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

montana atv laws

One of the best places to ride an ATV in the United States is Montana; it is very popular for its diverse terrain ranging from great plains to rocky mountains. It has a lot of parks, lakes, hiking trails, and even a wilderness preserve. Riding an ATV in Montana is a very amazing experience.

The main Montana ATV law is that every ATV must be registered, and riders under age 16 are expected to have a safety certificate before riding an ATV. In Montana, places to ride an ATV legally include Shepherd Ah Nei Recreation Area, Blacktail Wild Bill OHV Trail System, and the Pryor Mountains.

Before riding an ATV in Montana, you must be aware of the ATV laws and make sure you obey them to avoid getting in trouble with the state’s law enforcement agents. In this article, we will explain all you need to know concerning riding an ATV in Montana.

welcome to montana sign

Montana ATV Laws

Montana regards an ATV as a self-propelled vehicle used for cross-country travel or recreation on public lands, easement lakes, streams, trails, or rivers. Below are the ATV laws enforced in Montana:

  • Every ATV in Montana must be registered. Registration takes place when you purchase a registration decal which must always be displayed on your ATV.
  • Non-residents of Montana must have a Non-resident Annual Use Permit before they can operate an ATV. This law exempts residents of North Dakota and Idaho.
  • Before operating an ATV on private property, make sure you get verbal or written approval from the owner.
  • All ATVs in Montana should have a spark arrestor and a state-approved muffler with a sound limit of 96 decibels or less.
  • It is illegal to use an ATV to hunt unless it is a disabled hunter who has gotten a permit to hunt from a vehicle.
  • Cross-country riding with an ATV is not permitted in Montana.
  • When riding on public lands, ATVs should only operate on trails designated for ATVs.
  • An ATV should operate on the roadway or shoulder of any public road, highway, country road, city street, or state highway only when the rider has received permission or authorization from the board of county commissioners or the state highway patrol.
  • Every ATV riding on a public road must have at least one headlight and one tail light on, as well as a functioning brake system.
  • Using an ATV to disturb, rally, corral, drive, harass, or stir up wildlife is illegal.
  • ATV riders are expected to wear eye protection, a proper helmet, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves when operating an ATV.
  • It is highly illegal to ride an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Where Can You Ride An ATV In Montana?

There are a lot of designated areas in Montana where you can ride an ATV. It is important that you know these areas, the type of trails, and other factors about them. Knowing this information will guide your choice of destination to ride an ATV, and you will be able to know which trail is most suitable for you.

Blacktail Wild Bill Trail System

Blacktail Wild Bill Trail System was majorly designed for 4×4 vehicles; however, it is also suitable for ATV riding. Other vehicles permitted on this trail system include Dirt Bikes, Jeeps, Motorcycles, UTVs, Dune Buggies, SXSs, and ATVs. A Montana OHV permit is required to operate an ATV in this area.

This OHV trail system offers a good mix of hardpack, gravel roads, soft soil, trees, mud, dust, chunks of rocks, and a moderate elevation change. This trail is quite challenging as there are some obstacles scattered around the trail, which makes ATV rides more fun and exciting.

While riding an ATV in this area, you will have access to scenic views of lakes and great mountains. This trail system is open all year round. Vehicles operating in this area must have a spark arrestor and must not exceed the noise limit, which is 96 decibels.

Shepherd Ah Nei Recreation Area

One of the top popular recreation areas for ATV riding is Shepherd Ah Nei Recreation Area. It offers about 50 miles of designated trails and play areas. The terrain of the trails is mostly hard-packed, but they also consist of loose dirt, gravel pit, sand, berms, dust, trees, large jumps, rocks, small jumps, and steep hills.

This recreation area has a designated park area for off-road vehicles, a few gazebos, picnic tables, an informational kiosk, and restrooms. However, there is no running water in this area. The trails at this area are open daily from 7 am to 9 pm, and a BLM recreation permit is required to ride in this area.

To gain access into this area, your ATV must not exceed 50 inches in width and should always have a spark arrestor. Not all off-road vehicles are permitted in this area; the ones permitted are motorcycles, UTVs, dirt bikes, ATVs, and SXSs.

man rides atv in montana fields

Pryor Mountains

The Pryor Mountains is open all year round and is part of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. It offers miles of trails and forest service roads that have different levels of difficulty for vehicles. When riding an ATV in this area, you have access to an amazing view of the canyon and panoramic mountains. You can also see ice caves and wild horses.

Every ATV riding in this area is expected to have a spark arrestor exhaust and must not exceed the noise limit of 96 decibels. Children below 18 are required to put on a helmet while riding an ATV. Trailblazing is an activity that is prohibited in this area; you must always stay on the trail while riding.

There is no fee for entry and riding at this park. The vehicles permitted at the Pryor Mountains are motorcycles, dune buggies, dirt bikes, Jeeps, ATVs, 4x4S, UTVs, and SXSs. Camping is permitted in some areas in the Pryor Mountains.

Where Can’t You Ride An ATV In Montana?

There are some areas and even trail systems that do not allow ATVs. It is highly illegal to operate an ATV on a public roadway or highway that is not designated for off-road riding.

Doing so can cause your vehicle to be seized, and you may be asked to pay a fine. Some of the areas where ATVs are prohibited in Montana are Moose Creek, South Hills Motorcycle Area, Sylvia Lake Trail, Cokedale Motocross. It is also illegal to ride an ATV on public streets if it has not been made street legal.

Can You Ride An ATV On The Streets In Montana?

Yes, you can ride an ATV on the streets of Montana; however, your ATV has to be street legal. This means you have to make some modifications to your ATV to make it street legal. The process of making your ATV street legal is quite easy as there are just a few things you need to add to it.

To make your ATV street legal, you must equip it with a horn, mirrors on both sides, brake lights, and headlights. You must also register the ATV as a motor vehicle and display a proper license. When riding an ATV on the street, you must always have your driver’s license with you.

Final Thoughts

Ignorance is not an excuse before the law; you must always be aware of the laws and regulations of any place you are in. When it comes to ATV riding and operation, having adequate knowledge of the ATV laws is necessary. Montana is a fun place to go ATV riding. There are many trails and parks where you would have a great time riding ATVs.

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.