Rules and Regulations

Slow Down, Don't Drink and Live to Enjoy Michigan's Winter Wonderland.

The State of Michigan, including every available branch of law enforcement, thoroughly enforces all snowmobile laws. Fines are substantial.

A snowmobile is any motor driven vehicle designed primarily for travel on snow or ice utilizing sled type runners or skis, or an endless belt tread or similar means to contact the surface upon which it is operated.


A snowmobile shall not be operated by a Michigan resident unless the owner first obtains a certificate of registration and a registration decal.

A snowmobile owned by a non-resident, before operation in Michigan, must display a valid registration from their home state or province, or be registered in Michigan.

The secretary of state registers snowmobiles for a three year period. The registration cycle begins on October 1 and expires on September 30 of the third year following registration.

Any time a registered snowmobile is sold to another person, the registration must also be transferred. The secretary of state must be contacted to transfer the registration of a snowmobile.

Contact the secretary of state to register your snowmobile.


In addition to registration of a snowmobile in Michigan or from another state or province, a person who desires to operate a snowmobile in this state shall purchase a snowmobile trail permit sticker. The snowmobile trail permit sticker shall be valid for a period of 1 year which begins October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year. Permits can be purchased online or from local businesses. The 2010-11 permit is $35.00 and is good for one year.

Snowmobile trail permits are available from snowmobile dealers and many retail businesses located adjacent to or near the Michigan snowmobile trail system. Permits are available from the secretary of state an the time of registration renewal.

Snowmobiles are exempt from Registration and the Trail Permit Sticker if they are:

Operated exclusively on lands owned or under the control of the owner; used entirely in a safety education program conducted by a certified snowmobile safety instructor; or exclusively operated in a special event of limited duration which is conducted according to a prearranged schedule under a permit from the governmental unit having proper jurisdiction.


It is unlawful to operate a snowmobile without having a valid registration sticker permanently attached and visibly displayed on the forward half of the snowmobile.


The trail permit sticker needs to be permanently affixed to the forward half of the snowmobile directly above or below the headlight..


Brakes-Each snowmobile must have a braking system that is capable of:
(a) Stopping the snowmobile in not more than 40 feet from an initial speed of 20 miles per hour while the snowmobile travels on packed snow and carries an operator who weighs 175 pounds or more.
(b) Locking the snowmobile's traction belt or belts.

Noise-Each snowmobile manufactured after July 1, 1977 shall be equipped with a muffler which does not exceed 78 decibels of sound pressure at 50 feet as measured by the 1974 SAE J-192a.

Helmet-All persons operating or riding on a snowmobile must wear a Department of Transportation approved crash helmet.

Lighting-All snowmobiles must display a lighted headlight and taillight at all times during operation.


An insulated snowmobile suit. Sturdy gloves that provide both hand and finger protection and a secure grip on the controls. Insulated boots for ankle and foot protection.

  • Tool kit (knife, pliers, adjustable wrench, electrical tape, plug wrench, and screwdriver).
  • Flashlight (extra batteries and bulb).
  • Matches (candles).
  • Disposable blanket (heat reflecting "space" type).
  • First aid kit.
  • Snowshoes
  • Package of fire starters

A person under the age of 12, may not:

(a) operate a snowmobile without the direct supervision of the parent or guardian except on property owned or controlled by the parent

(b) cross a highway or street.

A person who is a least 12 but less than 17 years of age may operate a snowmobile under direct supervision of a person 21 years of age or older or have in their immediate possession a valid snowmobile safety certificate.

A person who is at least 12 but less than 17 years of age may not cross a highway or a street without having a valid snowmobile safety certificate in their immediate possession.


A snowmobile may be operated on the right-of way of a public highway (except a limited access highway) if it is operated at the extreme right of the open portion of the right-of-way and with the flow of traffic on the highway. Snowmobiles operated on a road right-of-way must travel in a single file and shall not be operated abreast except when overtaking or passing another snowmobile.

A snowmobile may be operated on the roadway or shoulder when necessary to cross a bridge or culvert if the snowmobile is brought to a complete stop before entering onto the roadway or shoulder and the operator yields the right-of-way to an approaching vehicle on the highway.

A snowmobile may be operated across a public highway, other than a limited access highway, at right angles to the highway for the purpose of getting from one area to another when the operation can be done in safety and another vehicle is not crossing the highway at the same time in the immediate area. An operator must bring his snowmobile to a complete stop before proceeding across the public highway and must yield the right of-way to all oncoming traffic.

Snowmobiles may be operated on a highway in a county road system, which is not normally snowplowed for vehicular traffic; and on the right-of-way or shoulder when no right-of-way exists on a snowplowed highway in a county road system, outside the corporate limits of a city or village, which is designated and marked for snowmobile use by the county road commission having jurisdiction.



While under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or a combination of the two.

At a rate of speed greater than is reasonable for existing conditions.

In a forest nursery, planting area, or public lands posted or reasonably identifiable as an area of forest reproduction when growing stock may be damaged or as a natural dedicated area which is in zones 2 or 3.

On the frozen surface of public waters within 100 feet of a person, including a skater, not in or upon a snowmobile or within 100 feet of a fishing shanty or shelter except at a speed required to maintain forward movement of the snowmobile or on an area which has been cleared for ice skating, unless the area is necessary for gaining access to the public water.

Within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling between 12 midnight and 6 a.m., at a speed greater than the minimum required to maintain forward movement of the snowmobile.

In or upon the land of another without consent of the owner or his agent, when required by the recreational trespass act.

In an area open to public hunting during the firearm deer season from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

While transporting on the snowmobile a bow unless unstrung or a firearm unless unloaded and securely encased or equipped with a trigger locking device.

On or across a cemetery or burial ground, an airport, a public or private parking lot, a public highway or street, within 100 feet of a slide, ski, or skating area, a railroad or a railroad right-of-way.

To chase, pursue, worry, or kill any wild bird or animal.



The law requires that the operator of a snowmobile involved in an accident resulting in injuries to, or death of, any person, or property damage in an estimated amount of $100.00 or more, must immediately notify a law enforcement agency within the county in which the accident occurred.



  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition .
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Avoid, when possible, crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and taillights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.



Snowmobile safety training is encouraged for all snowmobile operators. Modern snowmobiles are capable of high rates of speeds over snow and ice. With the countless hazards associated with operating a snowmobile, training is a crucial factor in safe and responsible snowmobile operation.

Michigan Conservation Officers, in cooperation with schools, organizations and associations, take an active role in assuring that all of Michigan's citizens are given the opportunity to take a snowmobile safety course. The course emphasizes safe and responsible snowmobile operation.

For information on snowmobile training, please contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources office in your area or call: (51-373-1230, Law Enforcement Division, Lansing, Michigan.



The two contributing factors present in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents are Speed and Alcohol Abuse

Modern snowmobiles are capable of high rates of speed far beyond the ability of a driver to react in sufficient time to take preventive action. All drivers should:

Slow Down, Don't Drink and Live to Enjoy Michigan's Winter Wonderland.

Snowmobile Trail Conditions for the Upper Peninsula

 Additional information on Snowmobiling at the Michigan DNR Website


Snowmobiling in the Upper Peninsula
Upper Peninsula Recreation page
Back to the Upper Peninsula Traveler
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Information: Michigan DNR

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