Are Side-by-Sides Street Legal in Colorado?


Hey there! Looking to go ride your side-by-side in Colorado? Wondering what you can legally do with it on Colorado roads? Well look no further because we have your answers!

Are side-by-sides street legal in Colorado? Side-by-sides are not generally street legal in Colorado unless the road has been specifically designated for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use. These roads are usually present in smaller towns, although some National Forest roads are also legal to drive side-by-sides or other vehicles on.

A Complicated Question

So far, Colorado has not joined the frenzy of states looking to make side-by-sides street-legal. And for good reason. These contraptions are way fun off-road but very dangerous when being driven alongside big, fast, and heavy cars and trucks on the pavement.

They also pose a speed problem. So for these and other reasons, Colorado has decided that off-road vehicles should remain mostly off-road.

The keyword here is mostly. For years, several mountain communities have complained that the OHV ban hurts their summertime tourism economies. If people weren’t allowed to come to drive their side-by-sides on county roads through the mountains, they argued, they would be less likely to come and visit their small towns and spend cash.

Some counties had even legalized OHV use on their county roads in spite of state law (these include San Juan, San Miguel, Ouray, and Hinsdale counties).

So back in 2016, the State Legislature changed the law to give the counties the power to decide whether to allow OHVs on their county roads. This has allowed small mountain communities, such as Silverton, to legally allow OHVs on their streets and on the surrounding scenic mountain county roads.

What this all means is that when it comes to the question of whether you will be allowed to ride a side-by-side or other OHV on the street in Colorado, you will need to do some research first.

How To Know Where You Can Ride

If you are interested in riding a side-by-side on a county road in Colorado, the first thing you will need to do is check with the local jurisdiction to see what they have decided to allow.

Mostly, these will be rural places, with mountain travel or agricultural travel purposes in mind for allowing OHVs on roads. They are especially prevalent on National Forest roads that are pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

If a road has been designated as OHV-friendly, it will have signs saying that OHVs are allowed. Without the signs, it is almost certain that your side-by-side is not allowed on that road.

If you are looking to ride on a Forest Service road, then you should check with the local Forest Service office before going. Each Forest Service district, just like every county and town, will administer things the way that is best for them, and there is no single rule for what constitutes a road that is good for OHV use.

There are many roads that are open to side-by-side use within the Forest Service road system, but you should know that it is not every road. Some are closed off because they are high traffic or for other reasons.

So check ahead and plan accordingly. You can usually find maps and other information about what roads OHVs are allowed on from their website.

Remember, the main drive behind allowing side-by-sides on the roads in the first place was to allow the tourism industry to advance. In these amazing mountain towns, there are sights to see and places to go! And there are rental companies that will help you do it right.

Some of the highest mountains in the United States of America are accessible by ATV or UTV here. Places like Silverton and Ouray have rental places where you can rent a side-by-side, and not have to worry about hauling one up there.

What You Need to Ride a Side-By-Side in Colorado

Say you have decided to go ahead and ride your side-by-side in Colorado on roads that are OHV authorized. Awesome! But now, you need to do some more research.

Colorado does not issue highway license plates at all for any OHVs except for motorcycles, and it is completely dependant upon the local jurisdiction to decide what level of side-by-side use will be allowed and what will be required to operate them in that town or county.

Colorado does not issue highway license plates at all for any OHVs.

Your side-by-side will not need to be registered in the traditional sense, with a license plate and all that, but you do need to buy a $25 sticker to operate anywhere in the state that is not private property. This applies no matter where you are.

These stickers are square (like Colorado) and always expire the March 31st after you buy them. Make sure that they are put somewhere easy to see, like on a flat plastic surface.

There is no discount for part-year registration, it is always $25 for a sticker that is good for up to a year. It always expires March 31.

To operate on public roads, things do get a bit more complicated. As part of the law, Colorado also gave the discretion to local municipalities on whether they would require insurance for OHVs on public roads or not. The local municipalities also get to decide if a driver’s license if required or not.

This means that you need to check with your local municipality and should do some of your own research with the town you will be visiting.

A great place to start is a website called Stay The Trail. This website is put up by a combination of government agencies and has a compiled list of towns and counties that have decided to allow access to OHVs, including UTVs. They also have listed what requirements each one has (driver’s license, insurance, speed limits, etc.). That list can be found here.

If you are bringing your own side-by-side, then you will need to worry about all of these things. But if you are renting from a local rental company, they should have all of their vehicles fully licensed, registered, and insured.

Traffic Laws

While driving on any public road, you will need to obey all regular traffic laws and yield to pedestrians and bikes. If you are moving slower than other traffic, then you will, of course, need to pull over as far as possible to the side to let the people pass you without going crazy.

This is the law, but it is also just the safe and nice thing to do. Coloradans don’t take kindly to people driving slowly in the mountains…

As mentioned previously, it will be up to each local government to decide if you need a driver’s license or not. In Colorado, the general rule when operating a side-by-side normally is that you can legally drive a side-by-side when you are 16 years old, or at 10 years old if you are under the direct supervision of an adult.

On the road, it will be the same requirements unless the local county has any specific rules enforced. Most of them do have more requirements (who would think it is a good idea for a 10 year old to be driving on a town road??) so again just check with the town you will be visiting on their age or driver’s license rules.

Related Questions

Is it possible to get temporary insurance that will last for just the duration of my trip? You usually can’t get temporary insurance for a side-by-side, but the specifics vary from one provider to another. If you are looking to ride in a town that requires insurance, you can look into renting a side-by-side that are already insured.

Are OHVs allowed on Forest Service roads in Colorado? In general, OHVs, including side-by-sides, are allowed on Forest Service roads. If they are not, the roads will be marked in a way that makes it clear.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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