It’s wheeler time! Here are some trails already open and tips to get you started

ATVsWith winter behind us and mud season not nearly as sloppy as it usually is, the time to roll out your ATV and hit the trails is here!

Opportunities for ATV riding throughout Maine have exploded in recent years with many folks, clubs and government organizations coming together to promote this fast growing hobby.

Here’s a trail rundown and some tips to get you started this “wheeler” season…

Where to ride

The Department of Conservation and Forestry provided us with a current list of State ATV trails now open:

ATV Shared Use Sign, Source: Maine.gov

ATV Shared Use Sign, Source: Maine.gov

Also of note, many ATV clubs in southern and Down East Maine have opened roughly half of the private land trail systems. This early in the season, be on the lookout for trails still in a state of repair and always respect landowner wishes and closures.

In addition to State trails and private club maintained trails, many Public Reserved Land road systems are open to ATV operation. Roads marked with a shared use sign are open to ATV travel, while the regular ATV trail sign denotes designated ATV trail systems.

Designated ATV Trail Sign, Source: Maine.gov

Designated ATV Trail Sign, Source: Maine.gov

Generally, Wildlife Management District roads operated by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are open to ATV use as well.

TIP: Roads and trails that are gated and closed may mean that route is off limits to motorized traffic. Just because you can squeeze around a locked gate on your wheeler doesn’t mean you should.  The landowner has closed the gate for a reason, typically because motorized traffic will result in ruts and damage to an environment not ready for traffic. When in doubt, leave that trail out.

How to ride

Treading lightly and leaving a small footprint helps preserve trail access for future enthusiasts. Try to avoid wheel spin and creating a “rooster tail” when turning and climbing. Sure it may look like fun, but the abuse the trail takes isn’t worth it.

When cresting a hill or sight lines are poor…slow down! If you can’t see what’s on the other side of the trail neither can the rider coming at you. Also, use care when crossing water. Try to use designated fording points on trails.

Some do’s and don’ts of ATV operation:

  • Do come to a complete stop when entering a public roadway
  • Do yield right of way to all other vehicular traffic on public ways
  • Do carry your registration certificate (Your stickers are not enough)
  • Don’t operate your ATV within 200 feet of a dwelling, hospital, nursing home or church
  • Don’t operate your ATV on snowmobile trails financed by the Snowmobile Trail Fund unless authorized to do so
  • Don’t ride in croplands, pastureland or orchards

TIP: Maine Game Wardens conduct registration and safety checks on trails. If signaled by a Game Warden, safely bring your ATV to a stop and let the Game Warden approach you. Follow any directions given and cooperate to expedite the inspection. Failing to stop may result in criminal prosecution, fines and arrest. Similarly, you must stop and identify yourself at the request of a private landowner or their agent.

Be safe and have fun!

Riding responsibly will ensure a memorable trip enjoying the Maine outdoors.  Never mix alcohol and riding. The same penalties apply for operating under the influence when riding ATV’s.

If you encounter horses on the trail, common courtesy is to pull off to the side of the trail, turn off your ATV’s engine, remove your helmet and speak. The horse will recognize you as human and hopefully allay any fears. Always move slowly and with caution around horses and pack animals.

Wear appropriate safety gear and know your limits. Also, be aware of time, fuel and your energy level so you don’t end up stranded. Having a well planned route and ample resources will make your ride much more enjoyable.

TIP: Fill out and leave a trip plan with a family member. Include your expected route, time of return, all members of the party and any other pertinent information rescuers may need if you become lost or unable to return. Examples include medical conditions or prescription medicine use.

Resources

Find ATV licensing info here.

Find ATV laws and regulations here.

Contact info:

ATV Program
Bureau of Parks and Lands
22 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0022
(207) 287-2751
Within Maine: 1-888-386-3288

To get a copy of the Maine ATV Trails Map, call the number above and provide your name, postal address and phone number.

Happy trails!

John Floyd

About John Floyd

John is a freelance writer and lives on a small homestead in northeast Maine. His passion for the outdoors and love of country are the influences behind his columns and blogs.