Regeneration of injured neurons can restore function, but most neurons regenerate poorly or not at all. The failure to regenerate in some cases is due to a lack of activation of cell-intrinsic regeneration pathways. These pathways might be targeted for the development of therapies that can restore neuron function after injury or disease. Here, we show that the DLK-1 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway is essential for regeneration in Caenorhabditis elegans motor neurons. Loss of this pathway eliminates regeneration, whereas activating it improves regeneration. Further, these proteins also regulate the later step of growth cone migration. We conclude that after axon injury, activation of this MAP kinase cascade is required to switch the mature neuron from an aplastic state to a state capable of growth.