Does anyone have any good recommendations for trails, forests or parks that are relatively near (with 6 hour one way drive or so) Chicago? Even if you know one 12-24 hours away id appreciate it (I may make it a mini-road trip)
I am interested in trails that are more "natural", long/wooded, not-racey (slow riding) and not (meant) for muding.
Hell, i would even love if they allowed camping in/along the trail, I am a nature guy.
Generally speaking, the further away you get from heavily populated areas and cities, the more liberal and free are the rules and regulations and the more free are the peoples that live in those areas.
In my area in the NW'ern UP of MI there aren't any ATV rules & regs that are restrictive in my opinion. We pay the state $26 per year for an ORV sticker. If we ride through certain controlled areas like parks we gotta buy an additional sticker. But we don't ride in fenced in areas that the fearful folks from the big cities like to hang out in, so 26 bucks is all we spend. Cars and trucks on the roadways are much more restricted by law, and so are more often targeted by the cops. Thats where most of the law enforcement revenues come from, after all...
In fact, ATV regs are rarely ever enforced where they do exist until someone is caught acting a disorderly fool, being destructive to private property or endangering others. In other words we are free to ride wherever and however we wish, with the only limitations being that all state & federal highways are off-limits to snowmobiles, ATVs and other offroad vehicles. We stay away from state parks too... city slickers hang out there... too many fear-filled nutters around those places.
Those are common sense behavior self-restraints for most folks though, right...? With freedom comes the greatest levels of personal responsibility.
You'll get pulled over and warned (or ticketed and/or jailed if you're acting a disorderly fool, driving drunk, or blatantly breaking other laws too) and followed by a cop or DNR officer to the next county road if caught driving an offroad vehicle on a state or federal highway. Don't get caught driving across the mowed grass lawns at a state park either, control freaks live & work there.
But all county and village roadways and streets (there aren't any cities around here). both paved and unpaved, are open to offroad vehicle traffic year 'round. While you're in downtown village business areas you don't even need to wear a helmet while driving an ATV. I see kids as young as 8, 10, 12 years old riding around in the villages two-up on ATVs with no helmets. Cops don't bother as long as folks are behaving themselves.
Earlier today I rode the 16 miles round trip on my Honda to visit with a friend who lives beyond the other side of the village. When I need to go to town for something I just hop on and go. If I need gas and groceries I strap a can on and ride the 28 miles round trip to go get them. If I want something from the next village north I ride the 44 miles of asphalt shoulder round trip and go get it. In the winter time I drive a sled alongside the roads. I don't even own a car! Don't need one here, don't even want one anymore!
Want to mix a ride with camping? Maybe take a long tour through the woods to nowhere with a couple friends or your family? Then do it. Alongside state forest roads and trails there are many great opportunities to pull off and rough it inside a tent on the banks of a stream overnight. No one knows you are there... and no one cares that you are out there as long as you don't burn the place down, or leave your trash behind for one of us to clean up.
You are free in the NW UP. Toss a dart at a map and ride! Be responsible while you're here, be friendly... be helpful and respectful toward the locals and you'll be welcomed. And you'll be left alone to enjoy your experiences however you please. Cost ya just 26 bucks per year for that sticker. :-)