General Information on ATV Use in the Gunnison and Lake City Areas

ATVs are managed under pretty much the same rules as jeeps and motorcycles. Both the BLM and the Forest Service have similar management programs for vehicle use. Our lands are designated in the following categories:

  • Limited - motor vehicle use is permitted but with some restrictions. For example, traffic could be limited to existing roads to prevent the indiscriminate creation of new routes. Traffic could be limited to designated roads to cut down on resource damage from unauthorized roads that have been created. In a few cases traffic could be limited to certain times of the year e.g. when we want to protect big game animals when they are on critical winter range areas.
  • Closed - no motor vehicle use is permitted.

A map that shows the vehicle designations for the area we manage and the adjacent Forest Service is available from our office for $7 for a durable plastic copy called the Gunnison Basin Public Lands Map. If you want this map you can send a check - made out to the U.S. Forest Service - to: BLM Gunnison Field Office, Attn: Arden Anderson, 650 South 11th Street, Gunnison, CO 81230.

ATVs have an added wrinkle in where they can go because they are not a street legal vehicle. As a result, they cannot travel legally on state highways or most county roads. State law allows counties to designate county roads that ATVs can travel on. An example of this in our area is Hinsdale County which has allowed ATV use on the dirt portions of some of their county roads with the requirement that operators must be licensed drivers (no underage operators).  They also strongly encourage that all operators wear a helmet. Most counties have not made ATV designations for their areas.

On BLM and Forest Service land, ATVs are generally allowed on roads that full sized vehicles are allowed on. Each area may have a few special rules for ATVs so it is always good to check with the land managers in the areas you want to visit to see what the current situation is. ATVs are not allowed to force themselves down single track trails that may be open for motorcycles or mountain bikes. This widens the trail and destroys the single track trails that we are trying to manage for in some areas.  ATVs are not allowed to drive off road or cross country anywhere in the basin.

Unfortunately, we do not have a clear map that shows all the routes that are open to ATVs in the area. It is something we would like to do but have not had the time or money to put one together yet.

We have had increasing trouble with abuse of public lands by irresponsible vehicle use, particularly by ATVs. Because they can go many places that other vehicles cannot we find ATV enthusiasts pushing many new roads into areas that were not roaded before. These folks are often not very careful about the routes they choose and end up causing significant resource damage to soils, vegetation and wildlife. Other recreationists in full sized vehicles are often tempted to follow these unauthorized routes and increase the impacts. This has caused many recreationists and other public land users to call for increasing regulations for these vehicles. At the very least, they say that there are enough roads out there already and all traffic should be limited to existing roads. Our management changed in that direction in 2001 for many areas. We strongly encourage ATV users to follow our vehicle designations or they may cause others to advocate for more stringent restrictions on their use.

There are thousands of miles of legal roads in the basin so we are sure you can find something to enjoy. 

Under Colorado law unlicensed OHVs (such as off road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles) must be registered. If you are a:

  • Colorado resident
    • the OHV must be registered with Colorado Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
  • Out-of-State resident 
    • You must register the vehicle with the Colorado Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation whether the OHV is registered in your state of residence or not.  This is a change that was implemented in Spring 2008.
    • If you will be in Colorado for 30 days or more, then you must register the vehicle with the Colorado Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

You can register your OHV or snowmobile at our office at 650 South 11th Street in Gunnison. 

If you live in Colorado click here, to renew your Off-Highway Vehicle Registration, Snowmobile Registration or Boat Registration online.

If you live OUTSIDE of Colorado click here, to purchase your Non-Resident Off-Highway Vehicle Permit or Snowmobile Permit online.

The fees generated by registering unlicensed vehicles go into a State OHV Fund that is used to build and maintain riding opportunities in the State.  The registration process also enables law enforcement to track stole vehicles and return them to their owners.

No vehicles may be driven on private land unless you have the permission of the owner or there is a public access easement on the road.  A landowner is not required to fence or sign their property to warn you against trespassing.  It is your responsibility as a recreationist to know where you are and avoid private land unless you have permission.

More links 


Created by the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado
Point of Contact:
Arden Anderson