California: Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area

Rancho Cordova, Calif.

If you're looking for variety in a riding area in California, head off to the Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area 20 miles east of Sacramento, and three miles south of U.S. 50.

The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the state Department of Parks and Recreation notes that the area offers a variety of interesting terrain and trails for ATVs, dirtbikes, and four-wheel drive vehicles, plus the famed Hangtown motocross track.

What kind of terrain? Flat, open grasslands, rolling hills with oak trees, and acres of cobbled mine tailings. The terrain is challenging for beginners and experts.

Interestingly, the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division notes, Aerojet General Corp. bought the southern part of the property in the early 1960s to build and test rocket engines for the U.S. government, although no rocket engines were actually tested there.

In 1972, Roy and Mary McGill leased 425 acres from Aerojet General Corp. and created a motorcycle riding area. Sacramento County bought the land in 1975, and then bought another 401 acres a year later. The 800-plus-acre park is now operated by the Off-Highway Vehicle Division of the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

The state notes the park's staging area is set up for both parking and picnicking. There are shaded picnic sites throughout the area.

For ATV riding, there are trails throughout the motorcycle/ATV area. Most of the trails are beginner- or intermediate-level trails, with only a few expert trails. The trails are two-way trails, so use caution around blind curves, and on hills and jumps. Keep to the right of the trail when possible.

Besides the Hangtown Motocross track, there is a practice track. The practice track is more than a mile long, with jumps and turns, and is open to ATVs and motorcycles.

There is also a mini track for ATVs and motorcycles with engine displacements of 80cc or less. This gives young riders the chance to practice and improve their riding skills while being supervised by a parent or other responsible adult.

At the mini-track area, there is a North track for novices and smaller vehicles, and a South track for more aggressive riders. The South track has several jumps and some challenging turns.

Other features of the site that aren't for ATVs include a Quarter Midget Track, go-kart track, clay oval track for modified midgets and outlaw karts, and a four-by-four area.

To ride at the state park, riders under 18 must have passed a formal ATV safety training course.

Also, all riders must wear helmets and should wear proper protective clothing.

Current California off-road vehicle registration (green stickers) or highway registration are required at all times when operating ATVs on public land. The California off-highway ID plate must be displayed.

Each off-highway vehicle must have a U.S. Forest Service-approved spark arrestor in good working order.

For more information, contact Prairie City SVRA, 13300 White Rock Road, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670; (916) 985-7378.