Updated 8/01/2023 to add Spokane County and Deer Park.
The WATV subject can be a very complicated and confusing one. The details below attempt to give a history of the initiative, clear up misinformation about it, and help people understand where it is legal to ride, and why or why not, with references to prove the accuracy of the information.
But if you just want to do a quick lookup to find a place or check the legality of somewhere you have in mind, check out Northwest Portal’s Offroading NW map, also available in Android and iOS apps. These resources also include off-road trails as well as WATV routes.
This page covers WATV information in WA state, counties, and local cities. USFS information can be found on another page on this site.
In 2013-2104, via HB 1632, Washington State enacted a law “Regulating the use of off-road vehicles in certain areas”, which also requires license plates on All Terrain Vehicles and allows their use on county roads in certain conditions. This became known as the “street legal ordinance” to many people.
My city/county does not have a WATV ordinance. How do I go about getting them to pass one? Here is one method that has been successful.
Here is information from the Department of Licensing about how to make your ride “street legal”.
Note: You can still do this even if you have a loan on the vehicle. You will just need to get your lienholder to send either the title or an Affidavit in Lieu of Title to the DOL or a license agent. The DOL will re-title your vehicle and send the new title back to your lienholder. Work with your lender and the license agent or DOL, and if the agent seems to struggle with it, go to another one that knows the process better.
The green plate with on-road tabs has specific limitations, including;
* Counties with more than 15,000 people must choose to opt in, passing their own ordinances. These ordinances apply to “unincorporated” county roads not within any city limit.
* Even if it is within a “WATV-friendly” county, each and every incorporated city or town must open/authorize roads by ordinance regardless of population size. There are currently 281 incorporated city/towns in Washington.
* The vehicles must have certain equipment installed, be inspected by a dealer, and have the vehicle re-titled and issued “ON ROAD” tabs for the green RESTRICTED license plates they will be issued.
* These vehicles are restricted to roads which have a speed limit of 35 MPH or less.
In counties that have not passed a Ordinance, individual cities may pass an ordinance of their own.
Here is the RCW which discusses the above limitations.
The map at the top of this page shows which counties were opted in automatically based on their populations, and which counties have since passed Ordinances.
A word about insurance and DOT-approved tires:
The short version is, neither of these things are required because we are not expected/allowed to drive WATVs on highways or any street faster than 35 MPH.
“It is a privilege granted by the state to operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state. The legislature recognizes the threat that uninsured drivers are to the people of the state. In order to alleviate the threat posed by uninsured drivers it is the intent of the legislature to require that all persons driving vehicles registered in this state satisfy the financial responsibility requirements of this chapter.”
Here is the RCW regarding insurance.
(3) The provisions of this chapter shall not govern:
(b) The operation of a motor-driven cycle as defined in RCW 46.04.332, a moped as defined in RCW 46.04.304, or a wheeled all-terrain vehicle as defined in RCW 46.09.310.
The key word here is “highways”.
Mopeds and WATVs are not allowed to be driven on state highways, and therefore are not required by the state to have insurance. Local counties and cities may still require it. It’s the same reason WATVs are not required to have DOT-approved tires. They’re not expecting us to drive them on streets faster then 35 MPH, so the tires do not have to meet the DOT requirements for speed and safety.
Below is a list of counties and cities that have passed ordinances. Links to the published ordinance are provided when possible.
Ocean Beach Access
**NO Ocean Beaches. See Ocean Shores Code, 10.32.030 (C); Long Beach is the same; Beaches and beach access are declared highways.
Also see the Pacific County WATV Map, specifically the purple exclusion zones.
There are a plenty of sand dune areas available to off-road motorized use, and some have beaches. It’s reasonable to keep an international tourist destination like the Washington Ocean Beaches reasonably quiet and peaceful.
Washington County, City, and State Profiles
If you are interested in learning more about the counties and cities in Washington State, and want to look up their municipal codes, this site has that information available:
MRSC County Website Listing
MRSC City and Town Website Listing