SubscribeAvailable Now
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Finding the Right OHV for You

We break down what you need to know about off-roading’s primary rides.

 •  

Before your tires meet the dirt, you’ll need a state-issued decal.

Much as it does with hunting and fishing, the state charges an annual fee for off-highway vehicle recreation—but, fortunately, the outlay is minimal. Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) charges just $25.25 for either an OHV permit or an OHV registration decal. Off-highway vehicles with license plates (like your Jeep Wrangler) need permits to ply off-road trails. Those without state-issued plates must be registered but don’t need permits. (It sounds confusing, but it really isn’t; see below for more information.) Each year, the money CPW collects from permits and registrations—which usually tops $4 million—goes toward maintenance and construction of multiuse trails, parking areas, signage and maps, and rules enforcement. Keep in mind: If you fail to register your nonplated OHV or don’t procure an OHV permit for your plated vehicle, you could be issued a $100 ticket.


Car Shopping

Whether you have a soft spot for time-tested Jeeps or you’ve fallen in love with trendy side-by-sides, a host of decisions comes standard when selecting your ideal backcountry ride.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Vehicle: Full-size four-wheel-drive vehicle with a license plate
OHV Registration or Permit Required for OHV Trails?: Permit
Number of Riders: However many seat belts your vehicle has
Ease of Use: It’s like driving an SUV because, well, it probably is an SUV.
Typical Vehicle Width: About 69 to 79 inches
For Use On: High-clearance, four-wheel-drive trails only; full-size vehicles are too wide for ATV trails
Cost: Average prices for new nonluxury SUVs range from $29,421 to $63,043, depending on size.
Ease of Transport: Easy! You’re your own ride. Just drive to the trailhead—and keep on going. There’s no need to stop to unload your ride from a trailer.

Photo courtesy of Dimitar Zhekov/Alamy Stock Photo

Vehicle: Nonplated utility-terrain vehicle (UTV), sometimes called a side-by-side
OHV Registration or Permit Required for OHV Trails?: Registration
Number of Riders: Two-, four-, or six-person versions are typical
Ease of Use: Operating a side-by-side is like driving an automatic car but with way better suspension and shocks; a roll cage and seat belts make UTVs safer than ATVs.
Typical Vehicle Width: Most UTVs measure 60-plus inches; for those who want to use ATV trails, 50-inch UTVs are available
For Use On: High-clearance, four-wheel-drive trails
Cost: The average price for a new two-seater falls around $16,500.
Ease of Transport: Challenging. UTVs are not street legal in much of Colorado; you’ll use a trailer to haul your ride to the trailhead.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Vehicle: Nonplated all-terrain vehicle (ATV), also called a four-wheeler or quad
OHV Registration or Permit Required for OHV Trails?: Registration
Number of Riders: Generally just one
Ease of Use: More physically de­-mand­ing than a UTV, an ATV requires a rider to straddle the machine and maintain balance, but there’s virtually no learning curve; steering and braking is more like a bicycle than a car, and there are relatively few safety features.
Typical Vehicle Width: Usually 42 to 48 inches
For Use On: Both four-wheel-drive and ATV trails
Cost: The average price for a new ATV hovers around $7,300.
Ease of Transport: Also challenging. ATVs are not street legal in much of Colorado; you’ll likely need to use a trailer or a pickup truck to haul your ride to the trailhead.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Vehicle: Nonplated dirt bike
OHV Registration Or Permit Required For OHV Trails?: Registration
Number of Riders: One
Ease of Use: Dealing with a throttle and clutch, finding optimal balance, figuring out brake levers, and keeping your eyes up makes the dirt bike difficult to master.
Typical Vehicle Width: Around 32 inches
For Use On: All trails open to motorized vehicles
Cost: The average price tag on a shiny new dirt bike is approximately $8,000 to $9,000
Ease of Transport: It depends. Most dirt bikes will fit in the bed of a pickup; you’ll need a ramp to load it as well as tie-down straps and a support brace to secure it. Otherwise, you might need a trailer.

What We're Reading

Newsletters

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone.

Sign Up