Top Destinations for OHV Recreation Adventurers — Bureau of Land Management California

As summer falls upon us, the air is filled with growing excitement and anticipation for the activities spread throughout this adventurous season. This time of year provides an opportunity to explore the outdoors with some off-road fun with family and friends. As you plan your trip to off-highway vehicle (OHV) areas, take a look at these top BLM OHV destinations suitable for recreational users looking to explore and indulge themselves in the wonderful landscapes California’s public lands have to offer.

Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts enjoy the Chappie-Shasta OHV area. (Photo by Eric Coulter, BLM)

Chappie-Shasta OHV Area

The mystical Chappie Shasta OHV Area provides spectacular views of Mount Shasta, Lake Shasta and the Trinity Alps. The site offers more than 52,000 acres of land for off-road enthusiasts, providing both visual and physical excitement to all.

Chappie-Shasta OHV area (Photo by BLM)

South Cow Mountain OHV Area

As part of the wide-range of OHV sites across California, The South Cow Mountain OHV Recreation Area offers fun for both vehicle and non-vehicle recreation. With lush green vegetation and 23,000 acres of land between the northern California cities of Ukiah and Lakeport, the thrill of the outdoors is bountiful, filled with unprecedented adventure.

South Cow Mountain OHV Area (Photo by BLM)

Samoa Dunes

Around the Humboldt Bay is where you will find the Samoa Dunes. This park covers about 300 acres of land along the coast and offers wetlands where you can stop and take advantage of hiking trails, surfing, fishing, as well as sightseeing. It is a nostalgic ride, uncovering the rich history left from past generations where remnants of the Wiyot Indians can be seen in the shell remains scattered throughout the park. Several stages of dunes are spread throughout the region, with high and lows created from the coastal winds of the Pacific Ocean. These winds have created terrain perfect for an adventurous day for any OHV enthusiast.

Samoa Dunes (Photo by BLM)

Jawbone Canyon

Explore the area of the Jawbone Off-Highway Vehicle Open Area, offering 7,000 acres of open-use public land for all skill levels. Located off State Highway 14, about twenty miles out from the town of Mojave, perfect for off-roading throughout the region. In partnership with the Friends of Jawbone, the BLM offers many opportunities for visitors to enjoy the public lands, venturing as far as their vehicle and skill can take them, with a children’s track available to the younger riders.

Though Jawbone creates a unique opportunity to venture out in the desert, the best times to visit is during the winter season, as the summer months bake this location. Come and conquer the desert landscape for a truly enjoyable experience.

Jawbone Canyon (Photo by BLM)

El Mirage OHV Area

Discover the rarities of the OHV riding site at El Mirage located west of Adelanto, California. Its unique flat lakebed allows a great way to experience outdoor fun, providing opportunities to hike, drive, and watch the beauty of the desert wildlife unravel right in front of you. To enjoy the landscape in the Mojave Desert, the best time of the year is during the winter season where it provides perfect weather for all OHV visitors. The Twin Hills and Shadow Mountains create a challenge for skilled riders riding through the igneous peaks of the land. A certain destination for all off-roading enthusiast looking to conquer a tumultuous terrain.

El Mirage OHV Area (Photo by BLM)

Trail Riding and Safety Tips

Entering the public lands for off-highway vehicle recreation is great for all to enjoy, but it is also the obligation of the visitor to respect the land around them. The local ecosystems and animals that inhabit there are an integral part of the land, forging distinct environmental characteristics in each OHV riding area. In addition to the general guidelines provided below, each recreation area has specific safety tips which can be found on the BLM’s Off-Highway Vehicle website.

Plan Smart!

  • Purchase and use required safety gear!
  • Let others know where you are riding and when you plan to return.
  • Always plan ahead. Obtain all required maps, and bring overnight emergency supplies.
  • Never ride alone!
  • Stay on designated trails. Restoration of damaged areas is often paid with tax dollars and can lead to trail closures.
  • Maintain vehicles and equipment in safe and optimal operating condition.
  • Act responsibly and have respect for other recreation users and natural and cultural resources.
  • Ride cautiously. Trail conditions change constantly, so be ready for anything!

Ride Safe and Responsible

Please remember, ride safe and responsible and know the rules and laws for responsible riding before you go. For more information, contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles or visit This guide does not include every California OHV law.

  • Visitors are responsible for knowing area rules and regulations, which are enforceable under the Code of Federal Regulations. Violations are punishable with fines up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months.
  • Vehicle use is limited to designated routes or open riding areas. Observe the posted signs. Fenced areas mark sensitive wildlife and plant habitat, and are “closed” to vehicle use. The “open” riding areas are also posted and those on foot must be aware of their locations while on site.
  • All OHVs must have a California green or red sticker.
  • Out-of-state vehicles must be legally registered in another state and display a nonresident sticker. For information or to purchase a sticker, visit, or contact them directly at (916) 324–4442.
  • All off-road vehicles must have a properly installed spark arrestor that is approved by the U.S. Forest Service and has not been modified.
  • It is illegal to ride or drive under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or other drugs.
  • State law requires the use of helmets while riding ATVs.
  • State law prohibits passengers on ATVs unless the ATV was specifically designed for two or more people.
  • All vehicles must meet state and federal noise standards. Safety Tips and Vehicle Maintenance.

Originally published at on July 9, 2015.