From the sagebrush to high mountain lakes, Montana offers a variety of scenery and trail experiences. You will find great places for family rides as well as technical expert trails for both ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts in Montana.
OHVs and Public Roads
Some Forest Service and BLM roads may be open for use by OHVs. Contact the appropriate Forest Service or BLM office for information such as road designations, closures, conditions, and maps. For roads that require a license plate, please see MCA 23-2-824. Children ages 12-16 who wish to ride on a road must possess a Safety Certificate and be accompanied by a licensed operator. OHVs must be street legal to be ridden on roads.
OHVs and Trails
Most OHV trails are on public land. Trails are maintained by local clubs or government agencies, oftentimes with grant money provided by Montana State Parks. OHV funds are derived from OHV gas tax refund and decal fees. For information about trail riding areas contact the local Forest Service or BLM office for a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).
OHV Registration and Permits
Off-highway vehicles operating on public land for recreational purposes must be registered and display a decal placed in a conspicuous location on the machine.
Residents: OHVs must be registered at the County Treasurer's office in the county where the owner resides. This is a one-time registration and valid until the current owner sells the OHV. Beginning January 2020, an OHV Resident Trail Pass is required to ride on designated motorized routes and trails on all public lands in Montana.
A Resident Trail Pass costs $20 and is available through the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Online Licensing Service, or in person at any FWP office, or from these vendors or county treasurer offices (pdf).
Nonresidents: Nonresidents using their OHVs in Montana must purchase an annual Nonresident Temporary Use Permit, which is valid for the calendar year (January 1 – December 31). Residents of North Dakota are exempt. The Nonresident Temporary Use Permit allows OHV use on trails only. OHVs must be street legal to be ridden on public roads.
A Nonresident Temporary Use Permit costs $35 and is available through the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Online Licensing Service, or in person at any FWP office, or from these vendors or county treasurer offices (pdf).
Laws and Regulations for Operating an OHV in Montana
Online Safety Courses
Montana Off-Highway Vehicle Safety Courses are available online from Fresh Air Educators or the ATV Safety Institute. You may work at your own pace, and save and restart the course at anytime. At the completion of each chapter, you will take a quiz. At the end of the online course, you will take a final exam. When you pass the off highway vehicle safety certification exam, you will be able to print a temporary off highway vehicle safety certificate, and your permanent card will be mailed to you within a few weeks. There is a modest cost for the course, but the certificate has no expiration date, so this is a one-time fee. Click on a logo below to begin.
Hands-on Safety Courses
Enroll in an ASI (ATV Safety Institute) certified hands on safety course today! It’s a fun-filled half day of riding on a closed course that will benefit all skill levels and be fun for the whole family. Class sizes are limited to 8 students and they fill up fast so don’t delay!
Enroll in a certified DirtBike School course, a fun, one-day, hands-on training session available to anyone six years old or above. At approved training sites, MSF certified DBS Coaches will teach you basic riding skills and responsible riding practices, including risk management and environmental awareness.
Make a Plan
- Plan your trip. Obtain travel maps and regulations from public agencies.
- Tell someone your plan before you go.
- Take recreation skills classes.
- Know how to use and operate your equipment safely.
- Avoid the spread of invasive species.
In the winter, more layers are appropriate, but NEVER wear a loose scarf when riding an OHV. Special riding gear such as chest protectors, pants with knee pads and shin guards, and jackets with special padding can provide additional protection.
The nature of off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding makes it essential that riders wear protective clothing:
- Helmet —A helmet is the single most important piece of protection that can be worn.
- Eye protection—Always wear goggles or a bubble visor shield.
- Gloves—A good pair of gloves is essential.
- Boots—It is important to have a pair of strong, over-the-ankle boots, with heels.
- Shirt or jacket—You need to wear a long-sleeved shirt or jacket when riding.
- Pants—You need to wear long pants to protect your legs.
- Consider slope and trail conditions when judging your ability to navigate a particular route;
- Maintain control of speed and course at all times while operating the vehicle;
- Heed all posted warnings;
- Refrain from acting in a manner that may cause or contribute to the injury of anyone.
- Obey all OHV laws in Montana.
- An OHV operator accepts all legal responsibility for injury or damage of any kind to the extent that the injury or damage results from risks inherent in the sport of off-highway vehicle use. Operators must regulate their personal conduct at all times so that injury to self or other persons or property is avoided.
- Risks inherent in the sport include variations in terrain, surface or subsurface conditions, crevices, ravines, streams, poor visibility, rocks, trees, other forms of forest growth or debris, and any other natural hazard.
- Montana's off-highway vehicle laws detail the operator's responsibilities, the use of public roads, and required fees and decals. Most OHV's are required to purchase and display an OHV decal and are subject to a fee in lieu of tax.
Review this checklist before you ride to ensure a safe trip.
- Notify someone of where you intend to ride and what time you will return. Never ride alone.
- Check that your OHV is in proper working condition; all fluids are topped off; there are no loose or broken parts; and that your spark arrestor is in good condition and has not been modified.
- Carry basic tools and survival gear, including plenty of drinking water.
- Make sure you have proper riding gear for the route planned, including at the very least a helmet, sturdy over-the- ankle boots, gloves, and eye protection.
- If riding in an unfamiliar area, make sure you have checked with the managing owner or agency to verify the area is open for OHV use. Be sure you have a current travel plan map.
- Make sure your OHV is clean and free of weed seeds.
- Be sober.
- Be mentally and physically prepared for your ride.
Montana has many miles of developed trails for great riding adventures. Responsible riders know that riding on public lands is a privilege. The best way to protect your riding privilege is to stay on designated trails and act respectfully toward other users, wildlife, and the environment.
- Stay on designated roads and trails or in permitted areas.
- Avoid sensitive areas such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands, and streams, unless on designated routes.
- Ride in the middle of the trail to avoid widening it. Trail widening is unsightly and expensive to repair.
- Avoid riding over small trees and shrubs. Trampled vegetation not only looks bad, but also damages wildlife habitat and contributes to soil erosion.
- Respect seasonal and permanent trail closures.
Respect the Rights of Others
- Always yield the right of way to nonmotorized trail users. When encountering hikers or horses on the trail, pull over and shut off your engine. Remove your helmet and let them pass out of sight before restarting.
- Do not alter the manufacturer's muffler system. Loud exhaust systems can be offensive to others, and your exhaust system must comply with the Montana State Sound Law.
- When overtaking others, follow at a safe distance until they signal you to pass. Be courteous while passing. A little bump of the throttle can leave a shower of gravel or a cloud of dust and an angry rider behind you.
Care for the Environment
- Leave the area as good as or better than you found it.
- Never harass wildlife or domestic animals that you may encounter while riding. Always view wildlife from a respectful distance.
- Properly dispose of waste. Never litter. Always carry out what you carry in. Carry a trash bag with you to pack out other people's trash.
- Leave gates the way you find them, either open or closed.
- Minimize the use of fire.
In Montana, off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts are very passionate about the opportunities they have to enjoy riding their OHVs. Here’s your chance to promote your passion with participation. Find out more about a riding group in your area, or if there are none, start a new riding group! Click the links below to learn more about how you can help maintain and improve OHV recreation in Montana.
- Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association — This statewide organization of OHV recreationists strives to protect and ensure future rights of OHV users, communicates statewide with members, develops a collaborative environment between users and decision makers, and educates OHV users about the impact they have on the land and how to limit negative effects.
- Contact Information for Montana OHV Clubs ( 194 KB) — If you don’t see your club here or know of one we missed, please let us know. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, and ride safe!
- National Off–Highway Vehicle Conservation Council — This publicly supported education foundation was created to provide a wide variety of programs, materials, and information to clubs, organizations, individuals, and agencies to further a positive future for responsible OHV recreation.
- Tread Lightly! — Tread Lightly! is a nonprofit organization focused on creating educational materials, courses, and volunteer opportunities to restore areas and provide recreationists with news on outdoor ethics and activities.
- American Motorcyclist Association — This organization originated in 1924. If motorcycling is your passion, check out this site. They work to pursue, protect, and promote the interests of motorcycle enthusiasts.
- United Four Wheel Drive Associations — This international organization welcomes all kinds of 4X4 vehicle users together to share experiences through organized events like camping trips and weekend rallies.
- Jennifer Schofield **
East Helena, MT
Term ends: 12/31/2018
- Russ Ehnes **
Great Falls, MT
Term ends: 12/31/2018
- Mark Klemencic **
Great Falls, MT
Term ends: 12/31/2020
- Jody Loomis **
Term ends: 12/31/2020
- Bob Walker
Term ends: 12/31/2020
- Kent Wellner
Trails & Dispersed Recreation Program Manager
Forest Service, Northern Region
26 Ft. Missoula Rd.
Missoula, MT 59804
Term ends: N/A
- Brad Colin
Outdoor Recreation Planner
Bureau of Land Management, Butte Field Office
106 North Parkmont
Butte, MT 59701
Term ends: N/A
- ** Serving second consecutive term
An off-highway vehicle (OHV) is a self-propelled vehicle used for recreation or cross-country travel on public lands, trails, easements lakes, rivers or streams. The term includes but is not limited to motorcycles, ATVs, dune buggies, amphibious vehicles, air cushion vehicles, and any other means of land transportation deriving motive power from any source other than muscle or wind. Four-wheel-drive trucks registered as motor vehicles are not considered OHVs.
Most OHV trails are on public land. For information about trail riding areas contact the local Forest Service or BLM office for a travel plan map.
The Off-Highway Vehicle program is administered by Montana State Parks. The funds that support the OHV program are derived from gas tax and decal fees related to OHV use and registrations in Montana, and are separate from all Montana State Parks revenues, camping fees and other related funding sources.
- Montana OHV Fuel Study - 2013 ( 2.3 MB)
Outdoor Recreation Program Manager