Guide to the ATV and UTV Laws in Montana

guide to atv and utv laws in montana

Continuing in our series of articles analyzing the ATV laws in every state, which stemmed from this article, we are addressing the ATV laws in Montana in this article.   It should also be noted that, while I am an attorney, I am not your attorney and am not giving legal advice.  If you have questions, you should consult a local attorney.

What Machines are Covered by Montana OHV Laws?

Montana governs the use of OHVs (Off-Highway Vehicles).  Montana defines OHV as a self-propelled vehicle used for recreation or cross-country travel on public lands, trails, easements lakes, rivers or streams. The term specifically included ATVs and implicitly UTVs. 

Are you Required to Register your ATV and UTV in Montana?

You must register your ATV or UTV in Montana by purchasing a registration decal from your County Treasurer.  The OHV Registration Decal must be displayed on your ATV or UTV.  Registration is not required if you are riding, with permission, you do not need to have your ATV or UTV registered.

Nonresidents must purchase a Nonresident Annual Use Permit, which is valid for the calendar year (January 1 – December 31), to operate an ATV or UTV in Montana. This requirement applies to all residents of all states except Idaho and North Dakota, which are exempt.

The non-resident permits are $27 and available through the  Online Licensing Service, or in person at these locations.

What Equipment is Required for your ATV and UTV in Montana?

In Montana, you are required to have the following pretty standard equipment.

  • State-approved muffler that tests at 96 db or less.
  • Spark arrester.

It is important to note that you may install additional equipment if you wish to ride on the streets in Montana.  That is discussed in greater detail below.

Where are you Permitted to Ride an ATV or UTV in Montana?

On public lands, you are limited to riding ATVs and UTVs on trails designated for OHV use.  You are not permitted to ride cross-country in Montana. For information about trail riding areas contact the local Forest Service or BLM office for a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).  Consult this guide for more details.

It should be noted that many of the permitted trails of the Forest Service lands are restricted to vehicles 50 inches wide or less.

You are permitted to register your ATV or UTV for use on public streets in Japan as discussed below, but without that registration there are certain conditions to which a user may operate on public streets in Montana.

Off-highway vehicle operation is permitted on the roadway or shoulder of any public road or highway, state highway, county road, or city street located within the boundaries of any municipality only if: 
     (a) the operator has received permission or is otherwise authorized for that travel by the municipality in the case of town or city streets, the board of county commissioners for county roads, or the state highway patrol for all other highways; or 
     (b) operation is authorized on municipal streets by municipal ordinance.

Operation of an ATV or UTV under the above conditions is only permissible if it is equipped with at least one headlight and one taillight, which much be illuminated at all times, and an operable braking system.  The operator must also have a valid driver’s license or, if the operator is 12-15 years old, possess a certificate showing successful completion of an off-highway vehicle safety education course approved by the department of fish, wildlife,  and parks.  Such a youth operator must also be in the physical presence of a person who possesses a driver’s license at the time of operation.     

guide to atv and utv laws in montana

Can you make your ATV or UTV Street Legal in Montana?

When we talk about riding on public streets in Montana, it includes all city streets, county roads, and U.S. Forest Service system roads.   Notably, BLM roads are not classified as public roads. ATV and UTV use is permitted on BLM Roads and do not have to be street legal and the operator is not required to have a license.

You can operate an ATV or UTV on public streets in Montana if you have made your vehicle street legal.  This process requires that your ATV or UTV be equipped with a mirror, horn, headlight, and brake lights.

To ride an ATV or UTV on the street, it must be registered as a motor vehicle and display a proper license plate.  The operator must also have a valid driver’s license of course.

You may not carry a passenger on the street unless it is designed to carry said passenger.  Anyone under the age of 18 must also wear a helmet.

What about non-resident ATVs on the street?

A non-resident may operate their ATV on the public streets of Montana for up to thirty consecutive days only if it is licensed in the non-resident’s home state.

What Special Regulations does Montana have for Youth ATV/UTV Riders?

For children aged 12-16, a Safety Certificate is required. The you must also be accompanied by a licensed operator. To get a Safety Certificate, you must successfully complete an online or hands-on safety education course. The most popular courses are those offered by the ATV Safety Institute.

Using an ATV or UTV for Hunting in Mexico

There are not a lot of regulations related to hunting at this moment. Instead, responsible ATV and UTV use is encouraged to avoid the future implementation of restrictions.

Probably the biggest regulation comes from motor vehicle laws, which restrict hunting from a motorized vehicle. This includes ATVs and UTVs.
The only exemption is for disabled hunters who may apply for a Permit To Hunt From A Vehicle.

It is also prohibited to use an ATV or UTV to concentrate, drive, rally, stir-up, corral or harass wildlife

It should be noted that off-trail use is not permitted on public lands, including for the retrieval of game.

Are you required to wear safety gear in Montana?

For operators aged 18 and over, Montana does not require you to wear specific safety gear; however, it is recommended to always wear a helmet, goggles, gloves and boots. For great options on what we love, check out our recommended gear.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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