Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit about off-roading in the news. If you’ve never gone, I recommend giving it a try. Taking out an ATV is a great way to see the beauty of the Black Hills and get some fresh air. My older brother and his friends try to make a trip from East River yearly to take out their four-wheelers and kick back for the weekend.
Unfortunately, much of the news I’ve read lately doesn’t include fun and vacation, but fines and lawsuits instead. Many people have not been following the rules associated with using an ATV or ORV in the Black Hills National Forest. These rules exist for a reason, and in case you’re not aware of them, here’s a quick briefing on the basics that I found on the Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Website.
The Black Hills go by an “open-unless-closed” principle. This means an unauthorized area will either be gated or have some type of a sign posted. This can still be a little bit tricky, as a great deal of private property is intertwined throughout the forest. As you may have guessed, off-roading on these locations is trespassing. If you want to avoid this, look through the Official Forest Service Map. This map shows private property, public land, trails, and so forth.
You might be wondering, why aren’t all of the Black Hills available to be enjoyed with an ATV? Besides private property, some of the land is being protected for its soil, timber harvests and wildlife refugees. Also, hiking trails, like the George S. Mickelson Trail, Spearfish Canyon, Bear Mountain, picnic areas, campgrounds and lake areas do not permit off-roading. In other words, please don’t take your jeep charging through areas that might be full of people.
This might make it sound as though much of the Black Hills are unavailable, but this is certainly not the case. There’s about 5,000 miles of path ideal for off-roading scattered throughout the forest. Also, plans for a system of off-roading trails are in the making.
Off-roading is a great way to enjoy the Black Hills, but remember, there is a wrong and a right way to go about it. Next time you take out your four-wheeler, enjoy the scenery and the fresh air, not a $1,000 fine and a year of probation.