OHV Tips

Play it Safe On and Off-Road

The San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado have some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Miners and prospectors built hundreds of miles of wagon roads into and over these mountains in the late 1800's and early 1900's. These old roads give access to this awesome scenery as well as ghost towns and mines that have a lot of history. Read on below for all of the current regulations and permit requirements for OHV's in Colorado. Also, roll like we do in Colorado and follow the Stay the Trail etiquette to preserve our beautiful high country landscapes, wildlife and history. 

Colorado OHV Registrations and Permits:

Colorado OHV Registration Requirements: All OHVs owned and operated in Colorado (including motor vehicles and motorcycles that are not licensed for public road access) must display current Colorado OHV registration stickers when in a person’s possession in an OHV staging area or operated on any designated OHV trails or routes in Colorado.

Colorado OHV Use Permit Requirements: All OHVs and motor vehicles (including motorcycles) that display a valid Colorado or out-of-state license plate must also display a current Colorado OHV use permit sticker when operated on any designated OHV trails in Colorado. All out of state OHVs (including OHVs that display an out of state OHV registration) must also display a current Colorado OHV use permit sticker when operated on any designated OHV trails or routes in Colorado.

Register Your Ride!
Visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website to read more information on how to purchase OHV registrations and permits, and the projects that the OHV Registration program funds, call (303) 791-1920, or visit one of the OHV Registration Locations. Ridgway State Park is the closest location to Ouray where you can purchase OHV registrations and permits.

All OHV's operated in Colorado must have a valid Colorado registration or a Colorado nonresident permit (except private property). Registration/permits cost $25.25 and are available from Colorado State Parks. Annual registration and permits are valid April 1 through March 31.

Please Note: Colorado does NOT grant reciprocity for OHV/snowmobile registrations to other state OHV/snowmobile registration programs.

For specific trail equipment information and requirements check in the Stay the Trail registration/permit page here.

City of Ouray OHV Regulations:

OHV's, ATV's and unlicensed motorcycles are illegal to drive on any City of Ouray street or state highway in Colorado. This includes out-of-state licenses OHV's and ATV's. (Colorado does not accept out-of-state licensing of OHV's and ATV's.) OHV's, ATV's and unlicensed motorcycles are allowed on some county roads but you cannot legally access them from within the City of Ouray.

For example, an ATV cannot access County Road 361/Camp Bird Road and Yankee Boy Basin from downtown Ouray because the only vehicle access is from Highway 550. Off-highway vehicles are not permitted on any city street in Ouray. However, you may park in the staging area on Highway 550 across from the County Road 361/Camp Bird Road entrance and cross the highway to access the road. When crossing streets or when crossing roads, highways or railroad tracks in the manner provided in C.R.S. 33-14-112.

markusvanmeter alpineloop summer2017

Photo Courtesy of Markus Van Meter Photography

Alpine Loop OHV Regulations:

For the ATV enthusiast: The Alpine Loop Backcountry Scenic Byway is a sixty-five mile loop of 4-wheel-drive roads carved through the breathtaking San Juan Mountains connecting the towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Lake City. The Alpine Loop crosses through some of Colorado's most spectacular mountains and is dotted with the remains of ghost towns, mines, mills, aerial trams, and railroads as prominent reminders of the region's extensive mining history. Tackling the whole loop is easily an all-day event and miles of side routes allow you to make it into a multi-day experience. Learn more about the Alpine Loop here, or stop in at the Ouray Visitor's Center for a free map.

The Alpine Loop also passes through some of the most fragile regions of the country. The alpine vegetation is incredibly vulnerable to damage by vehicle traffic and can take decades to recover. To preserve this unique landscape for your next trip, or the trips of your grandchildren, please always stay on designated routes and follow Stay the Trail ethics.


The following are the legal staging areas to access the Alpine Loop:

  • Engineer Pass, 4 miles outside of Ouray
  • Corkscrew Gulch, 7 miles outside of Ouray
  • Arrastra Gulch, outside of Silverton
  • Eureka, outside of Silverton
  • Lake San Cristobal, outside of Lake City
  • Hensen Creek, west side of Lake City.

Safety, ethics & planning considerations (The Alpine Loop is truly a backcountry experience.):

  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans and give yourself more time than you think you need.
  • Do your homework before you start your trip; know your routes and destination.
  • Electronics and wireless devises DO NOT work in most places on the Alpine Loop. It is recommended that you download or print hard copy maps prior to your trip.
  • Make sure you have plenty of water, food and fuel to make it to your destination. In a high alpine environment above treeline, the air is thinner, making activity more difficult, the air gets colder, high winds are common and there is no shelter from the sun, wind or precipitation.
  • Know your abilities: if you have to ask yourself if your "expertise" is enough to negotiate a harder trail, it probably isn't.
  • Many of the historical sites contain mining passages and buildings - DO NOT enter them. These structures are not stable and may collapse, have fall hazards and low air quality.
  • Not all of the land along the Alpine Loop is public; respect private property.
  • Do not camp, smoke or build campfires within 150 feet of historic buildings or water sources and within 800 feet of the Animas Forks Historic Site.
  • Keep pets leashed while visiting cultural sites and around wildlife.
  • Do note remove any cultural artifacts you find and do not deface the buildings (trying to remove graffiti could do more harm than good). Report looting and vandalism to BLM Law Enforcement at 970-642-4940 and the Colorado State Patrol at 970-249-4392.
  • In the event of an emergency, dial 911 or contact the Sheriff's office:
    • Ouray County: 970-325-7272
    • San Juan County: 970-387-5531
    • Hinsdale County: 970-944-2291
    • San Miguel County: 970-728-1911

County by County considerations:

  • Ouray County: OHV's permitted on designated county roads only, routes on Alpine Loop, must have CPW reg/permit, driver’s license, and CO state minimum liability insurance, NO Ouray City Streets or state Hwy 550.
  • San Juan County: San Juan County and Silverton have designated various routes in the county and on the Alpine Loop for ATV and unlicensed motorcycle use. Designated OHV route only including access to the business district and the Alpine Loop, specific OHV route is marked with yellow signage and arrows. Model traffic code as well as other rules apply. Riders must be 16 years of age and have a valid driver's license. All ATV's and unlicensed motorcycles must carry liability insurance and be able to provide proof of that insurance. A map of the designated routes for these vehicles can be obtained at the parking/unloading areas or from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office or at the Silverton Visitor's Center.
  • Hinsdale County: OHVs are allowed on all roads in Hinsdale County and the Town of Lake City, Other OHV regulations include: 1. Vehicle operators must have Valid Driver's license. 2. Proof of minimum liability insurance for each vehicle. 3. Helmet is required for riders under 18 years of age (a bicycle helmet will NOT suffice). 4. Eye protection for EVERY rider (prescription glasses, sunglasses, googles, etc.) 5. Must follow posted speed limit (all town streets are 15mph, HWY 149 varies) and any other traffic laws. 6. Stay on designated roads. 7. Highly recommended - rear view mirror. 
  • San Miguel County: Designated county roads only, routes on Alpine Loop, K68 Imogene Pass Rd. and K69 Black Bear Pass Rd. must have CPW reg/permit, driver’s license, and liability insurance.

Want more off-highway info?

Check up on all things motorized at Stay the Trail Colorado.


ouray colorado logo