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Ask the ATV Safety Institute: Riding in the forest

April 02, 2014

You Ask: I will be riding in a national forest for the first time this year. Is there anything I need to know before I go?

The ASI Responds: If you haven’t had a chance to take the ATV RiderCourse, we highly recommend that you do so before you embark on your trip. The class will help increase your safety awareness and skills, introduce strategies to identify and manage risks, emphasize environmental responsibility and help you enjoy your ride to the fullest.

Plan ahead—especially for a multiday ride. Contact the forest where you will be riding and get a copy of the Motor Vehicle Use Map. This map will show you where the trails are and which are open to ATVs. Many forests will have these maps available for download from their website.

Good planning, following the recommended maintenance schedule of your ATV, traveling in the company of others and practicing safe riding habits should eliminate most challenges.

Before you ride, you should ensure that the ATV is in proper riding condition, gather all of the gear you’ll need for the riding – including your helmet and other protective gear, a survival kit suitable for the location you are riding in, first-aid kit and the ATV’s tool kit – and leave an itinerary to let people know your route and date of return.

Suggested items to bring along include a cellphone, tow rope, flashlight, GPS unit, space blanket, food, water, signal flares and extra gasoline in an approved container.

During the ride, have a map of the area that you will be riding, know the rules and regulations and remember to TREAD Lightly! ( to ensure future use of the trails.

After the ride, clean your vehicle. By cleaning your ATV, you will get a chance to inspect it for problems that may arise in the future (e.g., a missing bolt or loose hose clamp).

Finally, enjoy the ride! You have gone through steps that will help mitigate problems that you may encounter.

To enroll in an ATV RiderCourse near you, visit or call (800) 887-2887.

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