Planning Your Vail ATV Adventure > Vail ATV Rentals FAQs > Vail ATV Trails

Planning Your Vail ATV Adventure

Polaris-Sportsman.pngHave questions about your upcoming Vail ATV adventure? Colorado Backcountry Rentals’ (CBR) knowledgeable and qualified staff are here to answer all of your questions and address any concerns, but we’ve also got a few tips to give when planning your adventurous vacation.

First of all, when talking to your friends and family about taking on Mother Nature and the Vail Pass Recreation Area, be realistic about everyone’s physical abilities. Knowing your abilities will help our fantastic guides make your experience the best it can be.  Our helpful staff will ask the right questions to ensure that your group signs up for the perfect trip.

Secondly, be honest with yourself and with us: we’re famous for our inspired hospitality and awesome adventures, and those things are made even better when we know just what you need. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your Colorado ATV excursion, whether it's about safety, our expert guides, our mountain adventures or, really, anything, don’t hesitate to call and ask!

But, in the meantime, here is a simple trip planning checklist for your Vail ATV tour:

1. Before You Ride; Vail ATV Golden Rules:
  1. Always wear a helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves.                    
  2. Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law - another vehicle could hit you. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.                    
  3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.                    
  4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.                 
  5. Ride an ATV that's right for your age.                    
  6. Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.                     
  7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
2. Choose the Correct Trail For Your Riding Ability:

White River National ForestWhat is your riding style? Depending on what kind of riding your are looking for, you may prefer one trail over another. Remember, our ATV rentals are unguided, so you are on your own out there. However, our knowledgeable staff will go over the trail map before you embark on your ATV trip.

The White River National Forest and the Vail Pass Recreation Area includes trails for all levels of riders from novices to pros. Roughly 35 percent of the Holy Cross Ranger District is designated Wilderness and the trail system covers 225 miles throughout the Sawatch Mountain Range. Some trails are more scenic than others, but each trail has plenty of scenic views as well as rugged terrain for those who desire more of a challenge in their ATV riding experience.

3. Make Sure You Have The Right Gear:

helmet.pngColorado Backcountry Rentals will provide the ATVs and helmets, but it is strongly suggested that you bring your own eyewear (goggles or glasses).

The mountains of Colorado can be unpredictable to say the least. Be prepared for all kinds of weather and layer your clothing appropriately for your ATV excursions. Temperatures can drop drastically at any point due to the extreme altitude (12,500 feet) that the ATV trails cover. But, before you hit the trails, even if you are an experienced rider, be sure you have the necessary equipment and gear you need to make your ATV tour as comfortable as possible.

You are always required to wear a helmet (provided), but over the ankle footwear (boots) and gloves are strongly encouraged for ATV riding. These basic items, along with a long-sleeve shirt and pants (water-resistant may come in handy) not only provide greater protection over your “everyday” clothes, but also make riding much more comfortable. We also suggest bringing a pair of earplugs, something to snack on, extra cash for the Forest Service trail use fee ($6.00 per person – 12 years and older), a backpack to store all of your gear and a camera to capture the memories of a lifetime.

Often overlooked, don’t forget to bring a change of clothes for when you are done with your ATV trip. You may be crossing muddy riverbeds and/or traversing lots of dirty trails, so a pair of dry pants/shorts, a change of socks/shoes and a dry towel will assure that your “off the trail” experience is just as comfortable as on the trail. Just remember, often what you wear on the trail is as important as what you wear off the trail!

4. Make Sure You Know What Else To Get Into:

The_Green_Bridge_2_web.jpgWhen the sun sets over the charming town of Red Cliff, the fun doesn’t have to end in the high country. There are a plethora of activities to immerse yourself in while visiting Eagle County.

If you are looking to spend some more time in backcountry, Mango’s Mountain Grill is located near the trail head where you can grab a bite to eat from a menu that offers a little something for everyone. Looking for a place to stay? Well, you’re in luck as we are adjacent to the historic Green Bridge Inn, offering classy lodging to complement your perfect mountain-escape vacation.

For some more civilized activities, you’re in luck, as CBR is located 20 miles north of Leadville and just 12 miles from the center of Vail. Leadville is a legendary frontier mining town situated in a high mountain valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks for much of the year. Offering museums tucked with history, quaint little coffee houses, elegant Victorian bed and breakfasts, antique and gift shops and classic Colorado dining, Leadville is a great place to visit for a change of pace. Patterned after the European town of Zermatt, the Town of Vail, on the other hand, is a more modern type of city equipped with shops/boutiques, world-class restaurants, bars, après hot spots and of course, the world-famous Vail Ski Resort.

5. Get Area Information:

COflag.jpgIt is not only necessary that you know how to find us in Red Cliff, but it will be helpful to have a map of the area just in case you decide to create your own adventure off the trails. We will provide you with a trail map of the Vail Pass Recreation Area, but this won’t help once you leave the trails.

Here are some helpful links:

Eagle County Online Printable Maps

Eagle Visitor & Information Center

Eagle, Colorado Visitor Information

Vail Pass Recreation Area OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) Riding

6. Know The Basics

Every ATV rider was at one time a beginner. It can be both a fun and challenging experience the first time you hop onto an ATV, so here is a list of some of the basics to get you started:

Proper Posture

The correct riding posture will help you to easily operate the controls and help you react more quickly when shifting your body weight. Proper straight-line riding posture includes:

  1. Head and eyes up, looking well ahead.
  2. Shoulders relaxed, elbows bent slightly away from your body.
  3. Hands on the handlebars.
  4. Knees in towards the gas tank.
  5. Feet on footrests, toes pointing straight ahead.

Remember, ATVs are rider-active, so to enhance the performance capabilities of your machine, you must shift your body weight when turning, negotiating hills and crossing obstacles.

Starting & Stopping

The first thing to work on when you first get on a machine is simply starting and stopping in a straight line.  Once you are able to start and stop safely, try shifting by taking off in first gear and shifting to second gear before downshifting to first gear as you start braking. Next, try a similar stopping exercise in a corner. Take turns stopping at different corner points, increasing speed as you feel more comfortable. Be careful to not overshoot the corner or skid while braking.

Turning Basics

atv_ride_turn.pngWhile riding your ATV at low to moderate speeds, follow these basic techniques before you are comfortable turning at high speeds.

  1. Move your body weight forward and to the inside of the turn. 
  2. Turn the handlebars while looking in the direction of the turn.
  3. As you increase your speed or turn more sharply, move your body weight farther toward the inside of the turn to maintain your balance.
  4. If your ATV starts to tip while turning, lean your body farther into the turn while gradually reducing the throttle and making the turn wider, if possible.
Going Up Hills

atv_ride_uphill.pngClimbing up hills the wrong way could cause loss of control or cause the ATV to overturn. You don't want this to happen, so remember these tips:

  1. Some hills are too steep for your abilities. Use common sense. If the hill you are approaching looks too steep, it probably is.
  2. Never ride past the limit of your visibility; if you cannot see what is over the crest, slow down until you have a clear view.
  3. The key to being a good hill rider is to keep your weight uphill at all times.
  4. Shift the ATV into a lower gear and speed up before climbing the hill so you can maintain momentum.
  5. When approaching the uphill climb, move up on the seat and lean forward, or stand and position your torso over the front wheels.


As you are climbing, you may need to shift to a lower gear to prevent stalling the engine. To shift into a lower gear on a hill:

  1. Keep your body weight forward as you prepare to shift gears. For steeper hills, lean forward as much as possible
  2. Shift gears quickly while momentarily releasing the throttle; this will help keep the front wheels from lifting off the ground.
If you don't have enough power to reach the top of the hill, but still have forward momentum and enough room to turn around safely, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Keep your weight uphill.
  2. Make a U-turn before you lose speed.
  3. Proceed downhill in lower gear, keeping your weight to the uphill side.

If you are riding uphill and lose all of your forward momentum:

  1. Keep your weight uphill and apply both the front and rear brakes to come to a stop. NEVER ALLOW THE ATV TO ROLL BACKWARD.
  2. Apply the parking brake while keeping your weight uphill.
  3. Dismount on the uphill side or to either side if pointed uphill.
  4. Hang on to the machine until your riding partners can come and help you safely turn it around or inch it back down the hill.
  5. DO NOT attempt to ride backward down a hill. Should you begin rolling backward, DO NOT apply the rear brake abruptly. Only using the rear brake or applying it abruptly could cause the ATV to roll over backward.