Guide to the ATV and UTV Laws of North Carolina

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 North Carolina 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.

There are not that many regulations regarding ATVs or UTVs in North Carolina, we researched our hearts out to find every regulation possible.  If you have additional questions, contact your local DMV as some locations of specific regulations that are not operable statewide. 

How does North Carolina define an ATV?

North Carolina defines an ATV as “a motorized off-highway vehicle designed to travel on three or four low-pressure tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control.”

Youth Restrictions

The following restrictions apply to youth ATV and UTV riders in North Carolina:

  • Children under the age of 8 are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV in North Carolina.
  • Children under the age of 13 are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV with an engine larger than 70 cc (cubic centimeters).
  • Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV with an engine larger than 90 cc.
  • Children under the age of 16 must be supervised by an adult anytime the youth is operating an ATV or UTV.



The following requirements apply to any ATV or UTV operated in North Carolina.

  • If you intend to carry a passenger, you must have an ATV or UTV that was designed to carry said passenger.
  • Your ATV or UTV must have an operable brake system.
  • Your ATV or UTV must have an operable muffler system.
  • Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with a working spark arrester approved by the United States Forest Service.
  • If you are operating an ATV or UTV on public land, you must be wearing a helmet and eye protection. We have been through a ton of helmets and goggles, and these are the ones we recommend.
  • If you are riding after sunset or before sunrise or any other time visibility is significantly reduced, your ATV or UTV must be equipped with an illuminated headlamp and taillamp.

Where are you permitted to operate an ATV or UTV in North Carolina

In North Carolina, you may not operate an ATV or UTV on any interstate or highway. You may also not ride on any public street, road, or highway except for purposes of crossing that street, road, or highway.

North Carolina has a handful of riding locations, the most popular of which are below. Of course, if you know of other good riding areas, please share with us so we can add them to the list to help fellow riders.

  • The Wayehutta ATV Area has three Motocross tracks of all different skill levels. It is located in the Roy Taylor Forest in the Nantahala National Forest near Knoxville and Asheville. The park also has riding trails near the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • The Brown Mountain Off Highway Vehicle ATV Area is located in Pisgah National Forest near Lenoir North Carolina. It has 34 miles of trails; however, only 14 miles of the trails are open to ATV and UTV riding.
  • 5 Points Motocross Park is an MX track, located on Jefferson Rd just off NC HWY 32 in Pinetown.
  • Badin Lake Recreation Area, offers 16 miles of riding areas within the Uwharrie National Forest near Albemarle.

It should be noted that most of the trails in National Forests close from mid-December through the end of March. Also, unless otherwise posted, you cannot ride on on forest roads, since the forest service enforces state vehicle laws, which do not permit ATV or UTV operation. Finally, you are required to stay on designated trails when riding in National Forests. We also highly recommend you consult this guide to riding on Federal Land.

Other Regulations

  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger or cause injury or damage to any person or property .
  • If you were born on or after January 1, 1990, you are required to have passed an approved safety training class and obtained a certificate of completion.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV under the influence of alcohol, any controlled substance, or a prescription or nonprescription drug that impairs vision or motor coordination.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in a manner that damages or destroys public or private property, damages any trees, crops, or lands belonging to another person.

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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