Remember the Regulations – DNR Rules to ATVing in Wisconsin

ATVs on Cattail State Trail

ATVs on Cattail State Trail (source:

ATVing is a fun sport for everyone, but the reality is that enthusiasts cannot simply hit the trails.  The Wisconsin DNR has set forth many regulations and laws that must be followed when riding and it is important to follow all of them.  Why?  The regulations are set forth for rider safety and protecting the land and trails, but if that isn’t enough to convince you follow the laws, then perhaps the $150+ fines that are encountered for breaking DNR rules might be some better encouragement.

Safety Education Course

The DNR has several different safety courses for power sports and outdoor activities, and ATVing is no exception.  It’s a surprise to some, but the requirements for having to take this course are not simply “21 and under.”  ATV Safety Course Certification is required for all individuals born on or after January 1, 1988. The safety course can be taken online or in a classroom, and upon successful completion riders are awarded a license stating they completed the course.  You also have to be at least 12 years old to complete this course.

Registering an ATV

Remember to register your ATV before hitting the trails – there are several forms of registration, but make sure that your ATV is registered in a way that is okay for trail use.  This means if your ATV is farm registered, you need to register it for public use, but if it has recreational registration you can hit the trails.  Out of state ATVs can also purchase a trail pass to use the Wisconsin systems.

License Plate Requirements

ATV License Plate

ATV License Plate (source:

New as of July 1 this year, ATVs are required to display a license plateof their registration number off the back of the ATV.  Rules from

the DNR about the specs of the plate: must be a minimum of 4 inches in height and 7 1/2 inches wide; must be white; black lettering a minimum of 1 1/2 inches high with a minimum 3/16 inch stroke; needs only the 4 registration numbers and two letters that follow same as on the registration decal; owner shall maintain the plate so it is in legible condition; and the plate shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle.

Most ATV dealers sell “do it yourself” kits to make getting these plates set up easier.

Mandatory Safety

The only trail safety equipment that is considered mandatory is the use of eye protection, such as goggles, but the DNR highly recommends the use of a DOT approved helmet, as well as proper clothing.  I agree with the recommendations on top of the mandatory goggles, but if you’re going to go out remember – the DNR is not afraid to fine you if you’re not wearing eye protection.

Other Regulations

The DNR has put forth an “instruction manual” of sorts filled with all the regulations regarding trail use for ATVs.  It is important to follow these rules, because these are where a lot of the major fines come in.  I recommend that you read over this manual, as well as talk to a local club about tips for safe trail riding, because the brochure is not all encompassing of the rules.

Also, remember, do not ride on roads unless they are marked as an ATV route!  This is dangerous as well as highly illegal and you WILL get fined.

Ashwaubenon ATV Patrol

Ashwaubenon ATV Patrol (source:

Now, I like many others who ATV complain about all of these regulations and policies, because it can get very overwhelming to have to worry about all of these topics every time I go out.    However, these are in place for a reason and it is to keep the trails in existence.  Many rules, such as going only 10mph past a residential location, are so that people who are not enthusiasts don’t get angry at the sport and so that one person doesn’t ruin it for everyone.  Many trails in Wisconsin have been shut down in the past because of people who got sick of disrespectful riders.  It is important to remember that you and your ATV are not the only things on the planet.  Respect others around you riding on the trails, people who are not participating in the activity, and the land itself.  Stay on the trails at all times, pick up litter, and make a good example for other riders.

Categories: Trail Riding | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Remember the Regulations – DNR Rules to ATVing in Wisconsin

  1. Thank you for your interest in my blog!

  2. Not a problem. Thank you for coming to visit!

  3. What portions do you not agree with? It would be interesting to hear your points of view as well.

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