Explore 15 Best ATV Trails in Minnesota

Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by ATVNotes

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Minnesota is a top destination for ATV enthusiasts, boasting more than 1,000 miles of designated trails. The state offers a variety of terrain, from rolling hills to dense forests and rocky outcroppings. Many of the trails, located in the northern part of the state, offer scenic views and wildlife sightings.

The good news is that Minnesota’s ATV trails provide an exciting adventure for riders of all levels like those of in Vermont, offering a ride for all skill levels. In fact, you will come across open trails, winding paths, narrow ones, and so much more.

So, the best ATV trails in Minnesota are a relative term as each zone is distinct in its own way. However, as a guide for the ATV riders new in this state, we have enlisted the top 15 ATV trails, and some big names include Iron Range Off-Highway Recreation Area, Blue Ox Trail, Gandy Dancer Trail in east-central Minnesota, Appleton Area Recreation Park, Forest Riders Trail and more. 

Just check whether it is an all-the-year-round ATV riding season in Minnesota or a particular duration of the year like in Maine and other ATV zones in US.

Without more ado, let’s discuss these trails and others in the list in detail so that you can make an informed decision. However, you must not ignore MN ATV Trails map as the best guide.

MN ATV Trails Map
Photo: Google.com

Top 15 Minnesota ATV Trails to Explore

Minnesota is where you need to be if you’re looking for an exciting and fulfilling off-road experience. With a wide range of ATV trails to choose from, it might be overwhelming to find the perfect ride. To save time and shave your labor, here is a list of Minnesota’s 15 best ATV trails.

1. Iron Range Off-Road Recreational Area 

This trail is 36 miles, of which only 20 miles are meant for ATV riding. Some features that characterize this area include mud pits, off-road areas, boulders, rock walls, and more. Whether you are a novice or a pro-ATV rider, you will take advantage of a trail that will suit your capabilities. The good news is that all the ATV trail routes are rated and marked.

Besides riding ATVs, you can ride other OHV vehicles such as dune buggies, dirt bikes, motorcycles, jeeps, and sand rail 4X4. Open from 8 AM, and you will have fun riding your ATV until one hour before sunset.

Therefore, the closing timelines might vary from one season to another. Before you start riding your ATV in this area, consider registering your OHV. Camping is prohibited in this area, but you can purchase gas, food, and other amenities near Gilbert.

Iron Range ATV Trail Minnesota

2. Forest Riders Trail

If you are in Minnesota for ATV riding, the Forest Riders Trail is one of the best trails you can ever come across. It is 100 miles long and is characterized by unique scenic nature traversing 4 main forests and two counties.

These forests include Paul Bunyan, Two Inlets, White Earth, and Smoky Hills. As you pass through these forests, you will be amazed by the many valleys, hills, and turns you will see along the way. Besides this, there are some campsites along these trails where you can rest, revitalize, and recharge your batteries to carry on with your ATV riding expedition. Isn’t it irresistible?

3. Blue Ox Trail

Supposing you live in Northern Minnesota and are looking for a trail to the Canadian border, look no further. Blue Ox Trail is the ultimate solution for youths’ trails measuring 70+ miles in length and is generally a smooth and easy ride. This trail follows a railroad abandoned several years ago and offers an enjoyable time riding your quad with friends.

4. Appleton Area Recreational Park

This is a 330 acres park and boasts 20 miles of ATV trails meant for seasoned and beginner ATV riders. Since gravel used to be mined here several years ago, you will have a thrilling ATV ride on a rolling terrain strewn with parks featured with:

  • Many sand dunes
  • Motocross track
  • Play and picnic area.

Here, you are at liberty to ride any form of OHV you, please. However, you need to ensure that you have a Minnesota OHV permit. The following are some of the allocations for the 20-mile tree-lined trails:

  • Youth OHV practice track
  • 3 Enduro tracks
  • OHM/ATV trails-these ones measure 15 miles
  • Youth ATV training course
  • OHM practice track that measures 2.5 miles.
MN ATV Trail Appleton

This park is usually open daily from dusk to dawn, and the campground lets you rest and relax after a busy ride. To learn more about this park, from the official website. 

5. Northwoods ATV Trail

The trail is one of the best ATV trails that you can come across in Aitkin County and a crucial part of the Soo-Line trail and measures 207 miles in length.

Here, all the trails are well-connected and marked. Once you start riding your ATV on this trail, you will come across the scenic Aitkin County’s vistas and wildlife, among other features. Riders of nearly all competencies and skills will have a field day riding their quads on these ATV-friendly trails.

6. Fourtown-Grygla Trail

If you are looking for one of the best ATV trails in Northern Minnesota, Fourtown-Grygla is the best option. Here, you can ride through a number of past fields, country roads, farmlands, existing trails, streams, township roads, forested sections, and many more. 

Since most of these terrains have few or no obstacles, be certain that you will easily ride your ATV on them. If you want to ride your quad on this trail, you must obtain a trail permit on certain sections.

7. Nemadji State Forest OHV Trails 

First, Nemadji State Forest is 92000 acres in size and boasts the best ATV trails in Minnesota. Here, you will find 100 miles dedicated to those who want to ride ATVs. If you want to rid your motorcycle, there is a single-track trail whose length is 27 miles.

As you ride your ATV or motorcycle, you will come across rolling hills, a number of swamps, streams, and creeks. The trails, characterized by climbs, turns, and narrow twists, offer adventurous OHV expeditions.

8. Fond Du Lac State Forest trail

The forest is 64000 acres and takes pride in offering 37 miles to ride your ATV and have unlimited fun. Trails here are diverse; some feature wide and gentle curves, while others feature tighter and narrower ones. There are several lakes, peat bogs, and confer trees that you will see along the way.

If you are a beginner, consider those trails in the forest’s western part. However, consider those in the eastern sections if you are a seasoned ATV rider. Trails in that part have gravel pits where you can carry out rehearsals before riding on more challenging trails. This trail is open from January to December except for the season of deer hunting. 

Fon Du Lac Park

Apart from riding ATVs, you can ride a dirt bike, motorcycle, and UTV on this trail. However, if you have a jeep, SUV, or sand rail 4×4, you cannot ride them here. Another note is that you cannot ride your OHV on a snowmobile trail here.

Riding ATV on this trail needs a Minnesota OHV permit, but you will not be subjected to the entrance, parking, camping, or riding fee.

9. Round River Drive trail

It is a 107 miles trail offering spectacular features such as flora and fauna, moraines, climbs, moraines, turns, and twists found in the Paul Bunyan State Forest.

Thankfully, you can freely ride your ATV throughout the year and have fun. However, you are not supposed to ride them on those trails specifically meant for snowmobiles during the winter season. Therefore, you can expect seasonal or temporary closures at different times of the year.

10. Timber Trails System

This is 128 miles long, and 5 trail sections are interconnected. Most ATV riders claim that this trail is generally easy to ride an ATV. In fact, you are likely to encounter an array of loops that are extremely fun when riding your quad alone or with your family members.

As you ride through the forested area, you will come across a myriad of small ponds and small lakes to explore. Some popular trails here include the Blue Ox Trail and Alvwood-Squaw Lake Trial.

Besides the water reservoirs mentioned above, you will also have a chance to see vibrant wildlife – bears, foxes, deer, grouse, geese, and other wild birds predominantly living in Northern Minnesota. Normally, the trail opens on 1st May and closes on 1st November.

11. Snake Creek Trail

This trail is slightly above 13 miles, one of the shortest ATV trails in Minnesota. However, this trail features a number of camping grounds along the way, adding comfort and relaxation while off-roading there.

From the mud pits to rocky berms, there are many obstacles that you will come across as you ride on this trail. This feature sets this trail apart and makes it one of southern Minnesota’s best OHV and ATV trails. Since you can ride your dirtbike, ATV, or motorcycle here, you will have a memorable moment alone or with a couple of friends.

12. Soo Line Trails

Unlike other trails discussed above, this one connects to the other 4 trail loops. With these loops added, the trail measures more than 200 miles. Fortunately, you will always have an easy time whenever you want to ride your quad on this trail. This applies whether you are a seasoned rider or a starter.

Soo Line MN ATV Trail

This trail is divided into two. One section is known as the northern route, measurings 113 miles and running through Aitkin, Carlton, and Cass counties. The southern route traverses via 5 counties and is 105 miles in length.

13. Solana Loop

This trail measures 15 miles in length and traverses via the Solana State Forest. Luckily, this trail is well-marked and maintained. You will come across dust, rocks, mud, sand, loose dirt, water crossings, and steep hills, among other elements, while weaving through the trail.

If you want to ride your vehicle here, you need an MN OHV permit, and the vehicle of choice should come with a width of 65 inches or thereabout. The official trail website should tell you more about this. 

14. Alvwood-Squaw Lake Trail

The 159 miles trail runs through the Chippewa National Forest and Bowstring State Forest. Riding on this trail is to enjoy the scenic view of different streams and lakes.

It is important to note that these trails cross the trail that connects Blue Ox Trail to Island Lake Connection. Class I and Class 2 ATV trails are open throughout the year, except from 15th March to 15th May.

15. Gandy Dancer Trail

If you are observant, note the unique name. The trail stretching from Minnesota to Wisconsin allows all OHVs to weave through this trail. The 30 miles trail runs along a rail line that was abandoned several years ago. With minimal or no activity on the rail line track, you will avoid obstacles when riding your quad. Your weekend trips here will be the ultimate fun with the camping ground to rest and revitalize.

Before you hit any of these trails, check whether you are permitted to take your Gopro attaching anywhere across your helmet surface. If yes, do not miss the opportunity to capture the scenic views to get revived while weary of mundane hours.

Gandy Dancer ATV Trail


Where can you ride ATV in MN?

Minnesota, known for its natural beauty, offers many trails to explore on an ATV. The most popular destination is the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area. Several other state parks in Minnesota allow for ATVs, including Pillsbury State Forest and Nemadji State Forest.

In addition to these parks and recreation areas, Minnesota has several private ATV parks. One such park is Spider Lake ATV Park near Pine City, which offers over 900 acres of riding opportunities. Riders can enjoy everything from open fields to wooded areas and water crossings.

Are ATVs allowed in MN state parks?

Unfortunately, ATVs or all-terrain vehicles are not allowed in Minnesota State Parks. This is because the state park system prioritizes preserving and protecting natural resources, including wildlife habitats and sensitive ecosystems, which can be disrupted by ATV use. Additionally, ATVs can cause damage to trails and other park infrastructure.

While it may be disappointing for some visitors hoping to ride their ATVs through the scenic landscapes of Minnesota’s state parks, there are still plenty of options available for those looking to experience the beauty of these protected areas in other ways. 

Are helmets required on Minnesota ATV trails?

Yes, helmets are required by law for all ATV riders and passengers on Minnesota trails. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), anyone operating an ATV or off-highway motorcycle (OHM) must wear a properly fitting helmet that meets federal safety standards. This applies to riders of all ages and skill levels using public or private trails. However, a helmet may be mandatory but helmet accessories like visors and goggles add to your comfort and eye protection but neither law or a rule.

Wearing a helmet is not only required by law but also crucial for ensuring rider safety on any ATV trails, be it Pennsylvania, Maine, or Minnesota. By taking proper precautions and following all regulations, riders can enjoy their outdoor adventures while minimizing risks of injury or harm. 

Do I need an ATV license in MN?

In Minnesota, using an ATV license is a law if you operate an ATV on public lands or waters. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issues these licenses through a certification process, including taking a safety training course and passing a written exam. This applies to all ATV operators aged 16 and above.

The DNR offers two types of ATV certifications: youth and adult. These courses teach riders how to operate their ATVs safely, including riding techniques, rules of the road, and environmental awareness.

It’s important to note that even with an ATV license in Minnesota, there are still restrictions on where you can ride your vehicle. Certain MN DNR ATV trails may be off-limits due to environmental regulations or safety concerns. 

What is a Class 1 ATV in Minnesota?

A Class 1 ATV in Minnesota is an off-road vehicle that can be driven on public trails and roads. These vehicles weigh less than 1,000 pounds and have a width of no more than 50 inches. They are designed to carry one or two people and have handlebar steering.

Class 1 ATVs are popular in Minnesota for recreational use, such as hunting, fishing, trail riding, and general outdoor activities. However, it’s important to note that they can only be operated legally on designated trails and roads. 

Do you need ATV insurance in Minnesota?

The answer is yes and no. Although ATV insurance is not required by law in Minnesota, it is highly recommended as it can protect you from financial losses associated with accidents and damage. 

For example, suppose you are involved in an accident while operating your ATV, and someone else suffers injuries or property damage due to your actions. In that case, your ATV insurance can help cover the costs associated with that damage.

Having ATV insurance ensures peace of mind that you are protected against unexpected incidents that may arise while enjoying outdoor activities on your off-road vehicle. 

Can you ride ATV in ditch in MN? 

In Minnesota, it is illegal to ride an ATV in a ditch unless you have the permission of the landowner for private property and the concerned authority for public ones. Riding an ATV in a trench without permission can result in fines and even impounding the vehicle. The reason for this law is primarily to protect the environment and prevent damage to natural habitats. 

However, there are some exceptions to this law. For example, if an ATV rider must cross a ditch while on a designated trail or road, they are allowed to do so. Additionally, certain counties may allow ATVs on county roads, including ditches, with proper permits and registration. 

Why Should Minnesota Be Your Next ATV Venture? 

By now, you have perceived why Minnesota is the perfect place to explore on an ATV. From dunes to wooded trails, there are a variety of outdoor excursions to choose from in the Gopher State. We have named 15 top ATV trails in Minnesota. There’s something for everyone — from the beginner trail rider to the most experienced off-roader like trails in Maine, Pennsylvania, and the likes.

The MN ATV trails map at the outset may offer you more. Just conduct some research and planning to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience on your next Minnesota ATV adventure.

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