So, what makes an ATV the best for trail riding?
- Trail Ready Features
ATVs made specifically for trail riding need large engines for powering up hills, towing and carrying gear.
We’ll also look at ground clearance, racks, winches and bumpers – all good indicators of ATVs built specifically for trail riding. Premium shocks and good A-arm travel need to also be considered – they smooth out the bumps and make all day travel comfortable.
And of course, you want an ATV built to last. One that will stand the test of time and provide years of reliable, low maintenance use.
Best ATV For Trail Riding
Best 1000cc ATVs For Trail Riding
Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Ultimate Trail
Starts @ $15,500
There’s a reason Polaris is the #1 motorsports company in the US. Year after year they turn out top notch ATVs that are fun to ride and built to last. And the Sportsman is one of the best, if not the best, ATV for trail riding.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they have have a history dating back to 1945. Or that it’s a Minnesota US based company, but ultimately it’s all about performance.
The Sportsman XP 1000 is the largest ATV that Polaris makes. It’s a beast of a machine with a ProStar SOHC 4-stroke twin cylinder, 952cc, liquid cooled engine with 90 hp.
With a payload capacity of 675 lbs, you can load the Sportsman XP 1000 up and hit the trails. It’s ideal for a multi-day camping or hunting trip. It has a tow rating of 1,500 lbs, so towing a trailer for work or fun is also an option.
It comes trail ready with a 3,500 lb Polaris HD winch, multi-select electric power steering (EPS) and front and rear bumpers. Contrasting painted springs give it a sporty aggressive look. One touch on-demand AWD/2WD makes riding easy.
Polaris touts that the Sportsman has the ‘industry’s only independent rear suspension, 10.25” travel and 11.5” of ground clearance’.
No doubt the arched dual A-Arms and 27″ Duro tires on 14″ aluminum wheels help with that generous 11.5″ of ground clearance. Sealed A-Arms for maximum performance with minimal maintenance while 10.25″ travel helps smooth the ride.
Steel reinforced racks have 6 moveable tie down points with 8 gallons of integrated storage.
Can Am Outlander XT-P
Starts @ $13,700
Equipped with a 91 hp, Rotax 1000R V-twin engine and Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) with riding modes.
Selectable 2WD / 4WD / Lock 4WD with Visco-4Lok front Differential.
For normal riding, the Visco-4Lok front differential offers on-the-fly limited slip for excellent handing. But, when you want maximum grip and control, simply engage the 4WD lock with the push of a button and go.
The Can Am Outlander XT-P includes premium Fox 1.5 Podium QS3 shocks. With the flip of a switch, the QS3 (Quick Switch 3-Position) quickly adapts to soft, medium and firm according to trail conditions.
Front arched double A-arm with front sway bar with 9.2″ travel and rear torsional trailing arm independent with 9.9″ travel complete the suspension package.
Standard trail ready features includes a Can-Am HD winch, heavy duty front and rear bumpers, full wrap handguards and mudguards.
This Outlander includes beadlock wheels. Beadlocks allow you to reduce tire pressure without compromising tire safety or performance. You can air down for more tire surface and less digging. Not all riders need this feature, but it’s good to have if you plan to do a lot of sand or mud riding.
LinQ steel racks are designed to easily attach accessories. Plus, there is a built in 2.9 gallon water resistant rear compartment.
Rated at 1,650 lbs for towing which is one of the highest in our lineup. The front rack can carry 100 lbs and the back rack can carry 200 lbs.
The overall payload is unstated, but with an engine this size, I would expect the payload to be comparable to other 1000 models – somewhere in the 650 lb to 750 lb range.
One very nice upgrade is the built in security system, RF Digitally Encoded Security System (D.E.S.S.).
CFMoto CForce 1000 Overland
Starts @ $10,000
Features a 963cc V-twin, liquid cooled, 4 stroke, SOHC, 8 valve engine with 79 hp.
Trail ready features include heavy duty steel front and rear bumpers, composite over steel racks and 3,000 lb winch. Front rack is rated for 100 lbs, rear rack is rated for 75 lbs and the 2″ hitch is rated for 873 lbs.
This is the only ATV in our lineup that comes factory standard with 3 removeable hard sided cargo boxes. An optional passenger seat turns it into a 2 up ATV.
A generous 11″ of ground clearance is well suited for most trails while full bottom HDPE skid plates provide tough protection. A strong front aluminum bash plate under the winch protects the lower front end.
Front fairing with integrated windshield and hand guards provide protection from the elements and flying trail debris.
This ATV comes with CST Clincher tires on 14″ aluminum wheels with beadlocks, a nice upgrade if you plan to do a lot of sand or mud riding. With beadlocks you can safely air down your tires for maximum tracking without having to worry about your tire coming off the rim due to reduced air pressure.
You’ll get a smooth ride with front/rear fully adjustable high pressure gas shocks and front high clearance dual A-Arm independent suspension and rear trailing arm independent suspension.
Responsive brushless variable assist electric power steering makes driving easy and comfortable in all conditions.
Best 600cc – 800cc ATVs For Trail Riding
Not everyone needs a 1000cc ATV. Of course, it’s our human nature to want the biggest strongest ATV, but why pay for extra power that you don’t need or use.
Most riders would be perfectly fine with a 600cc – 800 cc ATV. These ATVs still have all the trail features you need while still delivering plenty of power and speed.
Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R
Starts @ $11,500
This trail ready ATV has a 686cc liquid-cooled SOHC 4-stroke engine with Yamaha’s class leading durable Ultramatic transmission. Riders get power plus immediate response with all wheel engine braking for extra control.
Suspension includes front independent double wishbone, 5-way preload adjustment with 7.6″ travel and rear independent double wishbone with anti-sway bar, 5-way preload adjustment with 9.1″ travel.
11.8″ of ground clearance combined with full body skid plates keeps your underside safe while tackling even the roughest terrain.
Comes standard with a Warn VRX 25 winch rated at 2,500 lbs and aggressive 27″ Maxxis Zilla tires on aluminum wheels. Special edition tactical black/carbon metallic paint with color match wheels and XT-R graphics round out this trail package.
Driver has complete control with the On-Command 4WD which has a selectable 2WD, limited slip 4WD and fully locked differential 4WD mode.
A long plush seat allows the rider to adjust positions for all day comfort while speed-sensitive Electric Power Steering (EPS) makes all day riding easy. The under seat 4.76 gallon fuel tank helps center the ATVs weight for better balance and easier handling.
Yamaha has mounted the air intakes high, so that riders can take on water and mud without having to worry about debris and/or stalling. Plus, this higher mount leaves room for more on board storage while also making it easier to service the air filer.
The high capacity radiator is also mounted high for optimal performance and protection. It comes with a fan assist for extra air flow to make sure that the engine stays cool even when it’s getting a workout.
Steel cargo racks rated to 110 lbs in the front and 198 lbs in the rear. Build includes 3 built in storage compartments. The 2″ hitch is tow rated for 1,300 lbs.
Comes prewired for Yamaha’s Adventure Pro GPS system.
CFMoto CForce 800 XC
Starts @ $9,000
Rather than storage boxes, the CFMoto CForce 800 XC comes with a comfortable, sculped passenger seat. It’s the only factory standard 2 up ATV for trail riding in our lineup.
You do sacrifice some rear rack storage when the passenger seat is in use, but it’s easily removed when not in use.
This ATV is a perfect example of why you don’t necessarily need a 952cc ATV. Even though this ATV has a much smaller engine than the CFMoto CForce 1000 Overland listed above, it has the same listed capabilities.
The 2″ hitch has the same 873 lbs rating and it has the same 3000 lbs winch. Even the racks have the same capabilities with 100 lbs for the front/75 lbs for the rear.
But, you do pick up a bit of ground clearance, this model has 11.2″ vs 11″ in the 1000.
And although this model doesn’t include the upgraded CST Clincher tires, the 26″ radial tires on 14″ alloy wheels are a good trail performer with aggressive tread.
Of course, this 800cc V-twin, liquid cooled, 4 stroke, SOHC, 8 valve engine has 65 hp vs 79 hp in the 963cc. But this is still a LOT of horsepower!
The CFMoto CForce 800 XC also has the same suspension setup as the 1000 with double A-arm front/independent trailing arm rear and fully adjustable front and rear gas shocks.
Polaris Sportsman 850 Ultimate Trail
Starts @ $13,400
The 850 is a smaller version of the Ultimate Trail 1000, the lowest cc version of the ‘Ultimate Trail’ model. But, they do also offer a smaller trail rider, the Sportsman Trail 570, also a very capable trail rider.
But smaller is a relative term. With an 850cc ProStar SOHC 4-stroke twin cylinder offering up 78 hp, this is more than enough power for most trail riders.
Factory standard trail features include: 3,500 lbs Polaris HD synthetic rope winch and front and rear ultimate series bumpers.
Front high clearance arched dual A-arm, 9″ travel and rear high clearance arched dual A-arm, 10.25″ travel are sealed for better performance with less maintenance. Generous travel smooths out the ride.
27″ Duro Powergrip tires and arched A-arms help gain an impressive 12″ of ground clearance, a 1/2″ more than the standard Polaris 850.
One touch on-demand AWD/2WD and multi-select electronic steering (EPS) make all day riding comfortable and easy.
Digital Bluetooth gauge gives you all the information you need at a glance including speedometer, odometer, two trip meters, hour meter, gear indicator, AWD indicator and more.
Steel reinforced racks rated to 120 lbs in the front/240 lbs in the rear, a payload capacity of 575 lbs and 1.25″ hitch with a tow rating of 1,500 lbs round out this trail package.
Cut and sew seating with painted plastics and contrasting painted springs give it a premium look and feel.
All of Polaris ATVs come with a third light on the steering column for better visibility.
Arctic Cat Alterra 600 SE
Starts @ $10,400
Strong trail rider with 600cc liquid-cooled, single cylinder engine offering up 45 hp.
The Arctic Cat Alterra 600 SE has a payload capacity of 515 lbs. Front racks are rated to 100 lbs and rear racks rated to 200 lbs, the 2″ receiver is rated for 1,050 lbs.
Trail ready with over molded front and rear racks with rack extenders, premium front bumper, tow hooks, 3,500 lb Warn Winch. There is a convenient small storage area in front of the seat with easy access.
Color match front bumper co-ordinates with springs for a fun sporty look.
27″ tires on aluminum wheels help gain 12.25″ ground clearance, the most ground clearance of any other ATV in our lineup. Trail riding can beat up an ATV, but with this excellent ground clearance and the added protection of full length skid plates you’ll have added piece of mind.
Responsive electronic power steering, large foot wells and well designed exhaust routing make for enjoyable all day riding.
Equipped with a mount and wiring for a Garmin GPS, for easy seamless use. But, the Garmin itself is not factory standard, it’s an upgrade.
Arctic Cat has recently upgraded the suspension featuring larger shocks and front and rear double A-arms with 9″ travel.
Best ATV For Trail Riding
Best ATV for trail riding featured image Polaris