You depended on your UTV to be your wingman (or wingwoman!) for Valentine’s Day—or maybe you don’t believe in celebrating love just one day out of the year. However, this February we have a whopper of a holiday weekend with back to back events: V-Day on the 14th and President’s Day on the 19th. If you got President’s Day off, or you simply want to make the most of this smack in the middle of the month weekend, there’s no better way to celebrate than by heading to the Badlands of South Dakota.
The Black Hills National Forest is home to 1.2 million stunning acres of land, and much of it is open to off-road lovers. Explore thousands of acres on the Motorized Trail System, which includes more than 3,600 miles of roads and 600 miles of trails. Both are UTV-legal and many offer a peek of Mt. Rushmore. You’ll find more than 90 miles of single-track options for motorcycles, as well as 347 miles designed just for UTVs that are less than 62 inches wide.
Embrace Your Bad Self
The Badlands are home to 72 miles of trails for vehicles narrower than 50 inches, and 148 miles are a free for all. Bring all your off-road machines, from UTVs to motorcycles. Many of the trails are looped and there’s clear marking to 20 key trailheads. It’s a very good idea to pick up the Black Hills Forest Service map before your ride. It’s updated every year to identify new trails, construction areas, and any spaces that are currently off limits. Some routes aren’t clear on the trails but are well marked on the maps.
It’s absolutely required that all riders stay on the trails. This forest is for trail riding only, and cross-country drivers are strictly prohibited. Still, the Black Hills embrace the “tread lightly” mantra of many UTV riders. Always pack out what you pack in, and follow UTV social etiquette. In South Dakota, UTVs are managed by the state’s motorcycle law. This means there’s no legal age limit to drive a UTV. Follow common sense, and know that you still need a valid driver’s license when on non-trail roads.
A Presidential Welcome
You can get an annual pass for $25, or a week pass for $20. The Forest Service is open on weekdays from 8am to 4pm, but is closed on President’s Day. Plan early and pay your fees online before arriving. Every vehicle on the trail needs an independent permit, and you will get a free route map when you purchase your trail permit.
While you’re in the Badlands, take a detour to get up close and personal with some of our most beloved of presidents. Seeing Mt. Rushmore is a bucket list item that can’t be missed! Before heading out, make sure you have all the upgrades necessary for a great President’s Day!