Ditch the main lane for some off-road adventures on Jeeps, ATVs and more.
Heading out on an off-road adventure in Arizona is a great way to explore the thousands of miles of trails, roads and open areas the state offers for off-highway vehicles (OHVs), motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
You can spend the afternoon crawling over the red rocks of Sedona or creeping down a steep rocky trail to a desert canyon waterfall. Or maybe you'd rather ride the volcanic cinder fields where NASA astronauts once trained and travel back in time to old abandoned mining towns. You can do it all; and thanks to our climate, you can enjoy these outdoor adventures year-round.
Note: Resident and non-resident off-highway vehicles (OHVs) MUST display a valid OHV decal to operate on public and state trust lands in Arizona. Learn more and purchase an OHV decal.
Drive the dunes
For the ultimate off-road thrill, roller coaster through Arizona's sand dunes. Near Yuma and Arizona's Western border are two popular areas perfect for kicking up some dust.
Tackle the Ehrenberg Sandbowl—a 2,000-acre site between Yuma and Lake Havasu City along the Colorado River. Popular with dune buggies and ATVs, the trails in this OHV area are open to most types of vehicles. About two hours south, live your Star Wars dreams as you ride the nearby massive Imperial Sand Dunes. It's here that the movie series filmed scenes from "Episode V: Return of the Jedi," and it remains an otherworldly experience.
Both the Ehrenberg Sandbowl and Imperial Dunes require permits, which can be bought at several Yuma-area gas stations and OHV businesses, at the BLM Yuma Field Office located at 7341 E. 30th Street in Yuma, or online at fareharbor.com/isdpermits (Imperial Sand Dunes only).
On the other side of the state is Safford's Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area. This spot has an added, and somewhat unusual amenity: After riding the dunes, enjoy a cleansing soak in the on-site hot tubs.
Rides with bonus activities and sights
Get more out of your ride with trails that offer more than scenery.
Enjoy a side of Arizona history in the western part of Arizona as you travel along old mining routes at Hualapai Mountain Park near Kingman. Or visit the remains of the abandoned Swansea mining town east of Parker. You won't see much of the areas' glory days of mining save for a few brick buildings, the railroad grade, and the mine shafts. But for fans of the Old West or abandoned buildings, they're a fun side trip.
For those who like to mix it up and combine multiple outdoor activities, Bulldog Canyon OHV Area (near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix) has options for water sports at nearby Saguaro Lake and backcountry hiking.
Bulldog Canyon is the southernmost point and the start of Arizona's portion of the Great Western Trail—a 4,455-mile, backcountry route from Mexico to Canada that runs through Montana, Idaho and Utah. Arizona has developed some 300 miles through the wooded Tonto and Kaibab national forests, leaving riders at the Utah border east of Fredonia.
Go along for the ride and let others drive
For less-experienced riders, or riders traveling without their equipment, outfits like Stellar Adventures and Desert Dog Offroad Adventures in Phoenix and Arizona ATV Adventures in Sedona, Phoenix and Tucson provide riders with an ATV and a guide for exploring.
The guided tour options traverse the state.
- Navigate the trails and historic sites in Box Canyon near Florence. Bump through creeks and washes in the rugged Tonto National Forest.
- Start in the lush Verde Valley and ride 800 miles above its floor for an expansive view atop Skeleton Bone Mountain.
- Or get a sense of the historic Wild West and desert beauty among the Bradshaw Mountains north of Phoenix.
Other tours feature nature and history programs along the rim and bottom of the magnificent Grand Canyon; among the mighty saguaro cactus of the Sonoran Desert; past the Indian ruins of Canyon de Chelly; and into less-accessible areas of Monument Valley's otherworldly formations.
Broken Arrow Trail - Sedona
Access: Turn west off Arizona Highway 179 onto Morgan Road. As it passes through Broken Arrow Estates, it becomes FR 179F.
One of Arizona's most popular 4x4 trails runs over steep and narrow red rocks. Highlights include the Devil's Staircase, a steep downhill section of stair-stepped red rocks. The best time to experience this trail is when the sun is low, creating dramatic lighting as you take in the panoramic views of Bell Rock, Chapel Butte or the Rock of Gibraltar. The drive is less than four miles and takes about two to three hours.
Box Canyon Trail - Wickenburg
Access: From Wickenburg, drive north on U.S. Highway 93, turn right on South Rincon Road and continue north. Where the riverbed crosses the road a second time, the trail begins.
Racing your ATV down a running streambed is a great way to stay cool in those hot summer months. The trail follows the Hassayampa riverbed through a narrow box canyon lined with saguaro cacti. You can get as wet and muddy as you want, but you might want to keep your phone in a waterproof case.
Maverick Trail - Show Low, White Mountains (50-inch width limitation)
Access: Maverick Trail has five access points. Find detailed maps online at azstateparks.com/ohv.
When summer temperatures begin to climb, take a cool motorcycle ride through the ponderosa pines on the Maverick Trail. At an elevation above 6,000 feet, this 50-mile trail offers stunning views of the White Mountains and connects the town of Clay Springs to Pinetop. Made for motorcycle, ATV and OHV use, it's narrow—with a 50-inch width limitation—but plans to widen and extend the trail are in the works
Chiva Falls Trails - Redington Pass, Tucson
Access: Drive to the end of Tanque Verde Road. After the dry wash, the road becomes AZ Highway 371/Redington Road. Head up the road five miles, taking a right turn onto #4417, where a cattle guard marks the entrance to the trail.
It may be difficult to get there, but this ride ends at a stunning 75-foot-tall waterfall located on the north side of the Rincon Mountain Wilderness Area. With a high-clearance 4x4 or OHV, you can traverse rolling hills with steep, rocky ascents and descents through normally dry streambeds. To reach the falls, you will need to clear the first technical challenge, a slab rock area called Three Feathers. Once you reach your destination, cool off with a dip at the base of the falls, which flow July through September
Cinder Hills OHV Recreational Area - Flagstaff
Access: Junction of U.S. Highway 89 and FR 776, 12 miles north of downtown Flagstaff.
What would it be like to ride on the moon? In the 1960s, NASA scientists asked the same question. In response, NASA bombed craters into Cinder Lake, a basaltic cinder field—now a small section of this very popular 13,500-acre OHV area in northern Arizona. Apollo 15 astronauts learned how to drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle in the same location you can ride today. One Hundred Dollar Hill is the most challenging route to the top of these barren, black and storied hills.
Make a plan
You can start planning your next off-road adventure by researching new trails online. Check the following websites for information on the state's trails, off-road regulations and licensing requirements:
• Arizona State Parks & Trails Off-Highway Vehicle Program
• Arizona Game & Fish's OHV Trails
Remember to bring: plenty of food and water and off-road rescue gear, including
• a Hi-Lift Jack, folding shovel
• tow strap
• jumper cables and
• tools for roadside repairs.
Arizona weather can turn extreme with little notice, so take a look at the forecast before starting out. Plan your adventure, be prepared and get ready to have some fun.
Arizona offers more than 40,000 miles of off-highway vehicle adventure! By purchasing a required OHV Decal, OHV users help ensure trails stay open, maintained, and safe for everyone that chooses to ride here.Do you need a permit to offroad in Arizona? ›
Responsible four-wheelers and riders who reside in Arizona purchase the permit annually just like a fishing or hunting licence. If you are heading to Arizona from another state, you can purchase the permit by mail in advance, in person at the Arizona State Land Department, or on-line. Get more information HERE.Where can I ride sand dunes in Arizona? ›
Drive the dunes
Near Yuma and Arizona's Western border are two popular areas perfect for kicking up some dust. Tackle the Ehrenberg Sandbowl—a 2,000-acre site between Yuma and Lake Havasu City along the Colorado River. Popular with dune buggies and ATVs, the trails in this OHV area are open to most types of vehicles.
It's legal to live off-grid in Phoenix, Arizona, but you still have to comply with local building codes and you need a permit for off-grid solar.Can you go off-roading in Sedona AZ? ›
Eleven different OHV routes are highlighted within the Sedona area of the Red Rock Ranger District, ranging from Easy (dirt forest road) to Extreme Difficulty (4-wheel drive and high clearance necessary).What is the fine for no OHV sticker in Arizona? ›
Violations of state OHV laws are class 2 or 3 misdemeanors and carry a maximum penalty of up to 4 months in jail and $750 in fines plus surcharges and probation. Likewise, a judge can order a defendant to complete 8-24 hours of community service or complete an OHV training course.Does a jeep need OHV sticker in Arizona? ›
For operating on public and state trust lands in Arizona, all OHV's weighing 2,500 pounds or less, and designed primarily for use over unimproved terrain, are required by law to display a valid OHV decal. Both residents and non-residents are required to purchase an OHV decal for each vehicle.Can I drive my side by side on the road in Arizona? ›
Yes, ATVs and OHVs can be street legal in Arizona, but they must have all of the required equipment. Your vehicle must have the mandated equipment, an up-to-date vehicle registration with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) and a properly displayed OHV decal.Is sand dunes worth it? ›
Yes! With one day in Great Sand Dunes National Park you can climb the sand dunes, and sled or board down some of the sand dunes. While we recommend two or more days to fully explore the park and the surrounding area, you can do a lot in one day, and your visit will be worth it.Do you have to pay for Great Sand Dunes National Park? ›
All visitors 16 years of age and older are required to pay an entrance fee at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Please be prepared to show your physical pass or digital pass on your mobile device.
Mechanized or motorized vehicles are not permitted on the dunefield, and ATVs are not permitted in the park and preserve. The dunefield and most of the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Mountains are federally designated wilderness: the dunes were made a wilderness by Congress in 1976, and the Sangre de Cristos in 1993.Is riding in the trunk illegal in Arizona? ›
In Arizona, there are no specific laws prohibiting or restricting passengers from riding in the back of a pickup truck, making it generally legal.Is it legal to ride in the trunk in Arizona? ›
Arizona does not prohibit or restrict passengers from riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck. Arizona has a primary enforcement child passenger restraint system law.Where can I go off-roading in my Jeep Arizona? ›
- Devil's Bridge Trail. Moderate• 4.7(24007) ...
- Hangover Trail Out-and-Back. Moderate• 4.7(1321) ...
- Broken Arrow OHV Route. Moderate• 4.7(1004) ...
- Schnebly Hill Road OHV Route. Moderate• 4.3(882) ...
- Four Peaks OHV Road #143 to Route 188. ...
- Monument Peak Loop Trail. ...
- Backway to Crown King. ...
- Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
The answer is no, as long as you don't camp outside your car or park on private property without permission. You can even rest in your vehicle whenever you want, even if it's more than 24 hours.