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Need to Know

To have the best riding experience possible, here are several tips to consider before heading out on a ride:

A well-planned trip makes for an enjoyable and safe ride. Contact the land manager of your destination before you go; ensure that the OHV area is open and check on trail and weather conditions.

Dress in layers to prepare for changing weather. Wear appropriate protective gear.

Reserve a campsite in advance if you are going on an extended trip.

Ride with someone; never go alone.

Always let someone know where you are going, and when you plan on returning. Consider leaving a map of the riding area with that person. If you need help, they will know where to look. Know the rules of the OHV area before you go.

Make sure your machine is not too loud for the area and that you have the proper equipment installed.

Keep your machine in good shape. Always inspect your machine before each trip to ensure it is in good mechanical shape.

Carry the basics with you on the trail or dunes, including:

  • Water and snacks
  • Basic tools to make on-the-trail repair
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Extra spark plugs
  • A tow strap
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Tire repair kit
  • A cell phone, CB or two-way radio
  • Duct tape
  • Knife
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map of riding area, compass or GPS unit

Always take advantage of safety training opportunities. The more familiar and comfortable you are with your vehicle, its operation and the riding environment, the better you’ll be. Even the most experienced riders can learn something new.

Prepared riders wear off-road safety gear every time they ride. Helmet, goggles, gloves, long-sleeve shirt and pants and over the ankle boots help reduce the chance of injury.

Ride defensively – always be prepared for the reactions of other riders and hazards that may appear. Keep your eyes moving, searching the terrain and environment several seconds ahead within your travel path.

Avoid overriding your sight distance; always ride at a speed that allows you to stop safely if a hazard appears. The faster you go, the less time you have to react and make decisions.

Always scout an area before riding at higher speeds. Traveling at high speed in unfamiliar terrain is a common cause of crashes.

Always ride slowly near crowds and in camping areas. Remember that small children and pets may be present. Showing off in these situations is a recipe for tragedy.

Do what you can to prevent rollovers. Be aware of steep terrain, turning momentum and speed. A vehicle rollover is the most common type of incident.

Travel only on designated roads and trails. Know the boundaries of the designated ATV area and stay inside them.

Become familiar with landmarks. They help keep you oriented and can be used to direct help.

Stay on trails to avoiding widening them.

Always ride with a partner or in a group; this ensures help will be nearby in case of mechanical problems, accidents or illness.

Do not ride double. Never carry a passenger unless your ATV is designed for passengers.

Never allow anyone to operate a vehicle that is too big for them.

ATVs and Hunting – ATVs are popular vehicles for hunting. Hunters must follow the same rules as other ATV operators. This includes displaying an ATV operating permit, carrying an ATV Safety Education Card, observing the same training and equipment requirements, adhering to sound level regulations and riding only on designated routes.

Scouting and retrieving game must be done on designated trails and roads. Harvested game can be carried by hand to a road or trail and then taken by vehicle. Game shouldn’t be shot if it can’t be packed out. Leaving a new set of cross country tracks invites others to follow and creates a dead end trail for future riders.


  • No hunting or harassing animals from a snowmobile, ATV or passenger vehicle.

Hunting Exception: A qualified disabled hunter may obtain an “Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit” to hunt from a motor-propelled vehicle, except while the vehicle is in motion or on any public road or highway, or within Cooperative Travel Management Areas as per General Hunting Regulations published by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

  • Do not shoot from an ATV.

  • Do not shoot from or across a public right-of-way or railroad right-of-way.

  • Do not carry loaded firearms on an ATV.

Note: A loaded firearm is one having live ammunition in the chamber or arrows out of a quiver (ORS 821.240). A person who has a license to carry a concealed handgun is allowed to carry a loaded firearm on an ATV.

  • Do not cast artificial light from a motor vehicle while in possession of a weapon; or cast an artificial light upon a game mammal, predatory animal or livestock from within 500 feet of a motor vehicle while in possession of a weapon.

  • Always carry your ATV Safety Education Card.


  • Stay on designated trails and roads. Respect closed roads and trails.

  • Know and understand the meaning of trail signs and vehicle symbols.

  • Remember that other hunters may be in the area on foot. Respect other hunters’ rights.

  • Do not drink while riding ATVs and hunting. Laws concerning driving under the influence of intoxicants also apply to ATVs.

  • Limit ATV use in and around campgrounds. Be respectful of other campers’ desires for quiet and minimal disruption.
  • Avoid driving an ATV in wet conditions, wetlands, streams and shorelines.
  • Flags are required on dune vehicles. They must be red or orange, 9 feet above ground level and measure 8” x 12”. Be seen and watch out for others.
  • Be aware of slipface hazards: Located on the downwind sides of dunes where loose sand creates steep drop-offs (also known as “razorbacks”).
  • Be aware of deep depressions: Typically located within hillsides, also known as a “witch’s eye.”Be careful approaching dune crests: Turn parallel along the crest to avoid steep drop-offs or collisions with other riders.
  • Maximize visibility of terrain: Wearing orange or yellow colored lenses can help you see better during the day.
  • Watch out for downed trees, lakes, streams, soft and saturated sand.
  • Never override your sight distance: The faster the speed, the less time you have to safely react to hazards in your path.

Sound – Residential areas surround the ODNRA and Sand Lake Recreation Area. Sound buffers help reduce noise. U.S. Forest Service (USFS) personnel are equipped to provide sound checks. Call ahead or request a test before riding. Some OHV dealers also have sound testing equipment.

Jumping - Always have a spotter at the top of the dune to make sure the area is clear of other riders and vehicles.

Heat haze and midday “whiteout” can distort or hide terrain, making the ground look flat when it’s not. You may be unable to judge distances or drop-offs due to poor depth perception. Wear amber, orange or yellow lenses in your goggles for better terrain visibility. Slow down to allow yourself more time to react.

On windy days with shifting sand, use stationary landmarks and/or a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to help find your way.

Heavy traffic around staging areas and campsites may create berms (worm tracks for speed bumps) that are hard to see and can be hazardous. Keep speeds low in all camping and staging areas.

Wildfires – Many ATV areas close their trails in the summer, due to high fire danger. Most ATV areas require USFS-approved spark arresters on ATVs to reduce the chance of starting a wildfire.

Protecting Resources – Riding off designated trails can damage sensitive areas, often forcing agencies to spend more time closing illegally created trails and less time maintaining or creating new, designated trails.

Logging and Construction – Both are common in Oregon. Check before you go.

Trail Signs – Learn how to read trail signs to determine the difficulty of a trail and the types of ATVs allowed.

Forest Roads – Forest roads are typically open to ATVs. Check road conditions, and remember that many forest roads are open to two-way traffic. Keep low speeds and watch for other vehicles. It could be a log truck or another ATV—you never know.

Keep Your Lights On – The forest canopy creates shady areas that make it hard for others to see you coming. Keep your lights on for safety!

Bright Clothing – Wear bright clothing, especially during hunting season.

Hunting Season – Find out if hunting is allowed where you ride.

​The high desert is a fragile ecosystem. Please ride ATVs on designated trails and road systems only.

Sound Carries – In the high desert, natural sound buffers such as hills and valleys are few and far between. Keep muffler and exhaust systems in good working order, and at or below the state’s recommended decibel levels.

Fences and Cattle - Do not cut fences. Respect the rights of property owners. Most central and eastern Oregon public lands are open to cattle grazing. Look out for cattle and slow down when nearing them. It is against the law to chase or harass livestock, game animals or any other wildlife.

Wildfires - Many ATV areas close their trails in the summer, due to high fire danger. Most ATV areas require USFS approved spark arresters on ATVs to reduce the chance of starting a wildfire.

Weeds - Weeds are non-native plants that displace natural vegetation. Weeds can increase soil erosion and degrade water quality. Eradication is difficult and expensive. The best way to get rid of weeds is to prevent them from spreading!

  • Stay on the established roads and trails.

  • Check and wash your ATVs, pick-ups and trailers before and after a drive. Seeds can stick to tires, radiators and the undersides of vehicles.

  • Clean your clothes of any weed seeds.

  • Do not pick flowers or noxious weeds.

  • Do not pick and transport wildflowers that you cannot identify.

  • Do not camp in weed-infested areas.

Report weed-infested sites to the land manager or the Oregon Department of Agriculture Weed Hotline: (866)-INVADER (468-2337).

Riding responsibly is the best way to protect your access to riding areas in Oregon.  Many other users enjoy the same areas as well.  Here are a few tips to ensure OHV’s continue to have access:

Riders should never operate their off-road vehicle on private lands unless they have permission from the land owner or the land is posted open for ATV use. Oftentimes, private property or private timberlands are located adjacent or within OHV riding areas. Impacts from OHV use cannot be effectively managed and maintained on private lands, and reflect negatively on the perception of OHV users and the sport in general.

Know where you’re permitted to ride and where you’re not.

Restricted areas should never be entered with a motorized vehicle. These areas are restricted for many reasons, such as protecting wildlife, controlling erosion, aiding reforestation efforts, and protecting fragile vegetation or soil. Riding in these areas can cause permanent harm to the vegetation, damage or destruction to nesting areas for birds, and even create fire hazards. Entering a restricted area has strong penalties including fines and vehicle impoundment.

Respect seasonal closures. They are needed to minimize damage to the trails and allow time for animals to reproduce undisturbed.

Avoid wet areas and waterways. They are a vital resource for many plants and animals.

If you must cross water, ride carefully and only at designated spots.

Cutting switchbacks and taking shortcuts damages trails and causes erosion.

Share the trails and make friends with other trail users.  Respect their rights to the trail too.

View animals from a distance.  When they flee, they use valuable energy reserves.

Know and respect the sound limits where you ride.

Keep your RPMs and speed down and steady when you are around non-riders.

Always use a spark arrester.  It doesn’t sacrifice power, but can save the forest from fires.

Maintain your exhaust system.  Remember, noise doesn’t equal horsepower.  Too little exhaust back-pressure can actually cause less power and engine damage.

If you “pack it in, pack it out.”  Trash is an eyesore and it attracts scavengers that endanger other wildlife. Even biodegradable materials such as food scraps take time to break down.

​To leave a good impression, you need the right information.  In an age where outdoor recreation is the sport of choice, it is our responsibility to exercise responsible outdoor practices.  Tread Lightly! has a simple message:  Conserve our environment!  Make the commitment to follow and promote the Tread Lightly! Principles:

  • Travel Responsibly on land by staying on designated roads, trails and areas. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. When possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.
  • Respect the Rights of Others including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers skiers, boaters, and divers and those on or near shore.  
  • Educate Yourself prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies, planning for your trip, taking recreation skills classes, and knowing how to operate your equipment safely.
  • Avoid Sensitive Areas on land such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.
  • Do Your Part by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species, and repairing degraded areas.

For more information, contact Tread Lightly at

Oregon Revised Statutes

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