A Complete Guide to Off Roading in North Carolina
North Carolina is a terrific state for off-roading due to its mixed terrain. You’ll find numerous trails along the beautiful Appalachian Trail and other recreational areas overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The Tar Heel State’s Department of Natural Resources has over 1,000 miles of trails for off-road riders to enjoy. All you need to do is pick your favorite and crank the engines. Here’s a complete guide to off-roading in North Carolina, showing you the parks and trail networks you should know before planning your trip.
Pricing: $5 per person per day, $30 annual pass
Regulations: OHV trail permit required, camping allowed in some areas, children under 8 can’t operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or motorcycles, children under 12 can’t drive 70cc ATVs or larger, children under 16 can’t drive 90cc ATVs or larger, any driver under 16 must have a supervisor 18 years or older, helmets and eye protection are required, wheelbase must be less than 50 inches, all motorized vehicles must have whip flags, spark arresters, mufflers and brakes
Restrictions: 99 dB, no 4x4s, no jeeps, no trucks, no night riding, no trailblazing, no alcohol, no unlicensed vehicles, no passengers on vehicles unless the machine provides additional seating for multiple passengers
In the heart of the Croatan National Forest, you’ll find the Black Swamp OHV Trailhead. This trail system is primarily for ATVs, side-by-sides (SxS), bikes and dirtbikes. The Black Swamp trails are open year-round, and range between beginner and intermediate.
The Black Swamp OHV Trailhead is approximately 30 minutes north of Jacksonville, North Carolina. Its location along the east coast gives the trails their sandy and grassy terrain. There are some hills, but they’re not very tall.
Pricing: $5 per person per day, $30 annual pass
Regulations: OHV trail permit required, helmets required, children under 8 can’t drive ATVs or motorcycles, children under 16 must have supervision from an adult 18 or older, riders must stay on the trails, some areas for camping
Restrictions: 99 dB, no vehicles with embedded metal studs, no OHV vehicles on forest roads, no alcohol, no double-riding, no cross-country driving, no night riding, no trailblazing
You just need a half-hour to travel from Morganton to find the Brown Mountain OHV Trails. This trail system allows all types of off-roaders, from UTVs and ATVs to trucks and jeeps. The Brown Mountain OHV Trails are open for most of the spring, summer and fall. However, it closes after New Year’s and doesn’t open until the beginning of April.
There are 34 miles of trails in the Brown Mountain OHV system, with many options ranging from intermediate to difficult. You’ll find different types of terrain to suit your preferences, such as steep climbs, rocky trails and muddy roads after rainfall.
Pricing: $10 per person per day, kids 5 and under get in free, $10 fee per day per machine,
Regulations: No permit, ATVs, SxS and dirtbikes permitted, DOT-approved helmets required for ATVs and dirt bikes, helmets optional for utility vehicles with a roll bar, night riding allowed, mounted headlight required for night riding, no whip flag required, spark arrestor required, camping options are available with recreational vehicle (RV) hookups, anybody under age 18 must have adult accompaniment, overnight stayers must have a parking tag displayed in their vehicle, 11 p.m. curfew for daytime guests
Restrictions: No jeeps or trucks allowed on the trails, no noise limit, no alcohol while driving, no camping in the trail system, no firearms or weapons
Take an hour’s drive south of Raleigh to find Busco Beach and ATV Park nestled inside the Neuse River. This park is open all year, with events spread out over the holidays. You can spend Independence Day, Easter, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas here if you like.
The summer is when Busco Beach sees the most activity. Starting Memorial Day Weekend, the park hosts free cookouts, snorkel races, concerts, beach parties and more.
Pricing: $5 per person per day, $10 per OHV, $5 camping pass, $25 RV pass
Regulations: No permits, no spark arrestors, no noise limit, no whip flag required, helmets mandatory, night riding permitted, only open weekends
Restrictions: No 4x4s, no jeeps, no trucks, no trailblazing,
Halfway between Fayetteville and Wilmington, you’ll find Elizabethtown and Cape Fear ATV and MX Park. This recreational area boasts 428 acres of off-roading to ride to your heart’s desire. Here, you can ride dirt bikes, trail bikes, quads, UTVs and other SxS.
Make your stay at Cape Fear a family experience by taking advantage of the swimming pool and fishing areas. The site offers various off-roading opportunities, with 30 miles of trails, drag strips and a motocross track. They also have mud runs if you like to get down and dirty.
Pricing: $130 per adult on tour, $45 per child, maximum of 10 riders per group, groups of 10+ must contact Carolina Backwoods
Regulations: No permits required, parents or guardians must accompany all minors, children may ride with adults, reservations only, two-night minimum stay in cabins, spark arrestor required, Carolina Backwoods provides protective gear
Restrictions: No sandals or flip-flops, no camera or video equipment, no pets inside cabins, no all-day ATV rentals, no night riding, no trailblazing
Carolina Backwoods provides an excellent educational opportunity to see Mother Nature in North Carolina. You and up to nine others will embark on a two-hour tour to explore hills, trails and open riding areas north of Myrtle Beach.
The tour guides gear the experience toward families, so you can bring the kids even if they’ve never gone off-roading before. No experience is necessary for Carolina Backwoods. You can pick between the “High n Dry” or “Down n Dirty” tours, with each offering a unique experience.
After riding, you can stay in the frontier cabins or deluxe family cabins. Each residence has beds, baths, a refrigerator, central air, electricity and hot water.
Pricing: $15 entry fee, kids 12 and under get in free, $20 fee per rider, $10 per person per night when camping in tents or enclosed trailers, $40 per night for RV hookups
Regulations: No permit, helmets mandatory, spark arrestor required, no whip flags required, night riding permitted, some camping opportunities, only open Friday thru Sunday
Restrictions: No 4x4s, no trucks, no jeeps, no trailblazing, no dangerous pets (i.e. pit bulls, rottweilers)
A half-hour trip north of Fayetteville takes you to Deep Creek ATV Park in Linden. The park features over 2,500 acres of trails, allowing riders to bring bikes, SxS and ATVs. It’s an exciting time for Deep Creek ATV Park, which reopened under new ownership last spring.
Night riding is allowed in Deep Creek ATV Park, but you must have lighting components like LED headlights and tail lights to ensure safety. The park features well-maintained trails with mostly beginner-to-intermediate paths.
Pricing: $5 per person per day, $10 per vehicle,
Regulations: No permits required, helmets mandatory, no whip flag required, no spark arrestor required, no noise limit, camping permitted on developed land only
Restrictions: No night riding, no night riding, no 4x4s, no jeeps, no trucks
Hollister ATV Park provides an awesome experience if you’re looking for a genuinely rural outdoor experience. The ATV Park is next door to Medoc Mountain State Park, allowing you to plan multiple days of family fun with ATV riding, kayaking, hiking and more.
The ATV park has 150 acres of off-roading fun to take advantage of. Most of it is mud holes and ATV trails providing five miles of fun for your ATVs, SxS and bikes. Hollister ATV Park features fun events throughout the year, such as a Halloween bash with a costume contest.
Pricing: No entry fee, $5 parking fee, $20 per OHV, $20 camping fee for tents, $25 for RV, primitive camping allowed for $20 per night
Regulations: No permit required, helmets mandatory, no whip flag required, no noise limit, no spark arrestor required, some camping options available, fishing license required for fishing
Restrictions: No night riding, no trailblazing, no alcohol
Visit Lake Houser Adventures Off-Road Park any time of the year for endless outdoor fun. The land features over 660 acres and 50 miles of trails for your ATV, UTV, SxS and other off-roaders. They permit 4x4s, jeeps, trucks and SUVs, so this park is an excellent opportunity to bring all your best offroad rigs. With ratchet straps able to haul up to 15,000 pounds of cargo, there’s no reason to leave your favorites behind.
Lake Houser Adventures Off-Road Park provides easy riding for beginners and steeper hills for those wanting a challenge. The park opens each day at 8 a.m. and closes at sundown, with opportunities for camping. Visit during the summer to take advantage of the longer daylight.
Pricing: $10 per person per day, $5 per OHV, $5 per night per tent, $20 per night per RV hookup, $5 discount available for military members and first responders with valid ID, $325 annual pass, $500 annual pass for a family of four and $100 for additional family members
Regulations: No permit required, helmets mandatory, night riding only with headlights, pets allowed on leashes and with updated shots, no noise limit
Restrictions: No 4x4s, no jeeps, no trucks, no hunting, no drugs, no alcohol, no glass jars or bottles, no wheelies in common areas, no 4x4s on the MX track
A short drive from the South Carolina border, Outback ATV Park is another family-friendly recreational area for parents and kids who want to ride their ATVs. Here, you can drive your bikes, ATVs and SxS vehicles.
Outback ATV Park is open year-round, with multiple events throughout the year. The Back to School event is a great way to end your kid’s summer vacation and the Toys-For-Tots drive rings in the winter holidays. Besides the ATV track, Outback ATV Park features a snorkel pond and redneck beach.
Pricing: $20 per rider, $20 per passenger
Regulations: No permits required, helmets mandatory with signed waiver, no whip flag required, no spark arrestor required, pets must be non-aggressive and leashed or kenneled, parents must sign waivers for minors and must accompany children
Restrictions: No noise limit, no night riding, no trailblazing, no 4x4s, no jeeps, no trucks, primitive camping only for racing and special events
Rockcrusher Farm has provided off-road entertainment to southwestern North Carolina for nearly 20 years. Here, you’ll find 500 acres of trails totaling over 20 miles. The farm has directional trails, extreme climbs for advanced drivers and four MX tracks for racing.
The farm only opens when it has events scheduled on the calendar. Inclement weather will close it, so the management team highly recommends contacting them to ensure their status for the day. Rockcrusher Farm posts on Facebook and Instagram to let everyone know what’s happening.
Pricing: $5 per person per day, $30 per person for an annual pass
Regulations: OHV trail pass is required in a visible location on the vehicle, DOT-approved helmets and eye protection are mandatory, motorized vehicles must have brakes, mufflers, and spark arrestors, some camping is permitted, no whip flag is required, children under 8 can’t operate ATVs or motorcycles, adults over 18 must supervise children under 16 driving, night riding permitted with working headlights, tail lights, and brake lights
Restrictions: 99 dB noise limit, no trailblazing, no passengers unless vehicle’s design allows additional passengers, no unlicensed vehicles, no alcohol or drugs
The Uwharrie OHV Trail System is only an hour east of Charlotte and is just across the river from Morrow Mountain State Park. Here, you’ll find over 20 miles of off-road trails for your ATV. The trails are in the Badin Lake Recreation Area on the northwestern side of the forest.
In its entirety, Uwharrie National Forest has nearly 6,500 acres of land and allows any off-roader to hit the trails. Be mindful that the trails are only open from April 1 through December 15 as the cold weather creeps in.
Pricing: $5 per OHV per day, $30 per person for annual pass
Regulations: OHV permit required, no whip flag required, children under 8 can’t operate ATVs or motorcycles, children under 12 can’t drive ATVs 70 cc and up, children under 16 can’t drive ATVs 90cc and up, any operator under 16 must have an adult accompanying them, helmets mandatory, all drivers must stay on trail routes, all motorized vehicles must have spark arrestors, mufflers and brakes
Restrictions: 99 dB noise limit, no 4x4s, no jeeps, no trucks, no double riding, no alcohol on trails or parking areas, no unlicensed vehicles, no night riding, no trailblazing
Are you headed to Asheville? Many residents and travelers to this city love participating in recreational activities like the Wayehutta OHV trail system. Here, you’ll find 28 miles of trails for your ATV and SxS while taking in the beauty of Nantahala National Forest.
Like the Uwharrie trails, Wayehutta’s OHV trail system is open from April 1 through December 15. You can access the trails from dawn until dusk in the spring, summer and fall, because no night riding is allowed.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to Aaron Thomforde
Off-Roading Fun in North Carolina
North Carolina is a large state with hundreds of miles of trails from the Atlantic coast back to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every corner brings off-roading fun for your ATVs, UTVs, dirtbikes and more. Take advantage of the Tar Heel State’s diverse terrain and bring the whole family for the fun — many parks offer swimming pools and events for the kids.