ATV Laws in Minnesota — Age Limit, Licenses and Where You Can Ride

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Riding an ATV in Minnesota is a wonderful way to explore the outdoors, but it's essential to do so safely and legally. We've answered the most common questions Minnesotans have about how to ride an ATV while complying with all regulations from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Do I need a driver's license to ride an ATV in Minnesota?

Riding an ATV in Minnesota doesn't require a vehicle license of any kind. However, you do need a standard driver's license to operate your ATV on roads. This applies even if you're just crossing the road briefly or riding in the ditch alongside the road.

Separate from a driver's license, anyone born after July 1, 1987, must take an ATV safety course to drive on public land or trails. This course covers topics such as trail rules, equipment you'll need and safety procedures.

Riders under the age of 16 must also take a hands-on ATV skills course before they can ride on public lands.

Do I need to register my ATV in Minnesota?

Yes, you are generally required to register your ATV with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before you can ride it in the state — even if you're only going to use it on private property. A registration for a new ATV costs $68.50 including an issuing fee, and it lasts for three calendar years.

How to register your ATV

To register an ATV, you must go to a deputy registrar of motor vehicles, or the state DNR license center in St. Paul. Bring a record of your ATV's make, model, year, and total width and engine size. You'll need the serial number and sales receipt, too.

Once you fill out the paperwork and pay the registration fee, you'll be issued a card and a registration decal.

You'll also need to get a registration plate from a private store with your ATV's registration number on it, mount the plate to the back of your ATV and apply the registration decal to the plate.

When you do not need to register your ATV

There are a few times when it's acceptable to ride an ATV that has not been registered with the state government, such as:

  • You're not a Minnesota resident and will be in the state for fewer than 30 days (though you will need a nonresident permit)
  • Your ATV is more than 25 years old
  • The ATV is owned by the state or a tribal government
  • During a MN "free riding weekend" or other DNR-sanctioned event

How old do I need to be to ride an ATV in Minnesota?

The minimum unrestricted age to ride an ATV by yourself in Minnesota is 16. However, riders under that age can operate smaller vehicles under adult supervision, with more privileges available as the child gets older.

AgeTraining course requiredHelmet requiredSize restrictionWhere they may ride
18+ (born after 7/1/87)Online----Anywhere ATVs are allowed (driver's license required on roads)
16-17OnlineYes--Anywhere ATVs are allowed (driver's license required on roads)
15Online and hands-onYes--Public land with adult supervision, ditches with parental supervision
12–14Online and hands-onYesClass 1 onlyPublic land with adult supervision, ditches with parental supervision
10–11--YesClass 1 onlyPublic land with parental supervision
9 and younger--YesClass 1 onlyPrivate property only

Do I need a helmet to ride an ATV in Minnesota?

ATV drivers and passengers over the age of 18 are not required to wear helmets. However, anyone on an ATV under 18 is required to wear a helmet designed specifically for motor vehicles. Bicycle helmets don't meet this standard.

The MN DNR and all ATV safety groups all strongly recommend that you always wear a helmet when riding an ATV, regardless of how old you are.

Where can I ride an ATV in Minnesota?

Riding on trails or property that don't specifically allow ATVs is illegal and dangerous, both for you and for other people nearby. The rules that dictate where you're allowed to ride are fairly complex, so be sure you understand them before riding.

Here are the basics of where you're allowed to ride an ATV in Minnesota:

Inside the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area

  • Your own land
  • Land belonging to others, so long as you have permission
  • Land with signs posted specifically permitting ATV use

Outside the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area

  • Frozen public waters, so long as you can access them legally
  • Public land and trails open to ATVs
  • Your own land
  • Land belonging to others, so long as you have permission
  • Land with signs posted specifically permitting ATV use

Where you can't ride an ATV

  • In any area stating you may not ride an ATV, such as with signs posted prohibiting it (public or private land)
  • Private or agricultural land without permission
  • Anywhere restricted by local laws
  • On the median of a highway
  • On interstates or freeways
  • On trails designated for use only by snowmobiles or nonmotorized vehicles

What counts as an ATV? What vehicles do these rules apply to?

According to MN law, a vehicle is an ATV if it has between three and six low-PSI tires, with a total weight of less than 2,000 pounds and maximum width of 65 inches. If your ATV has a width of under 50 inches, it's a Class 1 ATV; if the width is between 50 and 65 inches, it's a Class 2 ATV. Generally, Class 1 ATVs have a saddle and handlebars, while Class 2 ATVs have side-by-side seats and a steering wheel.

Note that golf carts, dune buggies, go-karts and riding lawn mowers are all excluded from the category of ATVs.

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