North Carolina ATV Laws: Where And How To Ride Your ATV

north carolina atv laws

North Carolina is the 9th most populated and 28th largest state in the United States; it is located in the southeast of the United States. The Atlantic Ocean borders it to the east, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and South Carolina and Georgia to the south. North Carolina is home to various ATV trails.

North Carolina ATV Laws are: children below age 8 should not operate an ATV, every ATV must have a functioning brake and a muffler system, and it is illegal to ride an ATV on public roads. You can ride your ATV at Wayehutta ATV Area, Black Swamp OHV Area, and Brown Mountain OHV Trails. 

Before you ride an ATV anywhere, you have to be informed about the ATV laws of that place so that you do not unintentionally violate them. North Carolina does not have a lot of ATV laws so that you would have fewer worries operating an ATV there.

welcome north carolina sign

North Carolina ATV Laws

North Carolina is a big state with lots of towns and cities where you can ride your ATV. Failure to abide by the ATV laws in North Carolina has consequences like you may be fined heavily, or your ATV might be impounded. Below are North Carolina ATV Laws

  • Children below age 13 should not operate an ATV with an engine higher than 70 cubic centimeters.
  • All ATVs must have a functional brake system and muffler system.
  • Children below age 16 must always be under parent supervision when operating an ATV.
  • Every ATV must be equipped with a functioning spark arrestor approved by the United States Forest Service.
  • ATVs must not carry a passenger unless it was designed to carry a passenger.
  • An ATV rider operating on public lands should always put on a DOT-approved helmet and eye protection.
  • ATVs are expected to be equipped with an illuminated headlight and taillight if they will be operated after sunset or before sunrise.
  • You must not operate an ATV on any public road or highway except to cross from one designated ATV area to another.
  • Operating an ATV recklessly or carelessly that causes injury or damage to anyone or property is highly illegal.
  • Children aged 12 and 16 can only operate an ATV with an engine less than 90 cubic centimeters.
  • It is highly illegal to operate an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Where Can You Ride An ATV In North Carolina?

There are different places to ride an ATV in North Carolina; these areas are specifically designated for ATV and other off-road vehicles. You should know these destinations so that you know the perfect trail the next time you want to ride an ATV in North Carolina.

Black Swamp OHV Area

Black Swamp OHV Area is also known as Croatan OHV; it is open all year round, and a trail riding permit is required to ride an ATV at this area. It offers 8 miles of trails; the terrains are mostly flat, but during the rainy season, it gets very muddy. There is a main staging area with a large parking space, trash cans, and a vault toilet.

The permit required in this area can be purchased online only. Vehicles entering this area must not exceed 50 inches in width; otherwise, they will not be allowed in. The off-road vehicles permitted in this OHV area are ATVs, Dirt bikes, UTVs, Motorcycles, and SXSs. Other vehicles like SUVs, Jeeps, and Dune buggies are prohibited.

All vehicles operating in the Black Swamp OHV Area must have a spark arrestor exhaust silencer or end cap and must not exceed the noise limit at this area. Riders are also expected to wear a helmet while riding. To ride an ATV in this area, you will have to pay a fee of $5.

Brown Mountain OHV Trails

Brown Mountain OHV Trails is a very popular off-road trail system. It has 34 miles of ATV trails and single-track motorcycle trails. These trails have challenging levels ranging from easy to difficult; hence, you can easily challenge your friends to a difficult competition in this area.

This OHV trail is open from April 1 to January 1, and riding an ATV in this area requires a permit which can be obtained at the entrance. Vehicles operating in this area are expected to use either an end cap or a spark arrestor exhaust silencer. Primitive camping is permitted in this area. To ride an ATV in this area, you will have to pay a fee of $5 per rider.

The off-road vehicles allowed at Brown Mountain OHV Trails are SUVs, Motorcycles, Dune buggies, Dirt bikes, Jeeps, ATVs, SXSs, and UTVs. The trails in this area consist of loose dirt, berms, shades, small jumps, water crossings, steep hills, trees, rocks, dust, mud, sand, and hard park.

Wayehutta ATV Area

Wayehutta ATV Area is a part of the Nantahala National Forest; it offers 28 miles of trails. These trails consist of numerous bridge crossings, a scenic waterfall, dense forest vegetation, and trees. Some areas of this trail system are very rocky and challenging; it ranges from easy to difficult.

It has a main staging area with picnic tables, a parking area, and a large gazebo. The staging area has no cell phone service; however, there is service along most trails. All vehicles operating in this area must not exceed 62 inches in width. SUVs, Jeeps, and Dune buggies are prohibited in this area. Before you can ride an ATV in this area, you will pay a fee of $5.

Where Can’t You Ride An ATV In North Carolina?

There are quite a few areas where ATV riding is illegal by state law. Riding an ATV on a public roadway or highway in North Carolina is illegal. It is also unlawful to ride an ATV on the street in North Carolina. These areas are off-limits to ATVs according to North Carolina ATV laws.

However, some designated parks and trail systems do not allow ATVs. The owners of these areas decide not to make an entry for ATVs. These areas are Windy Hill MX, North Carolina Motorsports Park, Silver Creek MX, CRMX Motocross, Silver Valley MX Park, County Line Motocross Park, 421-MX, and Daniels Ridge Motocross.

north carolina park view in the fall

Popular Places To Ride Your ATV In North Carolina

Riding an ATV in a popular area has its perks; you get to meet and interact with ATV riders from different locations and engage in different ATV activities that you would not enjoy on your own. We will look at some popular places to ride an ATV in North Carolina.

Uwharrie OHV Trail System

The Uwharrie OHV Trail System is also known as Dutch Jones Creek. It is a popular area where you can ride your ATV, and it is open from April 1 to December 15. The trails are quite rugged and consist of deep ruts, some shallow water crossings, chunky and steep climbs, and seasonal mud pits.

All vehicle types are permitted in this area, including motorcycles. It also has a campground with basic amenities like garbage cans, an unloading ramp, and a vault toilet; however, there is no running water. All dirt bikes and ATV riders are expected to wear a helmet when riding in this area.

Final Thoughts

Riding an ATV is fun and exciting; there is an incredible feeling in the body when you go ATV riding. What is more exciting is riding ATVs with friends and families in a good and ATV-friendly area. With this blog post, you can know where to go when you wish to ride an ATV with your friends and families in North Carolina.

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.