on ORV Use in Wisconsin
to Main Trail Info Page
There are over 3000 miles of designated ORV Trails & Routes in Wisconsin
The majority of Wisconsin's ORV System is based around ATVs. Trail passes and registration only apply to ATVs and so do most of the trails & routes.
Off Highway motorcycles as well as UTVs (side by side off road vehicles) are not ATVs and are restricted from the ATV trails in many cases. A pilot program for UTVs is currently underway that will provide them similar fees and access as ATVs.
While the State maintains the ORV Program, each county or land-owning entity designates trails that are open to ATVs. Effectively, each county determines the rules for use of the trails and routes in their jurisdiction.
Due to this structure, there are many variances on a county-by-county basis regarding use of non-ATVs on the various trails. Our online guide provides our best-available information for each county regarding their differences.
ATV operation, has many State laws and regulations that apply to their use. We recommend picking up the ATV Regulations booklet from the Wisconsin DNR: http://dnr.wi.gov/org/es/enforcement/DOCS/ATVRegs.pdf
1. Only designated Trails and Routes are available for use. Effectively, if it's not signed as open "on the ground", then the road or trail is not open to ATVs. Off-Trail riding is generally illegal, exceptions being for designated (ie "signed open") intensive use areas.
ORV Trails are signed by a 6" square brown sign which has a white ATV silhouette in the center. Generally an orange diamond is also included on the same post (this orange diamond is also used for snowmobile trails).
ORV Routes are normally a rectangular green sign with a similar ATV silhouette in white with the word "Route" or "ATV Route".
2. ATVs must be registered in the State; registration decals must be placed on the forward portion of the ATV, visible on either side. Proof of registration, including the validation receipt, is required when operating.
3. ATVs registered in another State (ie not Wisconsin) must purchase and display a "Non-Resident" Trail Pass. This decal must be placed on the forward half of the ATV.
4. Don't drink and ride, not only is it illegal, but dangerous for both of us.
5. Safety Training is required for all riders 12 years and older, that were born after 1987. This can be accomplished via their online training program: http://www.offroad-ed.com/wi
The completion certificate, must be carried with the rider. Certificates from another State are also valid.
6. Children 11 and under may operate a "small ATV", providing they:
Wear a helmet
Operate an ATV that is 90cc or smaller
Do not operate on or cross a route; must stay on a public ATV Trail
Have direct parent supervision
7. When on an ORV Route (road) both head and tail lights must be on.
8. Many ORV Routes have speed limits, posted, that require ATVs to be operated slower than other traffic.
9. Helmets are required for all riders under 18. Riders 12 to 18 are not required to wear a helmet if in transit for hunting/fishing purposes. We recommend helmets, protective eyewear and adequate safety gear be worn at all times by all riders.
10. ATVs must be slowed to 10MPH or less when within 100 feet of a pedestrian, bicyclist or equestrian. Same for when within 150 feet of a dwelling (ie house).
11. Noise is an issue and the quieter the ATV, the better. State limits on noise are 96db. USFS approved Spark arrestor is also mandatory.
12. Head and Tail lights are required when operating on roads (Routes) or during hours of darkness. The headlight must be able to illuminate a person up to 200 feet away. The tail light must be visible up to 500 feet away. Colored lenses are not allowed on the headlight (the light must be white).