Places to Ride Your Side by Side in North Carolina

Legalizing Side-by-Sides for On-Road Use

North Carolina is a beautiful state with lots of places to explore, including the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our state is a playground for adventurers and explorers of all types, offering a multitude of ways to immerse oneself in the state's natural beauty. 

Hiking enthusiasts tread along the Appalachian Trail and countless other trails that weave through the state's mountainous terrain, offering breathtaking views and encounters with diverse wildlife. Cycling and mountain biking are also popular, with dedicated paths like the Blue Ridge Parkway and specialized mountain trails in Pisgah National Forest catering to both leisure riders and adrenaline seekers. 

For water lovers, kayaking and canoeing through the tranquil waters of the Outer Banks or the rushing rivers of the Smoky Mountains present an unparalleled way to connect with nature. Driving tours along the scenic byways offer a more relaxed yet equally captivating experience of North Carolina's landscapes, from coastal routes to mountain passes. 

Seasonally, the state becomes a haven for winter sports, with skiing and snowboarding in the High Country, while the Atlantic coast beckons surfers year-round to ride the waves. Each method of exploration offers its own unique perspective and experience of North Carolina's rich and varied environments, making it a destination with endless possibilities for adventure.

For many, the best way to explore our amazing state is off-road. If you’re looking for ATV or UTV trails to ride your side-by-side or other off-road equipment, check out this list of the nine best places to ride in North Carolina.

13 Of The Absolute Best Off Road Trails And Trails Systems To Ride On Your UTV

1) Ride Your UTV At The Brown Mountain Trail System

The Brown Mountain area has 34 miles of trails and is ideal for off-highway vehicles or OHVs. Since there is plenty of signage, you’re not as likely to get lost as you explore the area. Plus, if you want to make the most of your time on the trails, you can purchase a detailed map.

Most of this trail system is set up for ATVs, UTVs, and trail bikes. There are some limited areas where 4WD (four-wheel drive) vehicles and Jeeps can go.

No matter which vehicles you plan to use for off-roading, the Brown Mountain Trail System is primarily intermediate to difficult. If you have young children in your group, we do not recommend this one. Also, there’s more to this trail system than exploring the wilderness- there are also picnic areas, fire rings, grills, restrooms, grocery stores, and general stores along the way. After all, you’ll want to take breaks during your adventure.

Finally, if you’re interested in extending your exploration for more than 24 hours, there are some campsites along the way.

2) Ride Your UTV On Daniel TR 390

This is a 2.1-mile-long single trail, but it is one of the most difficult on this list. It is ideal for experienced riders who need a challenge. However, despite the difficulty, it is a popular trail.

This trail is open even on rainy days, which increases the excitement level for those who are looking for an adrenaline rush. Some of the trails require you to make a reservation in advance- this one does not.

You can camp in the area if you wish, just make sure that you get rid of your trash. You will find plenty of trash cans, so you have no excuse not to use them. Since parking is necessary for any trail, for those who reach the most challenging area of this one, you can park at the Cotton Place Trailhead.

3) Ride Your UTV At Badin Lake Complex

The Badin Lake Complex is located in the Uwharrie National Forest. It is full of off-road trails that are ideal for dirt bikes, ATVs, UTVs, and even 4WD vehicles. One of the best parts about this trail system is that there are safe, well-developed campsites. If you would like to camp after a long day of exploration, you’ll find showers and toilets that you can use.

The Badin Lake Complex trail features eight trails ranging in difficulty from easy to difficult. It’s important that you are knowledgeable about the area so that you don’t accidentally stumble upon a trail that is outside of your expertise. Also, since there are so many trails within this system, you can go somewhere with lots of people around or choose somewhere that is more private.

The Daniel TR 390 is one of the eight trails in the Badin Lake Complex. It is the most challenging trail in the system. If you’re looking for something easier, you have seven others to choose from, such as Rocky Mountain Loop, Wolf Den, Dickey Bell, Sawmill, Falls Dam, Slab Pile, or Dutch John.

4) Uwharrie National Forest Expanded Trails

Beyond the Badin Lake Complex, the Uwharrie National Forest boasts additional trails that are not widely known but equally thrilling for off-road enthusiasts. These lesser-traveled paths offer a mix of difficulty levels, scenic beauty, and solitude for those seeking an escape into nature.

5) Ride Your UTV On The Musterground Trail

The Musterground Trail is approximately 13 miles long, and since it’s not too easy or too challenging, it is ideal for adrenaline junkies as well as those who occasionally go out and explore the trails. Due to the lush forest and the various bodies of water, it’s also a perfect system for photographers, nature lovers, and social media users. Hikers and fishermen also enjoy these surroundings.

The trail is covered in gravel, which makes it suitable for pets if you enjoy bringing along your furry companions. For the most part, people use their 4WD vehicles and ATVs on this trail, and if you want something challenging, there are some slightly big rocks and steep slopes along the way.

Even if it’s been rainy, you don’t have to worry about the ground being too mushy or the puddles being too hard to handle. Most vehicles can easily handle the puddles along the way.

6) Ride Your UTV On Wash Creek Road

Wash Creek Road is approximately 11 miles long and it’s secluded, making it perfect if you want an off-road experience where you can feel the adventure. There is some light traffic, but the dirt/gravel trail is good for beginners as well as experts. It is a bit easier than many of the others because you don’t necessarily need a 4WD vehicle- some have been on this trail in a minivan.

If you decide you’d like to camp out, you have plenty of options on both sides of the trail and there is a beautiful view where you can take lots of photos as you explore. If you look carefully, you’ll come upon a grassy area as well.

As mentioned, this trail is 11 miles long, which can give you an unforgettable adventure, and you will definitely appreciate ascending higher and higher.

7) Ride Your UTV On Bent Creek Road

Bent Creek Road is a lot like Wash Creek Road due to the light traffic, dirt/gravel terrain, and river. It’s ideal for nature treks and off-road adventures for those who don’t have a 4WD vehicle. However, it’s a lot shorter at only 4 miles.

If you want to explore on foot, there are plenty of parking spots. You can visit the overlook and soak in the surroundings- the view becomes much more spectacular as the sun is setting.

The end of the trail passes through a tunnel, which is cool. Even if the trip is much shorter than some of the other options, the forest feel is refreshing. The endpoint of Bent Creek Road is just below the Blue Ridge Parkway, which will provide you with even more beautiful spots to visit.

8) Ride Your UTV On Rockhouse Creek Road

Rockhouse Creek Road is only 3 miles long, which is shorter than Bent Creek Road. It’s a moderately difficult trail with a variety of activities, such as camping, running, and hiking.

If your vehicle uses all-terrain tires, beginners will enjoy adventures on this trail even more. After all, not only are all-terrain tires designed for off-road places, but they can also handle the impact from the bumps along the way.

It’s also important to know that this trail has a few different sections. The first part is narrow while the next is maintained by the State and ideal for people and vehicles. There are plenty of campsites along the rest of the trail.

9) Ride Your UTV At Jocassee Gorges

Jocassee Gorges is one of the more difficult trails on the list. The terrain consists of a lot of rocks, muddy sections, hills, and bodies of water. This trail is risky if you’re a beginner, but if you’re experienced, it can be one of the most exciting locations.

After traveling for a few miles, you’ll come across the steel bridge, which is an ideal location for selfies and scenic photos. Finally, don’t miss the campsites and the gorgeous views of Lake Jocassee. The lake is actually located in South Carolina, but you can see some parts of it along North Carolina trails.

10) Ride Your UTV At Carolina Backwoods

This trail is a fun destination that is built specifically for ATV enthusiasts. If you like to be prepared for your trips, you don’t have to worry about making an itinerary, the business will handle the tour for you. The best part is that beginners can learn the basics of trail riding, which means it’s perfect for families.

11) Ride Your UTV On Pisgah National Forest Routes

The vast expanse of Pisgah National Forest includes a variety of trails suitable for side-by-sides and ATVs. Here, riders can experience the unique blend of mountainous terrain, forested paths, and streams that make Pisgah a must-visit for any off-road aficionado.

12) Ride Your UTV On The Outer Banks Sand Trails

For a different kind of adventure, the Outer Banks offers sand trails that provide an exhilarating ride along the coast. Riding on sand presents a unique challenge and requires specific skills, making it an exciting option for those looking to test their abilities in a new environment.

13) Ride Your UTV On The Nantahala National Forest Trails

In the Nantahala National Forest, riders will find a network of trails that cater to all skill levels. From gentle, winding paths to more challenging routes, Nantahala provides a picturesque backdrop for off-road adventures with its dense forests and mountain vistas.

Making The Most Of Your Off-Road Adventure

To fully enjoy your off-road experience in North Carolina, consider the following tips:

  • Safety First: Always wear appropriate safety gear, including helmets, gloves, and protective eyewear.
  • Stay Informed: Check trail conditions and weather forecasts before heading out to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect the natural environment by staying on designated trails and picking up after yourself.
  • Trail Etiquette: Share the trails responsibly with other users, including hikers and mountain bikers, to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

Essential Gear For Your Off-Road Journey

  • Helmet and Safety Gear
  • Trail Maps and GPS Device
  • Snacks and Water for Hydration
  • First Aid Kit
  • Tool Kit for Quick Repairs

North Carolina is a gorgeous state with plenty of places to explore. If you’re looking for a place to ride your off-road vehicle, including ATV or UTV, check out these thirteen trails. With the addition of new locations and essential tips for your journey, your next off-road adventure in North Carolina promises to be an unforgettable experience. Whether you're seeking the thrill of challenging terrains or the peace of scenic routes, North Carolina's diverse landscape offers something for every off-road enthusiast.

Reach Out To Waynesville Cycle For Your Next ATV, UTV, Or Side-By-Side

If you’re in the market for a new or used off-road vehicle, check out our inventory at Waynesville Cycle Center. We have been in the industry since 1970 and can’t wait to help you find your next adventure. Whether you’re interested in off-road adventures or a long trip through the mountains, we have hundreds of options in stock and ready for you to try.

Reach out to us today for more information about ATVs, UTVs, and side-by-sides, and more!