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ATV Resources and Riding info for California

Jeep at Truckhaven
Jeep at Truckhaven
Matt Finley

California State Laws for ATVs and Offroading:

All persons riding ATVs must wear an approved ATV Safety helmet while riding on public land in California.

Passengers on ATVs are prohibited on public land unless the ATV/OHV is specifically designed to carry passengers.

The Prima Facie speed limit within 50 feet of any campground, campsite or concentration of people or animals shall not exceed 15 miles per hour.

Age Limitations for Riding ATVs in California

In order to ride on public land in California, people under the age of 18 years old must do one of the following:

  1. Be currently taking a prescribed ATV safety training course under the direct supervision of a certified ATV Safety Instructor
  2. Be under the direct supervision of an adult who has in their possession an appropriate safety certificate issued by the state of California (or the authority of another state
  3. The child must have in their possession a safety certificate issued b California or another state authority

Noise Levels and Spark Arrestors

Noise levels of OHVs manufactured on or after Jan 1, 1998 shall not exceed 96dBA, previously manufactured OHVs must not exceed 101dBA. Noise levels are to be measured from a distance of 20 inches using test procedures established by the Society of Automotive Engineers under Standard J-1287, as applicable. You can find more info here:

Spark arrestor must be used on all California Public lands except those with no vegetation. In places like Glamis and Gordons Well in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) spark arrestors are not required. They are not required in the ISDRA because there is very little vegetation there to catch fire. Places like Ocotillo Wells SVRA do require spark arrestors because there is considerable vegetation there.

ATV/OHV Registration in California

All Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) operated in California's public land must be registered. Street legal vehicles do not require additional off-highway registration. They may be subject to OHV use fee's when operated in an OHV park.

The OHV "license plate" is a Red or Green sticker with special OHV serial numbers on it.

Green stickers are issued for all 2002 year model and older OHVs, including those that were previously issued a red sticker, and to 2003 and newer vehicles that comply with the California Air Resource Board emission standards for California. Green stickers allow year round use at all California OHV riding areas.

Red stickers are issued only for 2003 and newer year model OHVs that are not certified to California OHV emission standards and which have a "3" or "C" in the eighth position of the vehicle identification number (VIN). Red stickers allow seasonal use only in California OHV riding areas.

If you do not wish to renew your OHV registration, you must submit a completed Certificate of Non-Operation/Planned Non-Operation Certification (PNO-REG 102) prior to the registration expiration date and pay the required Planned Non-Operation fee.

Registration Requirements for Custom Built OHVs

To register an OHV that was specially constructed, you will need:

  • Application for Title or Registration (REG 343).
  • A vehicle verification done by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). You must start your application process with the DMV prior to contacting the CHP for vehicle verification.
  • Proof of ownership, such as invoices, receipts, manufacturer’s certificates of origin, bills of sale, or junk receipts for the major component parts (engine, frame, transmission, and body).

    NOTE: A motor vehicle bond is required for the total value of the vehicle when proof of ownership cannot be obtained for parts valued at $5,000 or more.

  • Off Highway Vehicle fees and use tax, if due.
  • Visit your local DMV office to begin the application process; make an Appointment(s) for faster service.

NOTE: An OHV built by a licensed manufacturer cannot be registered as a specially constructed vehicle, regardless of after-market modifications or added components.

ATV Safety Training in California

ATV Safety Institute Training and Certification
4-H ATV Safety Program

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