We devote a lot of attention to the mechanical side of our 4x4s, but they are really just a conduit for adventure. That can range from an afternoon in the woods with some buddies to living out of the back of your truck for weeks (or months) on end. We have been fortunate enough to wheel all over the country (and beyond) and experience the incredible sunsets, new friendships, and breathtaking terrain that each of these unique adventures provided. From a lifetime full of travel, the trips below are the ones that stand out above the rest.
Why So Many Events?
You may have noticed that a lot of the choices on our list are events, like Jeepers Jamboree and Easter Jeep Safari. While it is true that you could go to Moab or the Rubicon on your own, since you might be traveling halfway across the country and burning through all of your vacation time to get to these destinations, it’s a safer bet to go when there are plenty of other friendly wheelers there to show you around and help you out if you have problems.
“These trips are the ones that stand out”
If You Love to Rockcrawl
People who have never experienced rockcrawling find it hard to believe that you can get an adrenaline rush while traveling 1 mph, but it is definitely a thrill when you scale a dry waterfall or cross a field full of Volkswagen-sized boulders. If you appreciate the nuances associated with tackling big rocks, then these destinations should be on your bucket list.
New Mexico is home to famous dry waterfalls and great spicy food. This year the Chile Challenge is moving from Las Cruces to Truth or Consequences, but the event organizers tell us that there will be plenty of the hardcore rockcrawling that they are known for.
Dakota Territory Challenge
The Black Hills feature Mount Rushmore, Sturgis, and some of the most technical rockcrawling trails in the country. Many of these trails can be difficult to find, but if you go during DTC you can take advantage of the guiding and spotting provided by the Black Hills 4-Wheelers.
Held on the famous Rubicon Trail, the Jeepers Jamboree is not only a trail ride but a party too. Spotters are positioned along the way to help you through the tough spots as you enjoy the high alpine lakes, granite formations, and forest scenery. For a more family-friendly trip, consider the Jeep Jamboree instead.
Easter Jeep Safari
There are events in Moab for Suzukis, Toyotas, Early Broncos, and more. The biggest of all is the Easter Jeep Safari, when thousands of wheelers come to Utah to explore everything from scenic backroads to gnarly canyons before returning to town for a warm shower and cold drink with friends. Check out our coverage of this year’s EJS event on page 54.
This trail stretches 140 miles from the site of old Fort Mohave near Bullhead City to the old Camp Cady on the Mojave River. Typical travelers take two to three days to travel the whole road.
If You Love The Backcountry
Overland travel is the latest rage, and it is not hard to see why. It provides the opportunity to get out of town with your entire family, the risk of breaking expensive parts is minimized, and it is a great excuse to buy more gadgets! Tablets with mapping software, freezer fridges, and rooftop tents are some of the most popular. Make sure to bring plenty of water and spare fuel on any of these trips.
El Camino del Diablo
This route travels 250 miles through Arizona’s border with Mexico. It has been in use for over 1,000 years, starting as a footpath from water source to water source used by natives. To drive the entire trail, a permit is required from the CabezaPrieta National Wildlife Refuge office.
Trans American Trail
Although this trail is typically traveled by adventure motorcycles, the entire route was covered last summer by Land Rovers. The trail starts in Tennessee and ends at the Pacific Ocean in Oregon, covering nearly 5,000 miles of dirt roads wherever possible.
Continental Divide The Great Divide runs over 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana along the Continental Divide, which separates where water flows east to the Atlantic or west toward the Pacific. Elevation ranges from 4,000 to 13,000 feet, with the highest sections only passable for a few months in the summer.
Alcan Highway The highway from the continental United States to Alaska is mostly paved these days, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to explore backroads along the 1,400-mile road. The road can be traveled year-round, but the already sparse services along the mileposts are even fewer and farther between in the winter.
If You Love to Race
Whether you strap on a helmet or just cheer on your heroes, the following are the biggest races in the off-road universe. Each has its own unique feel, but they all offer classes for everyone from the mega-millionaire to the privateer who spins his own wrenches. One of the things we love most about off-road racing is that anyone who wants to compete is welcome, compared to other motorsports like NHRA drag racing and NASCAR.
The Baja 1000 had humble beginnings over 40 years ago, and it still offers classes for pickup trucks and VW Bugs to compete alongside Trophy Trucks. SCORE International typically alternates years between a loop race starting and ending in Ensenada and racing down the Baja peninsula to La Paz.
Crandon, Wisconsin, is a small sleepy town most of the year, but on Labor Day weekend it plays home to over 15,000 people. They come from all over the country to watch short-course trucks fly through the air. Crandon is famous for a land rush start (all the trucks start at the same time in one big group) and the infamous Turn 1, where the course quickly bottlenecks down.
When you are ready for serious adventure, the Dakar Rally is waiting. Now held in South America, the rally covers nearly 6,000 miles in two weeks, with classes for motorcycles, quads, cars, pickups, and huge support trucks.
Formula Off Road
The Scandinavian countries have created a whole new genre of racing, where massive horsepower and paddle tires are used to launch Jeeps up the sides of sheer gravel hills. Courses are set up to ensure that plenty of air time and carnage result. Gravelrama in Ohio or the Southern Rock Racing Series would be the closest equivalent that we have stateside.
King of the Hammers
Although it is only a few years old, KOH has enjoyed phenomenal growth and keeps getting bigger every year. In this case, bigger is better. Promoter Dave Cole has added the Every Man Challenge for teams with normal trail rigs and smaller budgets. Even if you aren’t racing in King of the Hammers, bring your rockcrawler out for the week to enjoy the same canyons that are used as part of the course.
Bring Your Passport
A whole world full of adventure is waiting beyond our borders. All you need is your passport and a sense of adventure. Of course, having a lot of time and money doesn’t hurt either, but if you don’t mind eating like a local and sleeping in a tent, you can cover a lot of ground without a lot of cash.
Cairo to Cape Town
This 6,200-mile adventure starts at the Great Pyramids and traditionally covers 11 countries. Beaches, wildlife, and expansive deserts are just a few of the draws to Africa. There are even tour agencies that will rent you a 4x4 and guide you on the trip if you would rather leave the logistics to someone else.
Canning Stock Route
This 1,200-mile-long isolated and arduous road is an Australian classic. It crosses the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts from Wiluna in Western Australia to Halls Creek. Starting in 1908, Alfred Canning sank 52 wells along the route to allow for the migration of livestock. It was first driven in 1968 and is quite popular today, with hundreds completing the route each year.
The 4,000-mile Silk Road runs from Europe to China through Egypt, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. It was first used as a trade route over 2,000 years ago and is steeped in history and culture.
Pan American Highway
If you already did the Alcan Highway, you can keep traveling south all the way to Tierra del Fuego at the southern end of South America. The exception is through the Darien Gap in Panama, a 100-mile stretch of impassible jungle that requires a ferry ride around. 4WOR contributor Ned Bacon is currently traveling south along the Pan American Highway with Kat Wiechert. Read more about their adventures at charlottamiles.com.