Quadricycle or quad bike on the mountains background
By Josh Deakin

Mainers love their big, outdoor toys. When the white stuff stops falling and the snowmobile trails start turning green, we know there’s still more fun to be had. That’s when outdoor adventure seekers get out their ATVs.

ATVs utilize a lot of the same land as snowmobiling, with a few exceptions. Here are some tips to discover more about the fun, adventurous hobby of riding an ATV.

Tips for Beginners

When riding an ATV, you’ll always want to be vigilant of where your feet are. Utilize your foot pegs to keep your feet upright and out of the way of the machine as well as any obstacles on the ground. Nerf bars are a good accessory to invest in if your ATV doesn’t already have them. They provide extra traction to ensure your feet don’t hit the ground.

Steering on an ATV is a little different compared to other off-road vehicles. The handlebars will resemble that of a dirt bike or motorcycle but steering a four-wheeled machine is a lot different than steering a two-wheeled one. When going around a tight corner, you may have to lean or stand to balance the vehicle and prevent it from flipping. 

The controls will also be different compared to a dirt bike. The throttle will resemble that of a thumb button commonly found on a snowmobile. It’s important to push slowly when getting used to your machine. You never know how sensitive it will be. Familiarize yourself with the controls before taking it out on the trails. The clutch and brakes are also located by your hands and you’ll want to make sure you know which one is which.

Why ATV in Maine?

The state of Maine is a beautiful piece of land filled with picturesque imagery in all four seasons of the year. Its beauty is so recognizable, it’s no secret why the state has become a tourist attraction for outdoor adventure. 

“The state of Maine is fabulous for riding because it has thousands of miles of trails with varied scenery,” explained a representative from the Southern Maine ATV Club. “We take trips every year to different parts of the state to ride.” 

It’s important, however, to respect the land that you use. “The biggest threat to our sport is the growing population that thinks that because they spent thousands on an ATV that they have the right to ride wherever they want, whenever they want. We have been losing tails and trail systems due to lack of respect for the landowners that graciously allow us to use their land. And no one wants to help the clubs work to maintain the trails, [they] only want to ride on them. The small group of volunteers that work on the trails are getting burned out.” 

Maine’s unique landscape aids in the state’s “Four Season” accessibility. There are fun activities to be had outside all year long. To really appreciate the beauty the state possesses, get out in the woods and see the elegant wilderness in all of its untouched glory. The trails stretching across Maine provide access for everyone to see firsthand why Maine is dubbed Vacationland.

Trails to Discover

The state of Maine is littered with trails from north to south, including some trails that cross the border into New Hampshire and Canada. Options in Maine grow the further you travel north, with more unpopulated land to take advantage of and explore.

To the west, don’t miss the opportunity for a stunning ride and history lesson near Moosehead Lake. 

“Take a ‘bucket list’ ride to the solemn B-52 Memorial where in 1963 a heroic crew of seven crashed on Elephant Mountain while attempting newly introduced cold war flight maneuvers,” suggests Bob Ludwig, the trailmaster for Moosehead Riders ATV Club. “[You can] learn more from ‘Final Flight – The North Woods’ written by Joseph Wax that documents the flight and mid-winter rescue by Greenville residents and others.”

The trails in the Moosehead Lake area do not stop at the B-52 crash site. “Greenville is an active ATV hub in northwestern Maine on the shores of the 30-mile long pristine Moosehead Lake,” said Ludwig. “Nearly 90 miles of trails are maintained by the Moosehead Riders ATV Club for the enjoyment of responsible riders from all of New England. Riders can connect with adjacent club trails southbound to the foot of 56 308-foot towers at the Bingham Wind Farm in Kingsbury Plantation. Westbound trails lead to Lake Moxie, The Forks, 3,700-foot [tall] Coburn Mountain and Lake Parlin. Northbound riders can choose remote First Roach Pond in Kokadjo or awe at the historic Mt. Kineo in Rockwood before continuing on to Jackman.”

If you head to the far northern end of the state, check out the Saint John Valley Heritage Trail that rides along the border of Canada, spanning nearly 17 miles of crushed stone trail from Fort Kent to St. Francis. Be on the lookout during your ride for horseback riding as well as other offroad vehicles.

On Maine’s eastern coast, be sure to explore the 87-mile long Down East Sunrise Trail. The path, equipped for all-terrain vehicles as well as mountain biking and cross-country skiing, runs from SR 214/Ayers Junction Road, less than a mile south of Mt. Tom Road in Pembroke, all the way to Beals Avenue in Ellsworth. It’s a beautiful, curvy section of land that will really put the “all-terrain” in ATV to good use. You’ll travel through countryside as well as creek beds.

Southern Maine isn’t left out of the party with the must-see Sanford-Springvale Rail Trail. It spans about 6 miles from the Alfred/Sanford town line to the Lebanon/Sanford town line. This southern route provides ample water views in the short 6-mile span.

Safety Tips

There are a few cardinal tips provided by the ATV Safety Institute to follow in order to remain safe while riding your ATV. The first of these rules being to always wear an approved Department of Transportation helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over the ankle boots, and gloves. This will provide the most support for you in the event of an accident and will help keep you safe.

In addition, you’ll want to stay off of paved roads unless to cross where allowed. After all, an ATV is designed to be operated on uneven, rough terrain. That’s half of the fun! Enjoy the dirt and mud and stay off of the main roads. Please keep in mind that riding is only allowed on designated trails and at a safe speed. Attempting to navigate a new area at a high speed is incredibly dangerous and could result in injury.

It’s important to ride an ATV that is right for you. There are different sizes for a reason. If it’s your first outing on one, it may be in your best interest to not ride such a powerful machine as the Polaris Sportsman XP 1000. Keep in mind that ATVs are designed to either be single person or two-person rides. Carrying more than what your ATV is designed for is extremely unsafe behavior. 

If you’re thinking of trying out an ATV for a little outdoor fun and recreation, please consider taking a hands-on ATV riding course that will provide you with proper riding procedures and techniques to keep you safe during your trip.

See this Section as it appeared in print here