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NH Class VI Roads - Fact vs. Fiction



A Jeep CJ5 on a Class VI Road in New Hampshire

It's summer and naturally many people want to get outside. In New Hampshire, we are lucky to have access to some of the best "trails" in the country - our Class VI road system!


These roads are a valuable public resource, and generally accessible for both motorized vehicle traffic and foot traffic. (Motorized vehicles meaning registered, street legal vehicles - ATV/UTV usage is a special case and only permitted on certain roads. This article applies to registered, street legal vehicle access to Class VI roads.)


The proliferation of some recent social media groups has resulted in a lot of incorrect information about Class VI roads, access to the roads, and how to find them.


Myth: There is no map showing all the class VI roads in New Hampshire.


The Real Story: The state of NH DOT publishes a map showing all NH roads (not just Class VI!).  This is a compilation of data reported by individual towns.  The DOT map is available online, and the town maps may be available online or at your town offices.


These two maps are a "source of truth" for what is open and what is closed for registered vehicles. That being said, the DOT map relies on data reported from the towns, which may be incomplete. Towns do not receive state funding for Class VI road maintenance, thus often fall to the bottom of the priority list for updating when a road is discontinued or other changes are made. If you are unsure and find a road is blocked or you are told it cannot be accessed, a call to the town road agent is in order.


ExploringNH also maintains a free database called MappingNH. This unique database uses the DOT maps and adds user reports to rate trail difficulty, mark open/closed trails, and date of last report. This helps users plan C6 routes that match the desired difficulty and allows people to contribute to the overall database of knowledge around New Hampshire's Class VI roads.


Myth: The Class VI roads are public roads and are open year round.


A Class VI road sign showing seasonal closure dates

The Real Story: Towns have jurisdiction over Class VI roads they can place ordinances over their use.  This includes when roads are open (or closed) as well as whether or not they allow motorized vehicles not legal for street use (i.e. ATV's, dirt bikes, etc.). Many roads in NH are closed for winter and/or "mud season" to protect the integrity of the roads.


Myth: If the road is open its fine to drive it.


A vehicle on a muddy trail

The Real Story: Everyone who participates in motorized outdoor recreation should leave the trail in the condition it was in when you got there, or better.  There are times (like spring mud season) that, while some roads are open, using them during this time will cause damage.  Trail damage can be permanent, resulting in, at best, limits to the types of vehicles that can utilize them safely. Quite often, repeated misuse results in the town closing the Class VI roads.  Always observe for open/closure notices as well as actual weather conditions before using the trails.  Reference www.treadlightly.org for guidance on responsible trail usage.


Myth: Power line routes are trails and open to public use.


The Real Story: The land under power lines is generally considered private property. Power companies may lease the land from private landowners or own the land themselves. It is NOT permissible to use the power line land as a trail. Sometimes Class VI roads cross power lines or run adjacent to them for a time. In that case, it would be legal to stay on the C6 road, but not to follow the power line land otherwise.


The Bottom Line

Whether you're new to the sport of off-road driving, or have years of experience, we all have something to learn. The more responsible users of C6 roads we have, the better our chances of preserving this valuable resource for years to come.


Have questions? Contact us, or find us on social media or our forum. You'll find a wealth of knowledge about everything from off-road driving to vehicle mods, gear suggestions, and more.

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