We don’t know about you, but the reason we got into off-roading was the adventure it promised. You know, the proverbial "call of the wild."
The 4WD editors have compiled a list of 10 favorite places for your perusal, along with reasons we like them and some information to help you plan a trip of your own if you’re so inclined.
It would be pretentious to claim that these are the 10 best ’wheeling spots anywhere, so we’re not going to assert that this list holds any sort of supremacy over other worthy destinations. These are simply 10 we like. The first five locations are in California (home to Christian and Kevin) and the balance are in and around Utah (where Phil lives).
Why do we like these places? Some offer spectacular scenery, others provide technical challenges, and still others bring myriad route options to the table. Who wants the same ol’ same ol’ all the time? Not us. Fortunately, we have options and we know you do, too.
What about you? Where do you like to go? Why?
We’d like to hear about your favorite adventure destinations. Please include photos if you have them. If we get enough responses, we’ll write a "readers' favorites" adventure destinations story
Here’s how to submit your entries:
Email: email@example.com (subject line: Adventure Destinations)
Attn: Kevin Blumer
4Wheel Drive Magazine
1733 Alton Parkway, Suite 100
Irvine, CA, 92606
Johnson Valley, California
Features: Despite the heavy focus on the Hammer trails, Johnson Valley is home to a large variety of terrain to suit a wide spectrum of off-road vehicles and ability levels. Soggy Dry Lake lets you run wide open. You can find sand dunes in Johnson Valley if you know where to look. Cougar Buttes is an ideal area for those wanting to hone their hardcore trail skills before taking on the infamous Hammers. Johnson Valley is open to street legal vehicles as well as OHV’s.
Season: Year-round, but be warned: Johnson Valley can be dangerously hot in summer! It’s most pleasant in the spring and fall. Winter can bring extremely cold temperatures.
Nearby communities: Yucca Valley to the east and Lucerne Valley right next door to the west.
Mojave National Preserve, California
Features: The Mojave National Preserve fills in the big triangle between Interstate 15, Interstate 40, and the California/Nevada border. Administered by the National Park Service, the Mojave National Preserve is a multiple-use area that offers a variety of 4x4 adventures. Vehicles must be street legal here. Choose from hundreds of miles’ worth of routes including the Mojave Road. Camping is allowed at established campgrounds as well as previously-used trailside sites throughout the Preserve.
Season: Year-round, but like Johnson Valley, the Mojave National Preserve is subject to hot summer temperatures. When it’s hot, the higher-elevation areas, such as the New York Mountains and the Cima Dome, are more pleasant. Winter can be bitter cold. Spring and fall are ideal, but be prepared for anything, hot or cold, when you’re here.
Nearby communities: Far between! The Mojave National Preserve has no services once within its boundaries, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Along the Preserve’s perimeter you’ll find the communities of Barstow, Ludlow, and Baker, California, and also Primm Nevada. Nipton, California has a tiny hotel and tent cabins. Gas stations are found in Barstow, Ludlow, Primm, Baker, and at the Rasor Road, Cima Road, Halloran Summit, and Fenner Road exits off of Interstate 15.
Owens Valley Corridor from Bishop to Ridgecrest, California
Features: “Owens Valley Corridor” isn’t an official name, but it’s a fitting description of the place. To the west loom the lofty Sierra’s and to the east stands the rugged Inyo range. Close to Ridgecrest you’ll find the El Paso Mountains and the Spangler Hills, both of which have vast opportunities for 4x4 exploring and OHV use.
Nearby communities: Bishop at the north end and Ridgecrest at the south end of the area both have full services including auto parts stores. Smaller towns along Highway 395 that offer some services include Inyokern, Pearsonville, Olancha, Lone Pine, Independence, and Big Pine.
Season: Year-round. The Owens Valley floor gets hot in the summer, and the Sierra’s and Inyo Mountains get snowy in the winter. This area sees extreme variation in altitude, weather, and temperature. Come prepared and be flexible.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
Features: Anza-Borrego proper comprises about 650,000 acres and offers hundreds of miles of 4x4 trails for street-legal vehicles. Slot canyons, towering boulders, mud caves, and desert wildflowers (springtime) all await. If you’re not street legal, head over to the Ocotillo Wells OHV area which shares a border with Anza-Borrego.
Nearby communities: Borrego Springs lies in the heart of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and offers most services including a tire shop: Desert Tire Center on Palm Canyon Drive. Ocotillo Wells (centered near Highway 78 and Split Mountain Road) has limited services.
High Sierras, California
Features: If you like big rocks, blue lakes, and lush pines, it doesn’t get much better than the High Sierra area. There’s a reason the Rubicon, Dusy-Ershim, and Fordyce Creek trails are ’wheeling destinations. Want something mellower? Roger Mitchell’s High Sierra SUV Trails Volume I: The East Side and Volume II: The Western Slope, offer routes traversable by milder vehicles. Mining ruins and natural wonders dot the whole area, and it’s sometimes hard to keep your eyes on the trail.
Nearby communities: Georgetown, Truckee, and South Lake Tahoe are the biggies in this neck of the woods.
Season: Year-round, but winter snow makes everything tougher and some trails are closed for the winter by the U.S. Forest Service.
Features: Red rocks, deep canyons, evergreen shrubs, prickly pear cactus, sparse water. Trails range from mild to wild, and many are lightly traveled.
Nearby communities: St. George is the biggest city in this area. Hurricane, Washington, La Verkin, and Bloomington also offer services.
Season: Year-round, but summers are hot and dry. Winter is chilly, but most trails stay passable at the lower elevations.
Northeastern Utah, Southeastern Idaho, and southwestern Wyoming (think of a big box)
Features: High alpine canyons and meadows, crystal-blue lakes, sagebrush, and aspen groves. This “boxed” area includes lots of classic alpine scenery and terrain.
Nearby communities: Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Logan, Utah, offer all services. Smaller communities dot the countryside.
Season: Winter closes many of the trails here. Spring and fall are good, but the summer months provide the most trail access.
San Juan Mountains, Colorado
Features: The San Juan Mountains are rightly called “The Switzerland of America.” This place is beautiful! The classic passes, Black Bear, Ophir, Imogene, Engineer, Cinnamon, and Stony, are all taken from many a ’wheeler’s bucket list. The dirt routes here are generally easy, provided you stay on the graded roadbed.
Nearby communities: Ouray offers all services and makes an excellent central hub for exploring the San Juans. Silverton, Ridgway, and Telluride are the other “big dots” on the area’s map.
Season: Late spring, summer, and early fall. Snow buries these passes during the winter.
Features: If the San Juans are just too mild, the Montrose area is the perfect antidote. Die Trying and 21 Road are two well-known Montrose trails, but Cactus Ridge and Calamity Canyon are waiting there, too. Bring your big tires, low gears, and big axles. Many ’crawlers are skipping Moab’s madness and motoring to Montrose.
Nearby communities: Montrose! All services available.
Season: Spring, summer, and fall are best.
Features: Lots of exploring without a lot of traffic. Yucca forests and evergreen shrubs dot the mountainsides. If you like to cover a lot of ground and take in new vistas, southeastern Nevada has a lot to offer.
Nearby communities: Mesquite, Nevada, and St. George, Utah, offer all services.
Season: Year round, but summers can be dangerously hot.