Off the beaten path: Explore the northwoods’ forest trails
Anyone wanting to get off the beaten path and ride on the many forest trails in the area has many options to choose from.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a page dedicated to an A-Z listing of more than 80 off-highway vehicle trails in the state. Click on the link for each trail to get all the information before heading out to ride. The page includes an interactive map, updates on trail and road closures, safety courses and tips, rules and regulations, fees and registration information and more.
Here is a sampling of some of the trails in our neck of the woods.
David Schotzko, Bemidji area supervisor for the DNR Parks and Trails Division, has been working with ATV clubs for 15 years. During that time, he has ridden most of the trails in the region.
“Each trail system has a club contact listed on the website,” he said. “They ride the trails and have the most up-to-date information.”
The following five trails are in what Schotzko described as “a triangle of riding opportunities” surrounding the Park Rapids area.
“Look at the symbols on the maps to see what kind of vehicles are allowed,” he said.
Schotzko said, when he started, there were one or two trail proposals coming in for the seven-county area each year. “There were only a couple of trails to ride 15 years ago,” he said. “The DNR works with the clubs that maintain the trails.”
Riders are asked to bring out everything they came with, as there are no garbage receptacles along the trails.
Some trails have porta john toilets, while some do not. Call the club contact for information.
Forest Riders Trail
One hundred miles of trails cross through Becker and Hubbard counties, creating a combination of forest roads and township, county and state road rights-of-way also referred to by some locals as the Two Inlets trail.
Passing through multiple state forests, the trail rides through terrain ranging from rolling and hilly to level and smooth.
Trails are provided by Clover Township and maintained by the Forest Riders ATV Club. Directions to reach the trail are on the DNR website. For more information, call Ron Jensen at 218-732-4205.
There are 59 miles of off-highway motorcycle trail that twist through Huntersville State Forest. Much of the trail is single-track, with some two-track and service road loops for beginning riders. All trails are marked and range from easy to more difficult.
The Huntersville Trail is a great alternative to the more technical Martineau Recreational Trail. This trail is provided by the Township of Huntersville and maintained by the Twin Cities Trail Riders.
Parking and trail access are west of Huntersville, off County Road 24 or east off County Road 18. For more information, contact Tom Umphress at 612-965-8618.
Round River Trail
Schotzko said the Thorpe Tower overlook makes this one of his favorite trails to ride.
“It’s just north of Nevis,” he said. “They’ve recently done some logging, so you can see for a long way and it’s a good panoramic view,” he said. “The fire tower that used to be there has been removed and just the foundation is there.”
He said there is an old log landing nearby. “I ate my lunch there last summer,” he said.
Located on a combination of state forest roads and trails in northern Minnesota, the Round River Drive Trail showcases 29 miles of the diverse terrain of the Paul Bunyan State Forest. Miles of trails twist and turn, while climbing in elevation and narrowing past moraines and potholes.
The trail is provided by the City of Akeley and Hubbard County and maintained by the Akeley Paul Bunyan ATV Trailriders and Timberland Dirt Devils.
From Akeley, take State Hwy. 64 north 5.6 miles. Then turn left on Blue Trail/Steamboat Trail.
For more information, call 218-732-4270.
The 29-mile Schoolcraft Trail connects the community of Lake George to the Paul Bunyan State Forest. The rough, hilly terrain, dotted with bogs and ponds, showcases the diverse Minnesota landscape. The trail is a combination of forest and township roads as well as county and state road rights-of-way.
The trail is provided by Hubbard County and maintained by the Northwoods Riders OHV Club.
From Bemidji, travel 6 miles south on U.S. Hwy. 71. Turn west on County Road 9 for 3 miles, then south for one block on Reverse Trail. For more information, call 218-732-4270.
Smoky Hills Trail
This 20-mile trail in Becker County follows trails within Smoky Hills State Forest. The trail utilizes portions of the Navillus, Hanna Ore and Wolf Lake State Forest Roads and several minimum maintenance state forest roads.
The trail is provided by the City of Wolf Lake and maintained by the Woods and Wheels ATV Club.
From Osage, go 1/2 mile west on State Hwy. 34, 3 miles south on Hwy. 47 and west on Wolf Lake Forest Road 1/2 mile to the parking lot north of the road.
For more information, contact Alex Myers at 701-371-9637 or at email@example.com.
Rules for out-of-state riders
Anyone who is not a resident of Minnesota will need a non-resident trail pass to operate an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), off-highway motorcycle (OHM) or off-road vehicle (ORV) on state or grant-in-aid trails.
A trail pass is not required if the machine is registered in Minnesota or if you’re riding on a portion of an ATV, OHM or ORV trail that is owned by you, your spouse, child or parent.
ATV and OHM trail passes do not need to be displayed on the machine, but must be available if requested by an officer. ORV trail passes are required to be displayed on the vehicle where it is readily visible.