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Getting a dirt bike is always exciting, but when it comes to finding a place to ride it, it seems like it’s against the rules in most locations. So where can you legally ride a dirt bike and have fun doing it?
Dirt bikes can be legally ridden on private property and dedicated motocross tracks. Many national forests and BLM lands also permit dirt bikes in certain areas but watch for signs and stay on the appropriate trails. Do not use public roads unless the bike has been made street legal.
Although these rules may seem restrictive, there are quite a few places where you can safely ride a dirt bike. Below we’ve compiled a list of 13 great places where you can let loose and have fun! If you’re interested in making a dirt bike that’s street legal, we can help you with that too.
1. Private Property
The first place to ride a dirt bike is on privately owned property. If you know someone with private land (or own it yourself), it’s up to the owners to grant or deny access. You won’t need any special qualifications and you won’t need to pay any kind of fee either! Farms, fields, and ditches are popular places to go dirt biking on private property. Just make sure you don’t start wandering onto someone else’s land and the noise isn’t disturbing your neighbors.
Here’s a helpful hint: if there is a neighbor within ear-shot it might be best to talk with them first as a courtesy to let them know they may occasionally hear a dirt bike engine. Probably a good idea to stress that it’ll be infrequent and not for extended periods near their property line.
2. Public Motocross Tracks
Another great option is a public motocross track. These locations are specifically designed for dirt bikes, so you’ll have access to a variety of terrains and difficulty levels. Many motocross tracks include jumps, practice tracks, elevation changes, step-ups, step-downs, and tabletops. These tracks include a range of difficulties so they’re perfect for beginners and experts.
Plus, you get to experience a more community-centric setting! Many competitions will take place at motocross tracks, and there are usually great places to relax, watch others, and enjoy concessions.
To find a motocross track near you, visit the directory at mxtrackguide.com.
3. National Forests
National forests are wonderful places for all sorts of outdoor activities, including dirt biking. These forests cover large areas of land and often have trails that are accessible to dirt bikers. But before you suit up and head out, you should check the website of the forest you’re heading to.
Some national forests only allow dirt bikers during certain seasons, and there may be specific rules and regulations in place as well. These rules are there for the safety of you and the land, so it’s important to follow them. You might not be able to pull off crazy stunts on national forest land, but there should be miles of trails to explore in a rugged, natural (and often beautiful) setting.
4. BLM Land
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees one out of every ten acres of land in the United States (source). That’s a huge overall area, and dirt bikers are allowed to use a lot of it. This land is protected and preserved for the good of the public, and the riding of recreational vehicles is an activity they usually permit.
Off-highway vehicles (including dirt bikes) can be ridden on BLM land as long as riders stick to marked areas, avoid venturing into areas where there are endangered plants and animals, and take the proper safety measures. Many BLM trails can also be accessed free of charge, so they’re a fantastic option for dirt bikers to look into.
5. State Vehicle Recreation Areas
Many U.S. states recognize that dirt bikers are passionate about the sport and want more locations to let loose and have fun. To address this need, there are a variety of state vehicle recreation areas (also known as SVRA).
These are areas that are designed to be used by motorcycles, dune buggies, ATVs, 4x4s, dirt bikes, and other off-highway vehicles. They come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re definitely good places for dirt bikers to legally ride.
Campgrounds are another great place to break out the dirt bike and explore. Many campgrounds are located on national forest or BLM land so there should be accessible trails nearby.
Make sure you follow the specific rules of every campground you visit but rest assured that many of them will have opportunities to enjoy your off-highway vehicles. Just don’t speed around the tents or RVs and you should usually be fine!
7. Sand Dunes
Sand dunes have always been a popular destination for dirt bikers. Kicking up a dramatic spray of sand and speeding over hills and valleys is a real adrenaline rush! It’s also softer to fall on sand compared to packed dirt or rocks, so this could be good if you’re worried about injuries.
Many coastal regions have sand dunes, but even inland areas like deserts have them too. If you have some sand dunes within driving distance, consider going there! They may be managed by the BLM and will have certain rules, so make sure you research ahead of time and follow the guidelines.
8. Converted Railroad Tracks
If you’re interested in distance rather than terrain variety, see if there are any converted railroad trails near you. Great American Rail-Trail is a massive organization that is dedicated to repurposing abandoned railroad tracks into recreational trails.
These paths are mainly designed for walking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing, but local trail managers have different rules for the sections they oversee. Dirt biking could certainly be a possibility on these trails, so visit railstotrails.org for more information and local resources.
Like sand dunes, beaches are another great place to let loose on a dirt bike. The compacted sand, water, and dunes create a great place to speed around and have fun. Of course, some beaches are too crowded for dirt biking and others forbid vehicle use entirely.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but some beaches do permit dirt bikes in certain areas. Watch for signs and be mindful of the people, plants, and animals around you. It’s a good idea to call the ranger station closest to the beach you’re considering for your ride first and ask if it’s legal to do so in that particular area.
10. Backyard Courses
If you don’t want to travel far or don’t have a good dirt bike venue nearby, you can always create your own course at home! It’s perfectly legal to dirt bike in your own backyard (as long as your HOA doesn’t cause a fuss and your neighbors aren’t filing noise complaints). Be mindful of your neighbors and any local city or county ordinances that might prevent this, such as noise ordinances.
You can also customize the course according to your own wants and needs. You can make jumps, obstacle courses, tracks, and anything else you have the space for.
11. Private Roads
Standard dirt bikes cannot be ridden on public roads, but private roads are generally fair game! Especially if you live in rural areas with unpaved roads, these can make great tracks for racing. Just make sure to keep an eye out for other vehicles since it’s likely cars will be using these roads too.
12. Off-season Ski Hills
Ski resorts mainly focus on winter sports, but they need to be useful during the other seasons of the year too. This has led many ski hills to offer a variety of courses, tracks, and activities to outdoorsmen during the off-months.
Not every off-season ski hill will accommodate dirt bikers, but some do. They might even host events or competitions! Check with your local ski resort to see if you can bring your dirt bike next time. If they say no, ask if they know of any nearby ski resorts that do offer this!
13. Converted Skate Parks
This option is still a bit new and controversial, but it may take off in upcoming years. When skate parks are closed down, sometimes they are filled with sand or dirt. This makes them unusable for skaters, but some enterprising dirt bikers saw this as an opportunity. They began to use these filled skate parks as miniature motocross parks (source).
Some businesses took inspiration from this and began to create official parks out of converted/abandoned skate parks. This idea is new and dirt bikers should avoid breaking laws and public safety measures, but this trend may soon become widespread and legal. Keep an eye on your local skate parks for news.
WHERE TO RIDE DIRECTORY: Check out our directory of places to ride your dirt bike! We have many places listed in the United States, but even a bunch of options internationally as well! See our directory of places to ride here.
Places You Should Never Ride a Dirt Bike
There are definitely some places where you should avoid riding your dirt bike either because it’s unsafe or illegal (or often both). Some examples are:
- Public Roads – This includes highways, neighborhood streets, and any other roads that are not privately owned if your dirt bike is not fully registered and street legal.
- Restricted Property – Stay away from the private property of others if you don’t have explicit permission. You could damage their land and/or be prosecuted due to trespassing.
- Industrial Areas – Do not ride dirt bikes anywhere near industrial equipment, broken machinery, etc.
- Wildlife Preserves – If you’re riding in national forests or BLM land, stay away from restricted areas. These are there to protect at-risk wildlife.
Do You Need a License to Ride a Dirt Bike?
Dirt bikes are made for people of all ages, so this leads many people to wonder if there are any legal requirements to ride one. In almost every state in the U.S., you do not need a permit or license to ride a dirt bike while riding off-road. Nor do you need liability insurance. However, the dirt bike itself must be registered with the state.
In most states, the only time you need a license or a permit as the operator of the dirt bike is if the bike is street legal and you intend on riding it on public roads. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get a motorcycle license first, just as you would if riding any standard street bike.
Minors need to be under the supervision of a responsible adult while operating a dirt bike. The rules and regulations vary, so check your state’s DMV website for specific rules.
Making Your Dirt Bike Street Legal
Although there are many legal places to ride a standard dirt bike, many riders feel like their options are limited because their bikes are not classified as street legal. It will take some extra money, time, and paperwork to update your bike, but it is possible to make a dirt bike that can legally be ridden on public roads. You will also need a motorcycle license as the operator.
Doing this opens up a new world of possibilities to you, but it also requires a new level of safety and responsibility. You will have to be more aware of people and vehicles around you and you will also put yourself in more danger. Make sure you understand the risks before committing!
Luckily, you can make a dirt bike street legal. You will need to get it registered and approved by your state’s department of transportation and you will likely need to add extra safety gear as well. Once again, the specific rules and regulations vary according to the state but generally, you will need:
- A license plate
- Off-Highway Vehicle Decal
- Inspection Certificate
- Rearview mirror
- Turn signals
- Brake lights
- DOT-approved tires
- DOT-approved gas tank
You can find a full breakdown of each of these elements in our article: How to Make a Dirt Bike Street Legal for Under $100.
It’s usually easiest to buy a bike that’s already street-legal, but if you are interested in converting the bike yourself, there are a variety of kits you can purchase that will make the job easier. These kits often provide the specific tools and items you’ll need, but some may be specifically suited to a certain type of bike.
However, some good universal kits to start with include the Kemimoto (Compatible With Polaris, Pioneer, Talon, Can-Am, Kawasaki, Arctic Cat) and the WD Electronics Polaris RZR Street Legal Kit.
Street-legal conversion kits usually cost between $100 to $200 and you will also need to factor in the fees for a new license plate and registration. Check your local DMV to find out what these are.
- Riding Dirt Bikes on ATV Trails: Here’s What the Law Says – Do you know if you can ride your dirt bike on trails that are listed as “ATV trails”? This article will give you the rundown including if your bike needs to be registered while on these trails, what the rules (and laws) say, and a lot more.
- Are Dirt Bikes Legally Considered Motor Vehicles? – There are a lot of laws out there that apply to “motor vehicles”. So that begs the question of weather dirt bikes fit under this category. Here’s what you should know.