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By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Off-highway vehicles provide great backcountry transportation in the summertime, but during Colorado’s fall season, OHVs provide access to some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States.
“OHVs are ideal vehicles for touring back roads and trails to see the fall colors,” said Ryan Crabb, a trails coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “You can travel at your own pace, and there is great riding throughout the state.”
Colorado’s high country forests start changing by early September and colors will be breath-taking in some areas all the way into the second week of October. Forests change at different times depending on the type of trees and elevations, but it’s guaranteed the colors of aspen and scrub oak will be on full display throughout the state. Roads and trails suitable for OHVs can be found in the national forests in every corner of Colorado.
If you’re looking for new areas for riding, you’ll find maps and route suggestions on the Parks and Wildlife website. Go to cpw.state.co.us, click on the “OHVs & Snowmobiles” button. From that page, OHV enthusiasts will find plenty of information about where to ride, links to clubs and off-road organizations, and safety and conservation information. One excellent website is www.staythetrail.org, which is funded by fees paid through annual OHV registration.
In 2013, owners of more than 160,000 OHVs registered their vehicles. From the registration fees, more than $4 million was used to fund trail construction, rehabilitation and related conservation work throughout Colorado. Crabb explained that work is done by crews from the U.S. Forest Service, OHV clubs and youth conservation organizations. Parks and Wildlife also offers grants to government and non-profit organizations that are planning specific projects. Information about applying for grants can be found on the website.
“Those projects allow regular maintenance of trails which also help to sustain the environment in sensitive areas,” Crab said.
In southwest Colorado, an extensive trail network can be found on the western side of the vast San Juan National Forest, said Scot Elder, park manager at Mancos and Lone Mesa state parks.
“Given the expansive nature of that country, OHV riding is an excellent way for those recreationists to connect with that landscape,” Elder said. “And for many people, riding an OHV is the only way that connection will occur. We want people to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Besides helping people to enjoy Colorado’s great outdoors, OHV and snowmobile use also makes a big economic contribution. A study released this month shows that OHV activity generates nearly $950 million to the state’s economy.
But, no matter where you choose to ride, Crabb cautions to always keep safety in mind.
“Riding OHVs is a safe way to travel if the machine is operated properly,” Crabb said.
Riders need to remember that they’ll often be in remote areas where trail conditions can be challenging, and that they’ll sometimes be sharing roads with much bigger vehicles.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers the following safety reminders for Colorado’s OHV users:
• Know before you go. Get maps, know the laws and learn about the types of terrain in the area.
• Be prepared for all types of weather; and carry plenty of water.
• Wear properly fitting safety equipment, including helmets, eye protection and gloves.
• Match the right size of machine to the rider.
• Explain to young riders the importance of riding safely.
• Don’t ride beyond your capabilities or the capabilities of the machine.
• Only ride on designated trails.
• During hunting season, be mindful and respectful of hunters. All forest users need to share the great outdoors and protect our natural resources.
• Use proper etiquette when meeting other trail users. To learn about trail etiquette, go to www.staythetrail.org.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends that new riders take a safety course. The ATV Safety Institute offers classes free of charge to anyone who purchases an OHV; there is a nominal charge for those who already own one. For information, see your local OHV dealer or go to www.atvsafety.org.
If you don’t own an OHV, many businesses rent them in Colorado’s mountain towns.
Crabb offered an invitation: “If you’ve never tried riding an OHV, maybe this fall is the time when you should give it a try?”