RV Travel – ATV Adventures

atvs in canyon

This just one of the activities that you can enjoy on your RV adventures, because it is still winter I will concentrate on the US southwest.  This mostly desert area offers many opportunities, hiking and even boating and fishing, but more about that in the next article. I recommend a detailed atlas for RV traveling click here to check out atlases.

The Colorado river basin seems to offer all of these activities but be aware most require a licence of some kind.

2 up riders

ATV, UTV, OHV, & boats all need to be registered in your home state, most states seem to allow non-resident permits and licences, except for fishing, for more information see the appropriate website. Most states seem to use the OHV (off highway vehicle) name on their websites. Arizona is (azstateparks.com/ohv), California is ( ohv.parks.ca.gov).

ATV, UTV, Dune Buggy……..

4 seater

ATV (all terrain vehicle), UTV or side by side, are perfect for riding in the southwest desert. This is a great past time for many retirees. People are riding or driving all sorts of vehicles. A place like Quartzsite has hundreds of miles of trails and cross country riding. If you are into ATV riding, as we are, after you set up camp take a ride and visit your neighbors who are displaying some kind of off road vehicle in front of their RV. The first thing you know your new acquaintance will invite you for a ride.

Your Ride…..

After meeting your ATV neighbors, the next day or so everyone will show up at a pre-determined spot, introductions and small talk, usually you will be asked where you are from. Before heading out its a good idea to have the right equipment, click here to checkout hand held GPS

S happy hour

Now the inspections will begin as each unusual or not so unusual vehicle will need to be looked over. I have seen so many different styles, motorcycles (dirt bike) although most of us more mature riders (old farts), avoid two wheeled machines for various reasons (too chicken).

motorcycle with big tires

A motorcycle with over sized balloon tires, I guess for better stability on gravel and sand, they look like an ATV but with only 2 wheels.

3wheel ATV

The 3 wheel ATV, not many are seen these days, they are not being manufactured any more, they flip easily.

Sand rail


The next strange one is something that resembles a go cart but with larger tires and more ground clearance, seating for one or two and a small dog.




Then there is the dune buggy and the sand rail, both too noisy for me.


2 up atv




Of course there is the single rider ATV of all sizes, from less than 100cc to ten times that size; the two up ATV, built with a longer wheel base and an amazingly comfy seat with drink holders and arm rests, for your special passenger, or otherwise she won’t go. Click here to check out ATV trunks and 2 up seats.



side by sides


The side by side is the newest kid on the block when it comes to off road riding, these fancy machines are perfect for a couple who want to be more comfortable than on an ATV and of course you don’t have to look at the back of someone’s head, although they seem to be more dusty than the other types of machines.

Your man friend can come with you and not get strange looks from the group when he get off the ATV after being glued to your backside.


Probably the rarest of ATV is the Argo, I’m not sure if this is a brand or not, but its an amphibious vehicle with 6 or more wheels and looks like a small tank. I have’t seen too many of these in the desert I think they are not fast enough.

jeep on trail

Although it doesn’t seem right the jeep type 4 wheel drive, air conditioned automatic, dust free highway vehicle are also being used for desert exploring. You will see them in groups traveling on the desert trails, shunned by us more rugged, dust eating, salt of the earth riders. If encountered, we will talk to them when they emerge from there tinted window slightly dusted wannabe ATV.

My Outfit

riding gear

Getting ready for the ride always seems to be a last minute scramble for me. Fuel and check your machine, oil, tires etc. Get dressed………… helmet, layered clothing, gloves. Its a good idea to bring water and a snack, you never know how long you may be gone. I usually bring extra fuel, a first aid kit, a small tool pouch, goggles, dust mask or scarf for your mouth and nose, it can be very dusty. Click here to check out dust masks, and other riding gear.

Pre-trip Briefing

trip briefing

Next up, the ride. The leader needs to be designated. No one seems to want to lead, not sure why that’s the best position, no dust. An unconventional vote is carried out, someone will say “hey Harry why don’t you lead, everyone will say, yeh Harry. The ballets are destroyed and we have a leader. Now the destination must be decided, this can be a lengthy discussion, until someone says something about lets get going, a decision is made and off we go. Maybe you would like to record you ride click here to check helmet cams.

The Tour……finally

Line of ATVs

I’m not sure how it happens but the riding order is quickly determined, the leader and his spouse or friend followed by people that seem to be friends, with the less experienced riders in the middle and last will be the second leader who will probably have lead the last tour.

The pack will quickly thin out usually due to the dust, however there is usually someone who likes to ride too close to the person in front, no words are usually exchanged but if looks could kill.

The Machines

new ATV

All Terrain Vehicle, ATV……… they suit their name. All of them are easy to ride even for the most unfit non mechanical persons. Most machines will go faster than you like and smooth out the trail as well. They will crawl over almost any kind of terrain, in fact I think the only limitation is the nerve and the skill of the rider. Accidents do happen however, usually rider error is the cause, luckily it is not often.

Stops of not so interesting.

atvs in canyon

A good leader is very aware of his responsibilities, after a short time he will stop to make sure all is well with his following. Through the ride he will stop at any spot that may be construed as an intersection, this is important especially for the inexperienced riders who are concentrating on controlling their machine and may miss the most obvious of turns and be lost forever, or at least until we all have to stop and turn around and find her with her worried face.

He also must point out anything that may be a stop of interest or view. Some of these stops of interest can be thought provoking, like the unmistakable foot print impression in a large solid rock out cropping, or a large flat boulder beside a wash (dried up river) that had been hollowed out smooth like an over sized bowl from many years of grinding something.

The Shaft

inside a mine

On any OHV tour in the southwest desert you will be lead to a ” mine”. There are thousands of these holes in the ground, literally many are just a hole in the ground or a hole in a hill. But there are a few that are somewhat interesting, like the one west of Quartzsite, zinc or lead mine not sure which, you could see where the miners super heated the rock to extract the mineral.

One of the most spectacular is the american girl mine east of Yuma, a huge open pit mine with a lake at the bottom, we were able to ride right down to the lake, a nice spot surrounded by barren desert.

Mine buildings

The Ride

rugged atv

The tour usually has different degrees of riding, the hard desert can be fast, the soft bed of the washes, even though dusty dry, can bog down your machine and make it hard to control. These washes can be spectacular, like a miniature Grand Canyon carved by water flow with vertical walls rising miles high on each side, well maybe an exaggeration. The mountain riding can be rugged and steep in some places but the view at the top is always worth it. If you encounter a river or lake it makes the trip that much nicer, a place to wash and cool off. Click here to check out back road and trial maps.

SXS at water







The End of the Trail

Rider gorp

Arriving back at camp is always different, sometimes its a scattering but more often it’s a post mortum of the trip over a couple of cold ones. We have been riding in the desert for years, sometimes we trailer our machines to the starting line but most often we boondock where we can ride straight from camp. We have made many friends riding and we often will return to the same area every year at least for a week or two to reacquaint and then venture to another spot that I’ve seen on the map or someone has mentioned.


Take a break from your ATV and go golfing, there is always a course close by, click here to book a time no fee booking.

I hope this article is a help if you were considering adding off road exploring to your retirement or non-retirement activities.

palm tree lightsIf you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them below.


Gord B.


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