Polaris ATV trails at the Summit Bechtel Reserve are full of thrilling twists and turns

Dan Moore, a volunteer in the BSA’s Montana Council, has seen his share of first-rate trails for all-terrain vehicles.

He even helped build five miles of ATV trails at a Scout camp in Montana.

All this experience means that if you want to get Moore’s heart racing these days, your ATV trail better be world class.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. A world-class ATV experience now awaits Scouts and Venturers at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

It’s called the Polaris OHV Center for Excellence.

Moore himself helped design the trails, and they’re sponsored by Polaris, the top name in ATVs and UTVs (utility task vehicles). Polaris has generously signed on to be the official ATV and UTV provider of the BSA and SBR.

The new ATV trails and ATV educational safety pavilion were designed to meet two major goals: they had to be fun, and they had to be safe.

Check and check.

“The whole trail is fun and exciting, but there is one particular section where there are so many twists and turns you really lose track of whether you are going up or down or right or left,” Moore says. “Scouts will come away from the experience with life skills and wide smiles.”

How to enjoy the ATV trails at SBR

Scouts and Venturers who attend this summer’s National Scout Jamboree will be the first to try these new trails. After that, Scouts and Venturers who participate in a high-adventure program at SBR can make ATVs part of their week of fun.

For ATV participation at the Jamboree:

  • Be 14 or older.
  • Complete the free, online ATV safety course.
  • Complete the parental consent waiver.
  • Participants must bring a printed copy of their completed safety course certificate and parental consent waiver to the Jamboree. They can bring printed copies or take a picture of the waiver and the safety certificate and have it saved on their phone.
  • Sign up for a time slot at the Polaris ATV Program Area at the Jamboree. There is limited capacity, so it’s suggested that you stop by the Polaris ATV Training site early in the Jamboree to reserve a spot later in the event.
  • Participants must wear hiking boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt while in the ATV program. All other safety gear will be provided.

For ATV participation after the Jamboree:

Keep an eye on the Summit Bechtel Reserve website to learn how you can try the new course after the Jamboree.

How the trails were built

When Dick Dufourd of RecConnect and Russ Ehnes of NOHVCC (the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council) built these trails, they knew they’d need to both protect the environment and meet the needs of ATV riders.

So they planned, designed and constructed trails that are challenging, thrilling and environmentally responsible.

Unlike freely riding around in an open field (which can still be a blast), the ATV trails at SBR add turns and obstacles to the mix.

Plus, established trails focus the impact on the environment. Trails that are safe and fun ensure that people don’t skip the trails and search for other unmanaged places to have fun.

Why the trails are safe

The ATV trails:

  • Keep the trails curvilinear, which keeps the speeds down but the fun factor high.
  • Include proper signage, meaning riders can concentrate on the technical aspects of the trail without worrying about getting lost or off-trail.
  • Open sight lines enough for the riders to be able to look ahead — but not so much that they see a long enough distance ahead to increase speed.
  • Add rails to a low bridge that is part of a skills-development obstacle.

The trails themselves are half of the equation. The other half is the rider-education course, where ATV riders learn to use their body position to control their machine.

“Scouts can expect to learn safe and responsible riding in a safe and controlled manner and have a blast doing it,” Moore says. “The riders will definitely experience every aspect of the safe rider training they receive.”

About Bryan Wendell 3269 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.


  1. ATVs should not be part of any Scouting program, not Summit Bechtel, and not summer camps. Scouting is OUTING, not ATV-ing. We have a generation of youth who are overweight and out of shape, and the last thing they need to be doing is sitting on an ATV. Let’s attract boys to Scouting with the Adventure of Scouting.

    • There are many ways to enjoy the outdoors, including on two wheels and four wheels, both with engines and without. Riding motorcycles and ATVs off road actually gives you a pretty good work out, check out the physical condition of some of the racers. Try it sometime, you might actually enjoy it!

    • My son just came back from an ATV program at Scout camp and it wore him out.. Don’t think that just because you can sit down you are.

    • I totally agree. Scouting has lost its vision in its quest to appeal to today’s youth.

  2. Well, lets see. Special event at Jamboree, check. Do stuff at the Jamboree you might not be able to do at home, check. Learn about a new ,foreign to my ken activity, check. Physical and mental challenge, check. Chance to break bones and get hurt, check. Something to come home and whine about wanting to do, check.
    Seems to meet all the usual criteria. Same as 1/4 mile long zip lines, 4 mile hikes to rifle range, Mega Rock wall to climb, BMX tracks, white water river rafting, and yes, not everybody will be able to do everything.
    Mountain Boarding ? Remember that?
    And black powder muzzle loaders, are we also going to have those this time too?

    It is still a good excuse to go camping….

  3. Many of our Scouts will never have the opportunity to experience the adventure of an ATV or UTV except what the Scouting program can bring to them. I hope Polaris continues to sponsor and support Scouting.
    Thank you Polaris……..

  4. More environmental damage to a site that was reclaimed after being destroyed by surface mining. Way to go BSA!

  5. Many scout leaders and administrators have simply forgot that scouting should be FUN, while at the same time teaching our youth important moral, ethical, and leadership principles. “If it is not fun, why it do it?” was a lesson my scouting mentor taught me long ago. That should be printed in every adult leaders handbook!

    Unfortunately, there is an obsessive risk management perspective embraced by BSA National and local councils based on fear of liability that forbids many activities from being scouting activities. It is a shame and that trend makes many leaders into rule administrators, instead of running what should be a fun program.

    That said, I am not sure how ATV’s can be allowed, but go-karting is forbidden. Scouts can fly in aircraft as part of the Younng Eagles program, but not drive around a track for fear of liability/injury. Hmm? Just an observation.

    Well, I believe, as many others do, that the BSA program should offer as many fun and varied activities as possible. If activities can be performed safely and risks managed by way of well-drafted liability waivers, proper supervision/training, and all parents are given a fair opportunity to choose which activities are
    appropriate for their son, then the few naysayers ought not ruin a FUN scouting program for others. ATV’s, snowmobiles, go-karts, shooting sports… anything done safely that makes life long memories is what the program should strive for. Nice article & thank you.

  6. Anything that gets them away from the computer games and into the outdoors has my support.

  7. Without the ATV training the scouts will not know how to ride properly. As an instructor we teach leave no trace and safe riding. The ATV can get scouts into areas that are not used now. If done properly and using proper trails/ fire roads there is minimal impact on the environment. We do not want them going off trails. Lastly this can save their lives by learning how to properly ride with proper equipment.

  8. ATV’s are another way to make it the REAL world more inviting than Video games. Like most things in scouting ATVs give Scouts an experience they may use for getting out in the world. In this environment they are given an opportunity to learn the safe ways to drive the ATV, and minimize the impact to environment. Something they may not learn if done on their own.

  9. Curious sentiment that ATV’s are somehow not outing. I have been riding ATV’s since the time they only had 3 wheels (and before I was a scout). I am also an Eagle Scout, and have been to a Jamboree, Philmont and Northern Tier as a Scout. Doing some of them again as an adult. I remember sitting on horse at Philmont and sitting in a canoe in Quetico. And on a bicycle for long road courses on week long summer rides. An afternoon of ATVing is a pretty darn good workout, more so than many outdoor activities in which scouts are involved. And it gets you out into nature. So unless they are only allowing scouts to put around in circles, then I fail to see how this is not OUTING.

  10. BTW – Having just returned from the National Jamboree, I can tell you that the ATV’s were a huge draw and success. The boys in my troop returned dirty and exhausted and extremely excited about having spent several hours on the ATV’s and getting to hit the trails.

  11. Few tips help you
    1. Always wear a DOT-compliant 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.
    8. Take a hands-on ATV RiderCourse

Comments are closed.