
game. Keep your trail-machine on the trail, and
park it if you need to leave the trail.
Tip #5: To increase your chances of success
and cause less disturbance to hunters around
you, access your hunting area before shooting
hours and then hunt on foot.
Tip #6: Show respect and courtesy to other
trail users. Horseback riders, hikers and
mountain bikers may be using the trails you’re
riding on – as well as other trail machines – so
keep your speed down and use caution when
approaching blind corners or poor visibility
areas to avoid nasty collisions.
“This is an issue that’s near and dear to my
heart because I was run into in a head-on
collision last year and ended up on the trail
with a compound femur fracture from somebody
(another motorcycle rider) who was going much
much too fast,” said Mark Weaver, a Kuna-based
motorcycle rider. “You have to remember these
are two-way trails, and you have to use extra
caution to ensure that you don’t get hurt.”
Tip #7: Use safe practices, wear a helmet and
carry along plenty of food, water and overnight
rescue gear in the event of an accident,
breakdown or emergency.
Tip #8: Obtain a travel management map for
the national forest or BLM area where you are
hunting to determine if the road or trail is
open during hunting season.
Tip #9: Watch for changes in OHV registration
and licensing to occur on Jan. 1, 2009, when
license plates and stickers will be required for
UTVs and ATVs to operate on national forest and
BLM trails and roads.
Tip #10: Limit trail-machine use in and
around campgrounds. Be respectful of other
campers' desires for quiet and minimal
The Idaho OHV Education Campaign has a web
site that provides many contacts for public land
management agencies to see what trails and roads
are open during hunting season. Please see
www.idaho-ohv.org for more information.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game just
published a new brochure “Motorized Vehicle
Rules for Hunters.” Check it out:
About the Idaho OHV Education Campaign: To
help raise awareness about the importance of
OHVs staying on trails, five state and federal
agencies in Idaho work on a statewide campaign
called the Idaho Off-Highway Vehicles Public
Outreach Project. Idaho-OHV encourages riders to
ride safe, responsibly and reduce their impact
on the land and other trail users. See
www.idaho-ohv.org for more information.