10 Hair-Raising ATV Trails in North Carolina

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With diverse landscapes ranging from the Smoky Mountains in the West to the coastal islands in the East, North Carolina is a great place to find ATV trails. Public land like the forested mountains of Nantahala National Forest and the coastal region of Croatan National Forest is where you’ll find some of the best ATV trails in North Carolina. 

north carolina atv trails

What Terrain Can You Expect on ATV Trails in North Carolina?

Before you hit these ATV trails in North Carolina, you may be wondering what to expect.

With such diverse landscapes throughout the state, there are many different types of ATV trails in North Carolina.

Western North Carolina is forested, with scenic mountain riding, while the east coast features more swampy trail areas and sand dunes.

Mud bogs are big along the eastern part of North Carolina.

What Are The ATV Laws in North Carolina?

When it comes to rules and regulations, you should know that ATVs are not street legal in North Carolina; they are only allowed on designated roads and trails.

Your ATV must be registered and in good operating condition with functioning brakes, lights, and muffler.

Helmet and goggles are required for riding on all public land.

If you were born after 1990, you must have a certificate from a certified safety training class.

Many National Forest trails close for the winter months, so be sure to check ahead before loading up the trailer!

10 Amazing ATV Trails in North Carolina

pisgah national forest brown mountain off road atv trail system

Pisgah National Forest

North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest is an outdoor adventure paradise.

With 500,000 acres in the Appalachian Mountains, you’ll find high peaks, waterfalls, rivers, and miles of forested hiking trails.

For ATV’s, there’s the Brown Mountain Trail System, with 34 miles of designated trails for OHV use.

For just a small daily permit fee, you’ll have access to several trails, a few of which also allow Jeeps.

12 different trails are rated from Easy to Most Difficult, and there is primitive camping with pit toilets on-site.

For local services, there’s a small general store near the entrance, where you can purchase your permit, and there are many campgrounds nearby in the Pisgah National Forest.

The town of Asheville is just 70 minutes away, with loads of accommodation options and a fantastic selection of places to eat.

Closer to the Brown Mountain trails, the town of Morganton is just 20 minutes away. 

Nantahala National Forest

(currently closed due to a landslide)

In the southwest part of North Carolina, the Nantahala Forest covers over 500,000 acres, making it the largest National Forest in North Carolina.

Among the many recreational opportunities you’ll find in Nantahala, there’s the Wayehutta OHV Trail System.

Wayehutta has 24 miles of OHV trails, ranked from easy to most difficult.

Beginners will have limited options, however, if you are ready for more difficult trails, you will be rewarded with stunning scenery, including waterfalls and alpine meadows filled with wildflowers.

The trails here are open from April 1 through December 15. 

The nearest town is Cullowhee, which has a decent selection of chain hotels and restaurants.

You can also pick up your passes for the trails at the Trading Post and General Store in Cullowhee.

The tourist town of Bryson City, gateway to the Smoky Mountains National Park, is just 40 minutes away.

This part of North Carolina is very popular with travelers to the Smoky Mountains, which means you’ll have lots of options for camping, lodging, and dining. 

Related Reading: Discover The Amazing Smoky Mountains

Uwharrie National Forest

At 52,000 acres, Uwharrie is North Carolina’s smallest national forest. However, there are some unique features that make it worth visiting.

For OHV operators, there’s the Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex.

16 miles of trails are accessed via six different trailheads. The eight trails here range from easy to extremely difficult.

With so many trailheads and varying skill levels within the trails, it’s very important to have a map so you don’t get in over your head!

There are certain trailheads that immediately drop into difficult terrain.

There are several NFS campgrounds in the Badin Lake area, including Badin Lake Campground and Arrowhead Campground.

Arrowhead Campground has RV sites with electricity, while both campgrounds offer hot showers and flush toilets.

The town nearest to Badin Lake is Troy.

This small town 25 minutes away has a few fast-food and grocery options.

For more options, including several national hotel chains, you will need to go to Albemarle, which is 35 minutes from the Badin Lake area. 

Croatan National Forest

For a more coastal experience, check out the Croatan National Forest along North Carolina’s Atlantic Coast.

This 160,000-acre forest has a diverse range of terrain styles that include saltwater estuaries, bogs, and swamps.

The forest has water on three sides by tidal rivers, so you can expect to get wet on some of these ATV trails.

The Black Swamp OHV Trailhead offers access to eight miles of ATV trails in North Carolina.

This trail is indeed swampy, so be prepared for lots of mud, especially if it has rained recently.

The flat trail is mostly amateur-friendly, with no big technical challenges.

Pit toilets are available at the trailhead and dispersed camping is allowed. 

New Bern is the nearest sizable town with tourism infrastructure, just 25 minutes from the Black Swamp OHV trailhead.

The trailhead is also just 30 minutes from the coast, so you can also visit Atlantic Beach or Cape Lookout National Seashore on the same trip!

Brushy Mountain Motor Sports Park

Located in North Carolina’s Brushy Mountains, the Brushy Mountain Motor Sports Park has over 100 miles of trails spread across 1,700 acres.

While primarily developed for single-track mountain biking trails, they also allow ATV’s and side-by-sides on several trails.

Rules here are fairly strict, but that helps maintain a safe, family-friendly environment.

Helmets, gloves, goggles, and long sleeves and pants are required for all riders, and no alcohol is allowed on the property. 

Camping is available at the park, with bathrooms and showers on-site. The nearest town is Taylorsville, just 15 minutes away.

There are a few hotels and several restaurants in Taylorsville. Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, is just 70 miles away.

Outback Motorsports ATV Park

Not far from the South Carolina border, the Outback Motorsports ATV & MX Park is all about the mud!

With more than 600 acres, there’s something for everyone at Outback Motorsports.

They’ve built a community of loyal customers, thanks to a festive, family-friendly atmosphere. Most weekends have food trucks and live music and on-site camping is super popular as well.

Hot showers are there when you’re ready to wash off the mud.

If you just want to ride and skip the camping, the town of Laurinburg is just 10 minutes away. 

Busco Beach and ATV Park

If you’re looking for a good time both on and off your machine, Busco Beach and ATV Park is your one-stop-shop for parties. This park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

There are over 2000 acres of bogs, ponds, mud pits, and even a man made beach.

They even rent ATVs on the property! 

While some weekends are family-friendly, others are less so, such as Daisy Dukes weekend.

You’ll often find live music and food, and the camping options on-site include hot showers and flush toilets.

They have RV hookups, tent sites, fishing, and swimming.

The mid-size town of Goldsboro is just 15 minutes away if you need anything.

Deep Creek ATV Park

This ATV Park near Fayetteville has loads of trails with a variety of changes in terrain suitable for all levels of riders.

Deep Creek ATV Park has miles of trails, lots of mud, and hot showers to wash off before you head home.

Dry camping is available for $5 per person, and a food truck is there most weekends.

They have a full calendar of events that includes live music, DJ’s and even some night rides.

The city of Fayetteville is just 20 minutes away, and the capital city of Raleigh is just one hour from the Deep Creek ATV Park. 

Cape Fear ATV and MX Park

Just one hour from Wilmington, the Cape Fear ATV and MX Park is a great spot for family-friendly ATV trails in North Carolina. There’s mud, sand, and even some snorkel spots.

This park is known for deep mud holes, so use caution and talk to the park owners before tackling any terrain you’re unfamiliar with.

Primitive camping is available on-site, while nearby Elizabethtown has a wider variety of accommodations and services.

Wilmington and Fayetteville are less than one hour away. 

Carolina Backwoods

If you’re new to ATV trails in North Carolina, consider taking an ATV tour at Carolina Backwoods.

A guided ATV tour is a great first step in exploring this fun hobby. 90-minute tours begin with instruction and safety briefings, before progressing to increasingly difficult terrain once the riders are warmed up.

Expect lots of mud and laughs! The property also has two cabins you can rent out if you’re looking to stay overnight.

Carolina Backwoods is just 30 minutes from Myrtle Beach, so this makes a great addition to your beach vacation!

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