Take your ATV and explore the trails in Michigan

Exploring the Best ATV Trails in Michigan: A Guide for Adventure Thrillers

The best ATV trails in Michigan are electrifying. There are few places that can rival the state’s exhilarating trails. Its diverse landscapes offer a playground for ATV enthusiasts looking for a grand adventure.


There are plenty of trails to choose from: the rugged Bull Gap ATV trail, the sandy expanses of Silver Lake State Park, or everywhere in between. Seasoned and novice riders alike will have an exciting time off-roading in Michigan.


Let’s get into the best ATV riding in Michigan and gear up for the best ride of your life.


Finding the Best ATV Trails for Michigan Outdoor Adventures


Your ATV adventure in Michigan starts with browsing the popular trails. Michigan natural trails offer more than diverse terrains—they also speak of history and legacy.


Each trail has its own unique allure, promising unforgettable moments and challenges for riders of different skill levels. Here are the top off-road vehicle trails Michigan has to offer:


Bull Gap ATV Trail


Tucked away in the northern reaches of Michigan, the Bull Gap ATV Trail offers a wilderness escape like no other. The Bull Gap ATV Trail spans approximately 27 miles and is divided into segments that cater to different experience levels.


The trail's diverse terrain includes rocky paths, steep inclines, and challenging descents, making it a thrilling choice for adventure enthusiasts seeking an adrenaline rush.


  • Trail highlights: Dense forests, rocky paths, panoramic lake views, and diverse obstacles.


  • Recommended riding level: Intermediate to advanced — the Bull Gap ATV Trail offers a mix of terrains, including rocky paths, steep inclines, and obstacles. While there are segments suitable for beginners, the trail's challenging sections make it more enjoyable for intermediate and advanced riders.


Cedar Creek ORV Trail


The Cedar Creek ORV Trail in the Lower Peninsula beckons with its undeniable allure. This trail weaves through a labyrinth of towering trees, offering riders a chance to conquer challenging terrain while surrounded by nature's splendor.


The scenic water crossings make the trail perfect for those who enjoy technical riding challenges. Technical sections will challenge your ATV-handling abilities.


There are steep climbs and descents paired with obstacles, all of which require careful throttle control. Your precise maneuvering technique will not go amiss here.


  • Trail highlights: Immersive journey through forested landscapes with elevation changes.


  • Recommended riding level: Intermediate to advanced — With technical sections, elevation changes, and tight turns, the Cedar Creek ORV Trail is best suited for riders who are comfortable with moderately challenging terrain.


Big Bear ORV Trail


In the heart of the Manistee National Forest lies the Big Bear ORV Trail, which spans 25 miles. An adventure through this trail takes riders through dense woodlands. The trail's picturesque water crossings add an extra layer of thrill.


As you traverse the Big Bear Trail, keep an eye out for points of interest that offer the perfect opportunity to pause and soak in the surroundings.


  • Trail highlights: Tranquil woodlands mix with thrilling water crossings in Big Bear. The land’s natural habitat has much to offer.


  • Recommended riding level: All levels — The trail is all about peaceful woodlands and water crossings. Beginners can ride through it without concern.

Coal Wood Trail


Calling all adrenaline junkies to Coal Wood Trail! This trail is for those seeking a challenge that pushes their limits. Situated in the western part of the Upper Peninsula, the trail has it all: technical sections, steep climbs and descents, and high skill requirements.


All 19 miles of the trail are filled with rocky paths and tight corners. Formidable uphill and downhill stretches will test your ATV-handling abilities to the fullest. We advise you to take all safety precautions and follow proper riding techniques to go on this trail.


  • Trail highlights: Technical sections with steep climbs and descents will test your mettle. But historical mining areas will also provide learning opportunities.


  • Recommended riding level: Intermediate to advanced — ATV riders who are more experienced will find themselves challenged by this trail.


Grand Island National Recreation Area


Escape to the captivating realm of the Grand Island National Recreation Area. It’s a land of 13,500 acres, where the ATV trail system gives front-row seats to the island’s untouched beauty up close.


There’s a diverse terrain on this island, which also includes historical forest roads and carriage trails from the past.


The ATV trail requires a permit, but visiting this ATV-friendly Upper Peninsula location for a remote outdoor getaway is worth visiting. If you want to take your family camping, hiking, or kayaking, this is the place for you.


  • Trail highlights: Find thrilling offroad adventures and historical exploration in a remote island setting.


  • Recommended riding level: All levels — There are areas suitable for novice riders. But more experienced riders can enjoy tougher segments.


  • Additional transportation: The island can be reached by ferry and watercraft (either motorized or not, but jet skis are prohibited). The Grand Island Ferry Service runs almost every day. Booking is recommended.


Haywire Trail


ATV riders who are also history buffs will love Haywire Trail. It’s where Michigan’s mining history is preserved, speaking of the state’s industrial past.


You can match your off-road excitement with exploration and learning here. Stretching for about 34 miles, the Haywire Trail takes ATV riders through former mining areas, rail beds, and backcountry.


However, ATV riders must be extra careful not to disturb these relics and structures as their states are fragile. Familiarizing yourself with the trail’s landmarks by using a map or GPS device is advantageous.


  • Trail highlights: Remnants of mining structures, machinery, and rail lines are there for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.


  • Recommended riding level: Intermediate to advanced — The Haywire Trail's historical exploration and backcountry riding require a level of skill and confidence. Riders with some experience will be able to appreciate the technical aspects.


Silver Lake State Park


Silver Lake State Park is one of the Michigan ATV parks of high renown. It’s a haven for off-road enthusiasts who are looking for sand dunes. And indeed, the park’s 450 acres of sand dunes will test your skills and control to the max.


Its location along Lake Michigan’s shores has panoramic views of the lake. As a rule, all riders must put up a 10-foot orange flag of solid material. To enter the area, you need a permit and a Recreation Passport. But its steep climbs and deep wet crossings on the dunes will not disappoint.


  • Trail highlights: The one-of-a-kind environment will educate riders about the dune’s delicate ecosystem while they go off-roading.


  • Recommended riding level: Intermediate to advanced — Riding the sandy dunes at Silver Lake State Park demands a higher skill level due to the challenging sandy terrain.


  • Safety precautions: All riders must wear MX helmets. Don't stray from designated trails to prevent erosion. Avoid disturbing the wildlife and vegetation in the dunes.


gear up and ride safely when taking the trails
ATV Regulations in Michigan


Michigan has a set of strict regulations governing ATV ownership and riding. The state has published a handbook of ORV laws that regulates all off-road vehicles, including ATVs and UTVs. But all these regulations are established to ensure the safety of the riders.


One of the key regulations is that all Michigan residents must have a title for their ORVs, obtained through the Secretary of State. The ORV owner must present a Certificate of Origin from the dealer to apply for the title. The owner must also apply for the title within two weeks of buying the ORV.


Furthermore, there’s a highly specific age restriction in Michigan for riding ATVs. Riders aged 16 or below must have a valid ORV safety certificate when riding their vehicles, which are limited to four-wheeled vehicles. Riders under 16 years of age cannot ride three-wheeled vehicles. Adult supervision is also required.


The Department of Natural Resources issues ORV licenses and permits, which all ORV owners must have before riding anywhere. Even non-residents visiting Michigan must also comply with this rule. This license has to be displayed clearly on the vehicles.


Michigan also lays out the law for protective gear. It requires all ATV and UTV riders to wear a helmet. If the helmet doesn’t have a face guard, they must also wear goggles. UTV riders can be exempt from this rule if their vehicles have a standardized roof and wear a seatbelt.


Not only that, your ATV must be up to code. For example, only spark arresters approved by the US Forest Service can be used. More details about Michigan’s rules and restrictions for ORVs are available.


Trail etiquette and environmental considerations


We also recommend you adhere to trail etiquettes and environmental considerations when riding your ATV in Michigan. Do your part in preserving the Michigan natural trails.


  • Respect posted speed limits on Michigan off-road trails and maintain a safe speed for the terrain.


  • Respect other trail users, including horse riders and hikers.


  • Sound levels are regulated. Avoid excessive noise that may disturb wildlife or other visitors.


  • Stay on the appointed trails to protect sensitive habitats.


  • Avoid riding in wetlands, streams, and other ecologically fragile areas.


  • Minimize your impact on the environment by taking care of your trash.


People Always Ask Questions


Learn more about ATV riding in Michigan through the following FAQs.


What are the top ATV trails in Michigan?


As listed in this article, we consider Bull Gap ATV Trail, Cedar Creek ORV Trail, Big Bear ORV Trail, Coal Wood Trail, Grand Island National Recreation Area, Haywire Trail, and Silver Lake State Park as the best in the state. Check out this list of the best ATV trails in Michigan for other trails.


Are there any safety regulations for ATV trails in Michigan?


There are actually plenty of safety regulations for ATV trails in Michigan. They are of paramount importance to the well-being of riders and the preservation of natural resources.


Having a permit to ride is one of the key rules for riding on ATV trails in Michigan. Another key rule is the necessity to wear a helmet and facial protective gear. These regulations are designed to minimize risks and create a safe environment for ATV enthusiasts.


Michigan's handbook of ORV laws will outline all the safety requirements for ATV trails. It's also recommended to check out each of the trails you are considering visiting for its specific regulations. Promoting responsible riding practices is crucial for riders of all ages and skill levels.


What equipment is recommended for ATV riding on Michigan trails?


Other than requiring the use of a helmet and face protector, there are a few required equipment for ATV riding on Michigan trails. Here are a few highlights:


  • The ATV braking system must be in good working condition. The system must be one that can be operated by hand or foot.


  • The spark arrester used in your ATV must be a US Forest Service-approved one.


  • The vehicle must have a muffler in optimal condition.


  • The vehicle must have a safety flag mounted.


What type of weather conditions can I expect on Michigan's ATV trails?


Michigan's climate varies throughout the year, so you can experience various weather conditions depending on the season and region when riding on ATV trails. Here's a seasonal breakdown of the weather to prepare for going on the ATV trails in Michigan:


  • Spring: Trails in spring can be wet and muddy due to melting snow and spring rains. Some trails might have restricted access during the thaw.
  • Summer: Trails are likely to be dry and well-maintained, providing ideal riding conditions. However, be cautious of potential thunderstorms and rapidly changing weather.
  • Fall: Trails can be damp and muddy due to autumn rains. Fallen leaves may also cover parts of the trail, affecting traction.
  • Winter: Most ATV trails are closed or not accessible during the winter due to snow and icy conditions. However, some designated snowmobile trails may be open for winter use.


Can novice riders also navigate the ATV trails in Michigan?


Yes, beginners can certainly navigate ATV trails in Michigan, but it's important for them to choose trails that match their skill level and take necessary precautions. Michigan offers a variety of ATV trails, some of which are suitable for riders with limited experience.




It’s clear that ATV and UTV trails in Michigan have a lot to offer: excitement, challenge, and panoramic beauty. The experience you garner from these trails in Michigan ATV parks will entice you and leave you craving for more.


Despite the plethora of regulations, the state outlines to preserve these trails, any off-road enthusiast can still have a great amount of fun and entertainment. Not to mention, Michigan has various historical sites in its ATV trails to educate riders as they exercise their riding skills.


Follow the guidelines, and let Michigan's ATV trails ignite your spirit of adventure. Gear up for your next ATV adventure with our top-notch Thumper Fab products. Click here to find out more.


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