If you haven't had the chance to go off-roading, you should. Regardless of whether you go through woody trails, desert dunes, or muddy bogs, it's a memorable experience that's a blast to share with friends, family or like-minded club members. Although it's nearly impossible to give an exhaustive list of every off-road destination in North America, we picked out our top 10 to check out this summer along with information that will help you plan your trip.
Rubicon Trail, California
Location: Northern California
Coordinates: N 38.9249 and W -120.78965 (Georgetown Ranger Station)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 82 Low: 55; July - High: 90 Low: 61; August - High: 91 Low: 61
Closest Towns: Georgetown, Placerville, Coloma
Permits Required: U.S. Forest Service Camp Fire, Green or Red State Use Sticker for non street-legal vehicles.
As strange as it may sound for what's considered one of the most challenging off-road courses in the North America, or even the world, the Rubicon Trail is technically part of a county road in El Dorado County, California. A rather poorly-maintained section of one, but that makes it all the more attractive to those seeking off-road challenge and adventure. The trail is closed to the public in late July and early August for the Jeepers Jamboree and the officially-sponsored Jeep Jamboree. The Rubithon, an off-road event sponsored by the Toyota Land Cruiser Association, also usually takes place in late June. Be forewarned, this is not a simple day trip. Running the entire length of the trail is generally a four-day outing and recently-implemented rules require that you camp no further than 50 feet from the designated trail. It's not recommended that you tackle the Rubicon solo or with an inexperienced partner.
- Useful resource page compiled and maintained by Harald Pietschmann with downloadable coordinates, tips, and nearby accommodations.
- Official website of the Jeep Jamboree, one of the signature events to take place on the trail.
- Placerville area informational page, including towns of Georgetown, Placerville and Coloma.
- Eldorado National Forest homepage. Good informational page on area conditions near trail.
Location: Southeastern Utah
Coordinates: 38.700024, -109.709694 (Seven Mile Rim)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 93 Low: 58; July - High: 99 Low: 64; August - High: 96 Low: 63
Closest Towns: Moab; Grand Junction, CO
Permits Required: State Resident or Non-Resident OHV Permit, BLM Permit for Organized Groups
Moab is among one of the most iconic and well-known off-roading destinations in the United States. The otherworldly terrain is truly breathtaking and is enjoyed by off-roaders, mountain bikers, hikers, and rafters. Competition between these different factions for use and preservation has resulted in some controversy in recent years, with some trails fully or partially closed or limited to off-road vehicles. Despite that, there's still plenty of terrain for anything from stock 4x4 vehicles to heavily modified off-road rigs. If you don't have your own trail-worthy truck or SUV, there are guided trail tours and Jeep rentals in the area.
- Utah State Parks OHV home pages. Information and downloadable applications for use permits.
- Official tourism information site for city of Moab. Information on area services, accommodations, attractions, etc.
- Trail ratings for some of the most popular trails in Moab, courtesy of the local Red Rock 4 Wheelers Club. Probably a wise read before subjecting your daily driver to the rigors of wild red rock.
Johnson Valley, California
Location: Southern California
Coordinates: N34 27.800 W116 53.002 (Pickaninny Buttes)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 91 Low: 56; July - High: 96 Low: 64; August - High: 94 Low: 63
Closest Towns: Lucerne Valley, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, Palm Springs
Permits Required: Current vehicle registration or California OHV registration tag ("green sticker")
Home to the legendary "King of the Hammers" off-road competition, Johnson Valley is one of Southern California's premiere off-road destinations. However, a planned expansion of the nearby Twentynine Palms Marine base threatens use of the area by off-road enthusiasts. Although the two sides are in discussions to reach a compromise that would allow off-road enthusiasts use of the area for 10 months out of the year, the expansion could dramatically reduce the amount of recreational area available. San Bernardino County supervisors are suggesting an eastward expansion to the base, which would have a minimal impact on the recreational area and a recently-passed amendment to a Marine Corps land acquisition bill championed by congressman Roscoe Bartlett requires the Corps to present evidence that they need the land for training purposes. Although the fight is far from over, this is an encouraging development for off-road enthusiasts and fans of this famous destination.
- GPS coordinates for popular Johnson Valley trails and landmarks.
- Visitor informational page for Twentynine Palms area. Information on hotels and accommodations.
- Bureau of Land Management's Johnson Valley information page.
Mojave National Preserve, California
Location: Southern California
Coordinates: N35.04272, W-116.3095 (Afton Canyon)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 98 Low: 59; July - High: 104 Low: 73; August - High: 103 Low: 72
Closest Towns: Newberry Springs, Barstow, Bullhead City, NV
Permits Required: Recreational permit for groups of seven or more vehicles or 15 people
The Mojave National Preserve is the third-largest national park in the country at 16 million acres. The main visitor center is the Kelso Depot, which houses a restaurant, exhibits, restrooms, picnic area and information counter. The two other information centers for the park are the Hole-in-the-Wall and Barstow Information Centers. The preserve has a number of historic and interesting trails and landmarks, including Afton Canyon, Cedar Canyon, Fort Piute and Rock Spring. Camping areas are at Hole-in-the-Wall and Mid Hills, and have pit toilets, trash receptacles, potable water, fire rings, and picnic tables. Dump station facilities are available at Hole-in-the-Wall but not Mid Hills.
- Official National Park Service page for the Mojave National Preserve.
- Official Web site for the Barstow chamber of commerce. Information on hotels and area attractions.
- Informational site with information on nearby lodging to the Mojave National Preserve Area
Superlift ORV, Arkansas
Location: Central Arkansas
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 88 Low: 67; July - High: 93 Low: 71; August - High: 93 Low: 70
Closest Towns: Hot Springs, Malvern
Permits Required: $30 Daily Use Fee for Trucks/SUVs, $15 for ATVs and Motorcycles. Annual and family memberships available.
Superlift ORV Park is the only privately-owned off-road park on this list and although its not as open or expansive as some of the other destinations on this list, it is a fun destination for families and off-road enthusiasts in the southeast. Use permits are a little higher than some of the state and national parks., but thanks to sponsorship by off-road companies, the park features amenities like cabins, RV and tent camping areas, a bath house, and even a crawling course for RC cars! The park is closed December 21-28 for the Christmas holiday and keeps a busy schedule the rest of the year with numerous clubs utilizing the park for trail rides.
(Photos by Sue Mead)
Location: Southwestern Colorado
Coordinates: N38 1.36548, W107 40.28825 (Downtown)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 72 Low: 45; July - High: 77 Low: 52; August - High: 74 Low: 50
Closest Towns: Ouray, Telluride, Montrose
Permits Required: OHV Permit for nearby Ridgway State Park, Daily Parks Pass for $7. No permits for San Juan National Forest. Some permits required for group or commercial activities.
Called the "Switzerland of America" for its dramatic scenery and topography, Ouray is one of the most scenic destinations on our list. The Montrose regional airport is the only nearby airport with regularly-scheduled service and road access is exclusively via Highway 550, which is known as the "Million Dollar Highway." Ouray is situated within the San Juan National Forest, with the Uncompahgre and Rio Grande National Forest areas also close by as well as the smaller Ridgway State Park. There are a number of Alpine-themed hotels, conventional hotels and bed and breakfasts in the Ouray area.
- Official Web site of Ouray Chamber Resort Association with extensive information on area accommodation, dining and attractions.
- San Juan National Forest official page.
Ocala National Forest
Location: North central Florida
Coordinates: N29.1669226, W-81.79147
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 92 Low: 70; July - High: 93 Low: 71; August - High: 93 Low: 72
Closest Towns: Ocala, Silver Springs
Permits Required: Annual/Day Passes required for entranced to concession-managed recreation areas. $50-60, good for one year from date of purchase.
If hard-core rock-crawling and desert dunes aren't quite your cup of tea, the Ocala National Forest offers a change of scenery for those looking for a summer getaway. At 607 square miles, Ocala is the second-largest and most-visited national forest in Florida. It is also known for having a large proportion of Florida Scrub habitat and the largest concentration of sand pine in the world. In addition, the forest also has more than 500 natural lakes and ponds. Along with extensive network of trails totaling 125 miles, the park also features a 22-mile long path on the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail for mountain bikes plus horseback riding trails. Within the park, the Clearwater Lake and Juniper Springs areas offer campgrounds, and the Lake Dorr recreational area offers RV and tent camping, and a boat ramp.
- Ocala National forest home page. Information on permits, recreational areas, campgrounds, attractions and current conditions.
- Convention and visitor's bureau page for Ocala/Marion County area with extensive listings and links for accommodations, dining, and recreation.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Location: Southern New Mexico
Coordinates: N32.4048123,W-106.900009 (Robledo Mountains OHV area)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 95 Low: 62; July - High: 95 Low: 68; August - High: 92 Low: 67
Closest Towns: Las Cruces, Deming; Anthony, TX
Permits Required: $5 Per vehicle day use pass, $7 camping permit for BLM-managed areas.
The Bureau of Land Management manages 5.4 million acres of land in southern New Mexico which includes an astounding 45,000 miles of roads and trails. The Organ Mountain National Recreation Area is close by and offers several camping areas and off-highway vehicle trail networks. Some areas do not have restrooms or other facilities, so plan accordingly. The area is also home to the annual Chile Challenge Off-Road event, usually held in late February, hosted by the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club.
- Bureau of Land Management Las Cruces District Office home page. Information on camping and recreational areas in the area.
- Official Web site for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Links for accommodations, dining, special offers and cultural events.
Mendocino National Forest, California
Location: Northern California
Coordinates: N39.4424, W-122.9683 (Lake Pillsbury)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 85 Low: 50; July - High: 94 Low: 54; August - High: 93 Low: 52
Closest Towns: Potter Valley, Willits, Ukiah
Permits Required: Current registration for street-legal vehicles, Green Sticker state permit for Off-Highway vehicles. Campfire permits required for some areas.
| Photo courtesy of the National Forest Service
The Mendocino National Forest is the only national forest is California that is not crossed by a paved road or highway, making for an especially serene nature experience. There are numerous campgrounds, most with restrooms, a camp stove, fire ring and a picnic table, but no showers or RV hookups, except at the Red Bluff Recreation Area. Lake Pillsbury is the largest lake in the Forest and has 31 miles of shoreline.
- Mendocino National Forest home page
- Greater Ukiah Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Guide. Listing of hotels, RV parks, vacation rentals, restaurants, breweries and wineries.
Whipsaw Trail, British Columbia
Location: South Central British Columbia
Coordinates: N49.36915, W120.57722 (Whipsaw Creek Rd. & Hwy 3)
Average Temperatures (F): June - High: 72 Low: 44; July - High: 79 Low: 48; August - High: 79 Low: 47
Closest Towns: Coalmont, Princeton
Permits Required: None. Valid, current vehicle registration. License required for hunting or fishing
Whipsaw Trail crosses two mountains, winding from the Hope-Princeton Highway in the Southern mainland of British Columbia, Canada to the tiny village of Coalmont. The trail was used as a mining road in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and offers the adventurous off-road enthusiast an opportunity to explore an alpine wonderland of meadows and icy lakes, surrounded by mountain peaks. The best time to visit is between July and August, when rainfall is lowest. Mobile phone service is minimal to non-existent. Some areas of the trail are quite challenging and may require a winch and tow strap. It is an active mining and logging road, so keep an eye out for traffic on the trail. The trail was a winner of the BF Goodrich Outstanding Trails award in September 2007.
- Detailed description of the trail, its history, and recommendations for vehicle equipment.
- Listing of accommodations, dining and attractions in nearby Princeton.