Michigan Snowmobile Laws: What to Know Before You Go

Michigan snowmobile laws

If you’ve lived in Michigan for any length of time you know that it has almost as many winter recreations as summer ones. We love our lakes here – frozen and unfrozen.

The low temperatures combined with sometimes high amounts of snow makes Michigan the perfect spot for snowmobiling through the cold winter months. The fact that we have so many frozen lakes at this time doesn’t hurt either.

We’ve had a few weeks of well below freezing temperatures to freeze up those waters for recreation. It is a great time to go over the laws of the land regarding snowmobiles.

Michigan Snowmobile Laws

You can find a comprehensive guideline at the DNR website for everything having to do with the operation of a snowmobile legally here in Michigan.

However, I wanted to hit the legal highlights here.

A snowmobile, legally, is “any motor-driven vehicle designed for travel primarily on snow or ice of a type that utilizes sled-type runners or skis, an endless belt tread, or any combination of these or other similar means of contact with the surface upon which it is operated, but is not a vehicle that must be registered under the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.1 to 257.923.”

Who Can Legally Drive A Snowmobile in Michigan?

  • Anyone with a driver’s license unless that person’s license is suspended.
  • Anyone over the age of 12 and under the age of 17, with a valid snowmobile safety certificate in their immediate possession OR who is being supervised by an adult 21 years or older. In order to cross a street or highway, he or she must have the valid snowmobile safety certificate in their immediate possession.
  • Any person under the age of 12 who is being supervised by an adult 21 years or older or who is on property controlled or owned by his or her parent or legal guardian – although children under the age of 12 may not cross a street or highway.

Where Can a Snowmobile Be Legally Driven in Michigan?

  • Private land without a registration.
  • Public waters with registration but no permit required.
  • Public trails with permit and registration.
  • A public highway or county road – with many stipulations.

Take a look at the DNR website for more specific rules and regulations regarding snowmobile permits and legal driving locations.

Crimes Related to Operating a Snowmobile in Michigan

Of course, just like any motor vehicle, snowmobiles have the potential to be dangerous. Here are the circumstances under which you could be charged with a crime when operating a snowmobile:

  • Driving a snowmobile under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • If you are going too fast for conditions.
  • If you damage public lands where forestry projects are underway.
  • Getting too close to a person on public waters or going too fast on public waters.
  • If you are illegally transporting a weapon.
  • If you cross a cemetery, airport, railroad or are within 100 feet of a sledding, skiing or skating area.
  • Using a snowmobile to chase or kill any wild animal.
  • If you drive it negligently in a parking lot.
  • If you fail to report an accident.

Additionally, if you commit vehicular manslaughter, negligent homicide or any other felony with a snowmobile, you may be subject to the penalties that go along with those crimes. This includes receiving points assessed against your driver’s license.


Michigan snowmobiling is fun and relaxing. It is a great way to pass the winter months in this state.

In conclusion, if something has gone horribly wrong and you are facing criminal charges related to operating a snowmobile, please give my office a call.

Call today