Operating Your OHV Legally

Protecting the Environment

It is illegal to operate an OHV in a way that causes damage to the environment, including operating on or in the following areas:

  • A reforested or planted area in a way that damages growing stock
  • An ocean beach or sand dune in a way that destroys, damages, or breaks down the beach, dune, or dune grass
  • A wetland (such as a bog, marsh, or swamp) in a way that damages wetland plants, if the area has been designated as a protected wetland
  • Waters of the Commonwealth
  • Designated priority habitats
  • Lands used for public water supply purposes
  • Historic or archaeological sites

Avoiding Illegal Operation of an OHV

It is illegal to operate an OHV:

  • In a manner which presents a substantial risk of injury or loss of life.
  • In a manner which causes damage to public or private property.
  • On privately owned land unless:
    • The operator has written permission from the property owner or…
    • The operator has valid proof of current membership in a club, association, or other organization that has permission from the property owner or…
    • The property owner has posted notice of areas for designated use or…
    • The property is owned by an immediate family member of the operator.
  • Unless all persons riding on the OHV or being towed are wearing the required helmet.
  • While under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • With a firearm, rifle, or shotgun on board your OHV, unless the firearm is unloaded and cased.
  • In a way that harasses or chases deer or other wildlife, or within 300 yards of a deer yard.
  • Between sunset and sunrise or when visibility is less than 300 feet, unless displaying the required lights.
  • If the vehicle is leaking fuel or does not have the required equipment.
  • Obeying Speed and Distance Requirements

    It is illegal to operate an OHV:

    • At speeds that are unsafe for the operating conditions
    • Within 150 feet of an occupied residence:
      • With permission from the owner or other authorized person that is given to the operator, a club, an association, or another organization
      • Without permission only when the OHV is:
        • Experiencing an emergency or…
        • Directly departing from or returning to that occupied residence or…
        • Being operated on adjacent property where the operator has permission to ride

    If you encounter bikers, horseback riders, hikers, or others, you must:

    • Immediately slow to a minimum safe operating speed.
    • Give the person the right-of-way.
    • Pass only when it can be done with complete safety.
    • Wait until you are at least 50 feet away from the person before accelerating.

    Operating on Roads and Public Ways

    Recreation vehicles may not be operated on:

    • Any public way unless the road is marked and approved for use by recreation vehicles, even for crossing
    • A controlled-access highway, even for crossing

    When crossing an approved public way, operators:

    • Must come to a complete stop prior to entering the roadway for crossing.
    • Must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.
    • Shall begin a crossing only when it can be executed safely.
    • Must cross in the most direct manner as close to a perpendicular angle as possible.

    Operating in State Parks and Forests

    Within Massachusetts state parks, reservations, and forests, OHVs may be legally operated only on:

    • Designated trails and…
    • During specific riding seasons and conditions.

    Operators should be familiar with Massachusetts trails restrictions.

    • OHVs may be operated on Massachusetts OHV trails during daylight hours only (from sunrise to sunset).
    • OHVs may not be operated on Massachusetts OHV trails during the winter. The annual riding season for OHVs:
      • Begins no earlier than May 1 and…
      • Ends no later than the last Sunday in November.
    • Persons under 12 years of age may not operate an OHV on OHV trails within Massachusetts state parks, reservations, and forests.
    • Vehicles over 1,000 lbs. (such as recreation utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and SUVs) are prohibited from all OHV trails at all times.

    To find a list of state trails that allow OHVs, visit http://www.mass.gov/eea/state-parks-beaches/outdoor-recreation/ohv/find-a-state-park-riding-trail.html.

    • To be sure trails are open before you go riding, call the Department of Conservation and Recreation at 617-626-1250.
    • Designated trails are marked with a sign at the trailhead and with orange or yellow trail blazers.

    The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other federal and state land managing agencies determine where OHV use is permitted on their lands. The operator is responsible for knowing which routes are open to OHVs.