California ATV Laws: Where And How To Ride Your ATV Legally

california atv laws

There are different off-road vehicles that you can ride; however, an ATV is one of the best as it generates enough power and speed to go on different terrains. ATVs are quite popular in California; however, there are also some ATV laws that you must follow.

California ATV laws are that every ATV must have either a green or a red sticker, and all ATV drivers must be able to reach the pedal and operate all controls of the ATV. Some places to ride an ATV are Ballinger Canyon OHV Area, Hull Creek and Trout Creek OHV Area, Dove Springs, and Heber Dunes.

California is one of the most popular states in the United States; the city of Los Angeles, famous for the Hollywood entertainment industry, is located in this state. This state is quite strict with its ATV laws and makes sure everyone obeys them.

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California ATV State Laws

California is one of the states in the United States that enforce strict laws concerning ATVs. California recognizes ATVs as vehicles with three or four low-pressure wheels, one seat for the rider, handlebars for steering, and a body that is not heavier than 900 pounds or wider than 50 inches.

There are several ATV laws in the state of California. We will be discussing these laws. The California ATV state laws include

  • Every ATV in California must be registered and display an identification plate issued by the state, except the ATV will be used solely for husbandry, racing, or other competitive events.
  • The state of California recognizes a current valid registration issued by another state on an ATV.
  • All ATVs in California must have headlamps, a functioning brake system, tail lamps, a spark arrestor, and an adequate muffler.
  • Every ATV rider younger than 18 must wear an approved helmet when riding or operating an ATV.
  • Carrying a passenger while operating an ATV on public roads is illegal unless the ATV was designed to have an additional seat for a passenger.
  • ATVs are not permitted on the highways and streets in California except when crossing a two-lane street at a 90-degree angle.
  • Any ATV rider below the age of 18 must undergo a safety course before operating an ATV on public lands in California.
  • Anyone below age 14 can only operate an ATV with an adult supervising the child.
  • All ATV riders must be able to reach and operate all the controls of an ATV.
  • You can only operate an ATV on public lands designated for off-road vehicles when your ATV has a green sticker provided during registration.
  • The speed of an ATV operating on a roadway must be within a speed limit of the traffic laws.
  • ATV riders with revoked or suspended licenses should not operate an ATV until the appropriate authorities have reinstated the license.

Where Can You Ride An ATV In California?

California is filled with different sights and has a variety of terrain ranging from cliff-lined beaches to mountains, valleys, forests, dunes, and desert areas. There are many places you can ride an ATV in California. We will look at some of the areas best suitable for ATV operations.

Heber Dunes

Heber Dunes is open from March 1 to October 31 from 7 am to 7 pm, while from November 1 to February 28, it is open from 7 am to 5 pm. ATVs require a CA OHMVR sticker to operate in this area. The amenities at this area include picnic tables, shade ramadas, fire rings, coin-operated showers, and restrooms.

Camping is prohibited in this area; however, there are some areas in Heber Dunes where campfires are allowed. Riding an ATV at night is not tolerated in this area. ATVs, SUVs, UTVs, Dirt bikes, Jeeps, Dune buggies, Motorcycles, and SXSs are permitted at Heber Dunes.

Dove Springs

Dove Springs is located on more than 5000 acres of public land. This area’s trails consist of rolling hills, sandy washes, loose dirt, mud, hardpack, dust, berms, small jumps, rocks, large jumps, and a popular bowl area. This area is open all year round, and riding an ATV in this area requires a permit.

Every vehicle operating in this must have an end cap or a spark arrestor exhaust silencer and must not exceed the noise limit of 96 decibels. An MX helmet is required for all ATV riders. Vehicles permitted at Dove Springs include ATVs, Motorcycles, SXSs, Dirt Bikes, UTVs, Jeeps, SUVs, Sandrail 4×4, and Dune buggies.

Knoxville Recreation Area

Knoxville Recreation Area is also known as Rocksville; it has 51 miles of rugged terrain for off-road vehicles and some single-track motorcycle trails. This recreation area has two entrances; the first is the northern staging area, the upper camp, and the second is the hunting creek camp which is the lower camp.

The lower camp is more suitable for RVs and trailers as the roads are steeper and rockier. On the other hand, the upper camp is most suitable for ATVs and other off-road vehicles as it is dry, rocky, and has more trails. Sand rails 4×4, Jeeps, UTVs, Dune buggies, SUVs, SXSs, Motorcycles, dirt bikes, and ATVs are all permitted at this recreation area.

Other places you can ride an ATV include Cyrus Canyon Motocross Track, Glamis Dunes, Ocotillo Wells, Hollister Hills, Rowhler Flat OHV, La Grange OHV Regional Park, and Millwood OHV Area.

Where Can’t You Ride An ATV In California?

It is illegal to ride an ATV on public roads without a permit or when that road is off-limit for off-road vehicles. It is also against the law to ride an ATV on the highway or the street unless you are trying to cross from one designated off-road to another. There are also some areas where ATVs are prohibited, like Argyll MX Park, Burlington Motorcycle Trail System, and Cal City MX Park.

palm trees california sunset

Popular Places To Ride Your ATV In California

Riding an ATV with other people is more fun than riding all by yourself. You will get a chance to engage in ATV activities like racing and even make friends with other ATV riders. To have this kind of experience, you will have to ride your ATV in a popular place.

Ballinger Canyon OHV Area

Ballinger Canyon OHV Area is a very popular off-road area where you can ride your ATV in California. The terrain of the trails ranges from twisty sand washes to hard-packed roads to hill climbs and is filled with berms, small jumps, steep hills, large jumps, trees, sand, rocks, dust, and mud. ATVs, UTVs, SXSs, SUVs, and Jeeps are allowed in certain areas of this park, while dirt bikes and motorcycles are allowed in all areas.

Hull Creek And Trout Creek OHV Area

Hull Creek and Trout Creek OHV Area are some of the popular places with 20 miles of ATV trail and about 1o0 miles of forest service. The trails are filled with hard packs, berms, water crossings, steep hills, trees, rocks, dust, mud, and loose dirt. There are a few single-track trails but riding an ATV is the best option to explore this OHV area.

Other popular places to ride an ATV in California are Frank Raines OHV Park, Rock Front OHV Area, Cactus Flat OHV, Dumont Dunes OHV, Johnson Valley, and Barona Oaks MX.

Final Thoughts

With the right location and facilities, ATV riding is one of the best activities to engage in, and California has all these in abundance to the delight of ATV riders in the state. However, you should also avoid getting into trouble with the law enforcement agents by abiding by the ATV laws provided by the Californian government.

By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.