ATV Fun in the North Country

ATV riders hit the north country
ATV riding has increased in popularity in recent years with the North Country supporting an extensive trail network, complete with links to essential services like restaurants and gas stations. Photos courtesy of New Hampshire State Parks
courtesy photos

All-terrain vehicles are surging in popularity in New Hampshire, largely in the North Country, where a trail network of more than 1,000 miles awaits.

The network, called Ride the Wilds, has added some pep to the region’s economic engine. A great resource for accessing Ride the Wilds is Bear Rock Adventures in Colebrook, where you can rent ATVs and book guided tours.

Not only can ATVers ride by bogs, over mountains and through the woods on dirt trails, it’s also OK to ride in the streets of several North Country communities, connecting riders to restaurants, shops, gas and lodging.

Included in the trails is Berlin’s Jericho Mountain State Park, where some 80 miles of trails are maintained by the state. ATV clubs maintain trails too, the lion’s share on private land.

“OHRV [off-highway recreational vehicle] riding is a great activity for families and friends,” says NH Bureau of Trails District Supervisor Clint Savage. “You can see great wildlife and scenery out in the woods. Learn the rules, ride responsibly and try it. It is often very different than people think it is.”

The bureau offers a map of ATV trails in the state. Riders are licensed. Safety is tantamount and Savage advises wearing protective gear including a helmet.

Also, he says never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but do ride on designated trails at a safe speed and ride an ATV that is appropriate for your age. “You should always ride with a partner and make sure you let someone know your plans.”

Like heading to the North Country for a weekend of riding.


ATV clubs maintain several hundreds of miles of North Country trails.

Gear Box

So, you already dropped a few hundred on rentals and decided ATVing’s your thing. Everything from engine size to how you plan to use the ATV factors into a purchase. The new Polaris Sportsman 570 EPS 4×4 gets high marks for performance, comfort and value ($7,299). They’ll see you coming if you’re wearing a bright red, lightweight MSR Rev-1 Helix helmet with its washable liner and cheek pads ($109.95-$119.95). Haul your ATV, and another, to northern NH with a sturdy Yutrax Steel Mesh Utility Trailer TX 158 ($399.99).

Expert Advice From Clint Savage

A North Country native, Clint Savage has been with the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails for 25 years. As a district supervisor, he has a keen understanding about the growth of ATVing in the state, particularly in the northern tier.

What’s the difference between an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and OHRV (off-highway recreational vehicle)? An OHRV is a definition that covers more than one type of vehicle — trail bikes, ATVs, UTVs. It is a broad term used to describe all motorized wheeled vehicles. An ATV has more specific definition that describes the vehicle. 

How can I get started with ATV riding and do I need a license? One of the best ways to get started with ATV riding is to rent an ATV for the day to make sure that this is a sport you are going to enjoy before you invest in buying your own. You will need a valid driver’s license if you are 16 or over. If you are between the ages of 12 and 16, you must have an approved OHRV Safety Certificate.

How popular is it in terms of registered NH riders and visitors? ATVing is growing every year. Last year NH registered 21,870 OHRVs. The majority of the riders are from NH, but we are seeing an increase of riders coming here from Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. We are also getting reports from the rental companies that they are getting clientele from other countries.

What does a rig cost and what kind of gear do I need? The average cost of an ATV is $8,500. Some of the gear that you will need or should carry is a Department of Transportation-approved helmet, eye protection, work boots, pair of gloves, rain gear, sunblock, small first aid kit, tow strap, 12-volt air compressor. It’s always nice to have a camera.

How important are ATV clubs in terms of camaraderie and advocacy? In order for this sport to be successful everyone should join a club. When you join a club, you will get to meet other people that enjoy the sport as much as you do. Most clubs will have rides for the members, they will work together on the trails to keep them in shape, which shows the landowners that you respect their property. The clubs promote safe riding by holding OHRV Safety classes for new riders.

The North Country now has 1,000 miles of trails and promotes itself as Ride the Wilds. Berlin is home to the ATV-centric Jericho Mountain State Park. Why has Coos County become an ATV hotspot? ATV riding in Coos County used to be just pocket areas to ride. In the last year all of the pocket riding areas have been connected. Towns and the state have been opening up certain roads that will allow access to businesses. So now the riders can come to Coos County and ride right from their motel, ride to restaurants, get gas and many other services. Coos County is undergoing changes in its overall economic picture and outdoor recreation is a major part of that. The economic benefits from snowmobiling in the winter are also being sought in the summer from OHRV riders. 

How can an ATV riders be good ambassadors? One of the best ways is to respect the rights of the landowners. About 80 percent of all ATV trails in NH  are on private land. So when you are out riding always ride on marked trails that are open for use. The quickest way to have trails closed is to ride where you are not supposed to be.

Categories: Outsider