by Tom Burch

Cass County Sheriff

As we continue to see a heavy increase in OHV and ATV use, and traffic in all areas of Cass County, we are seeing a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about laws and regulations on where these machines are allowed and where they are not. Our office receives a large amount of ATV complaints, along with inquiries and questions on legal operation of these machines.

Our deputies spend a considerable amount of time enforcing these laws and regulations, and providing educational efforts on legal operation to riders. We would like to review legal ATV operation and considerations between Class I and II ATVs. It is important to educate yourself, as well as guests and relatives that may be coming to your residence or cabin to recreate, on these laws.

By following these laws closely and respecting private property, we can continue to participate in this sport and use trail areas safely recreate.

MN DNR has defined Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) to include:

• All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)

Class 1 ATVs have a total width of 50 inches or less from outside of tire rim to outside of tire rim (conventional ATVs with handlebars)

Class 2 ATVs have a total width greater than 50 inches, but not more than 65 inches from outside of tire rim to outside of tire rim (side by side machines)

• Off-Highway Motorcycles (OHMs)

• Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) such as 4x4s.

ATV General Operations

• A valid driver’s license is required to operate an ATV on a road right-of-way.

• Class 2 ATVs must be operated on the far right-hand side of a County or Township road, unless prohibited by local regulations. If traveling at a slower speed than other traffic on the township road, the ATV should be driven as close as practical to the right-hand edge of the road. It is illegal for the Class 2 machine to operate in the ditch in this instance.

• Class 1 ATV operation – Class 1 must be operated off the roadway in the ditch area of a public roadway. On a bridge, a roadway shoulder or the inside bank of a public road right of way, if necessary to avoid obstructions to travel or in environmentally-sensitive areas, you must remain in the farthest right-hand lane, enter the roadway within 100 feet of the bridge, obstacle or area, and make the crossing without delay.

• You may operate a Class 2 ATV on private land, frozen lake surfaces, state forest roads and with a valid driver’s license on the shoulder or extreme right side of county roads and on the right side of township roads and city streets, if not prohibited by the road authority or other local laws, on designated Class 2 trails and use areas and in road right-of-way of a trunk, county state-aid, or county highway but only to access businesses or make trail connections. A left turn may be made if it is safe to do so.

• Class 2 ATVs may not be operated on the shoulder of a state trunk highway.

Operation of an ATV or UTV is prohibited on the following areas in Minnesota:

• The median of a four-lane highway;

• Within the right-of-way on any interstate highway or freeway;

• On the right-of-way between opposing lanes of traffic;

• On grant-in-aid snowmobile trails;

• On trails designated as non-motorized;

• At airports; and

• On any roads designated closed to ATVs by local ordinance.

• Below the ordinary high water level of unfrozen public waters that are lakes, streams, rivers, and certain wetlands or in calcareous fens.

• On any frozen public waters without legal access or where it is designated as prohibited.

• In any area restricted by a local ordinance.

• In a tree nursery or planting area.

• On state forest lands that are posted or designated closed to motorized uses.

• On any agricultural or private land without permission of the landowner.

As always, we encourage safe and legal riding and operating for all ages of enthusiasts. Before heading out on Minnesota’s ATV and OHV trails, please remember the following tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride to not only those recreating, but those that live and reside in these areas as well.

For additional information on laws and regulations, as well as maps and resources for ATV riders, visit

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, contact me anytime: e-mail; call (218) 547-1424  or (800) 450-2677; or mail Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484


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