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Areas of operation

snowmobilerFor safety purposes, it is recommended that snowmobiles be operated on private property with the landowner’s permission or on trails designed by the DNR for the operation of snowmobiles. Most state parks and forests have designated trails. Visit DNR’s Web site for authorized trail locations - www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/Snowmobiles.aspx.

Snowmobiles should not be operated at any time within the right of way of any interstate highway or freeway, except when using an underpass that has been abandoned and is no longer being used by motor vehicles or trains, and the underpass is the only alternative to the use of a traveled roadway. All right of way associated with railroad operations is private property. Snowmobilers can be charged with trespassing if found on railroad property.

Snowmobiles may not be operated at any time on limited-access highways and approaches. This includes the traveled portion of the roadway, ramp areas and adjacent shoulders, medians and ditches.  A limited-access or controlled-access highway gives preference to through traffic and provides access only at selected public roads or streets (interchanges), and has no at-grade highway crossings or intersections, and no driveway access points. In addition to the interstates and urban freeways, portions of several major routes in the state have limited-access, including (but not necessarily limited to) U.S. 20, U.S. 30, U.S. 218, and U.S. 34.

Snowmobiles may be operated on city streets that have not been plowed during the snow season or on such streets as designated by the governing body of a municipality.  Further, a registered snowmobile may be operated on that portion of county roadways that has not been plowed during the snow season or not maintained or utilized for conventional two-wheel drive motor vehicles.  These jurisdictions may also designate highways or roadways (under their respective jurisdictions) for the operation of snowmobiles.

Snowmobiles may also be operated in the right of way located adjacent to and at least five feet out from the traveled portion of the roadway and shoulder of secondary county roads and state primary highways (excluding interstates, freeways and limited-access highways). Snowmobiling in the medians of any of these roadways is strongly discouraged since it presents a safety concern for both operators and motorists. 

A snowmobile shall not be operated within the right of way of a primary highway between the hours of sunset and sunrise, except on the right-hand side of the right of way and in the same direction as the motor vehicular traffic. On secondary roads, travel may be in either direction in the right of way in compliance with other applicable laws.

Emergency operation

Snowmobiles may be operated on highways in an emergency during the period of time when and at locations where snow upon the roadway renders travel by conventional motor vehicles impractical.