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Top Ten Jeep Trails - Brain Freeze

Posted in Features on November 10, 2006 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Clifton Slay

Some of us aren't cold-weather people. We don't like it when the snot in our nostrils freezes, we don't like shivering worse than Robert Downey Jr. in a full detox tremor, and we don't like the sensation of wet, slushy mud oozing between our partially numb and throbbing toes. But for those masochists out there who think a day slogging their Jeep through the thick white stuff is fun; who get all revved up at the thought of digging tires out of a four-foot snow drift; and who fall asleep at night with thoughts of fogged windshields, wet upholstery, and heaters that never seen to be working, here's a list in no particular order of our top-10 spots to go winter wheeling.

1. Reykjavik, Iceland
Why:
You can scope out such niceties as the glaciers and volcanic remnants around Reykjavik, check out the local Icelandic nutzos scaling vertical cliffs in nitrous-sniffing, big-block Jeeps, or just head north to the fjords surrounding Isafjorour on the Denmark Straight.
How: Fly in and rent a Jeep for the week for about 46,000 Krona (about $660 U.S.) and grab a map. Or you can latch on to one of the local Jeep tour companies, such as Mountain.is (www.mountain.is). Take the tour in the company's "Jeep" Land Cruiser, then duplicate what you can in your rental.
Level of difficulty: 4
Probability of going: 4

2. Antarctica
Why:
It's the coldest, driest, and windiest place on the planet. It needs to have a Jeep on it. Trek to the South Pole, take a photo, then come home.
How: Get rich, then have your vehicle outfitted for polar exploration. Once completed, have it shipped to the continent because there aren't any roads or car-rental agencies there. Don't forget that summer up here is winter down there.
Level of difficulty: 10
Probability of going: 1

3. Southwestern Colorado
Why: There are hundreds of sleepy little mountain towns that starve during the tourist-free winter months. Why should all that beautiful scenery go to waste in the winter.
How: Drive or trailer your Jeep in, check into a hotel, spend some money in the local restaurants, then hit the roads. Be sure to check with the local law for safe areas of travel and weather conditions before heading out. Go with a built Jeep, plenty of provisions, and several vehicles.
Level of difficulty: 6
Probability of going: 7

4. California's Sierra Nevadas
Why:
It's where the Donner Party stopped for dinner. The Rubicon Trail is the pearl in the Sierra's trail system. During the height of winter, most of the Rubicon - including the little sluice - can be totally covered under 10 feet of snow. It lends a whole new dimension to the traditionally beautiful drive.
How: As with any snow trail, built Jeeps, buddies, and supplies are key. Drive up and stay in Lake Tahoe or Placerville the night before. Don't plan on running the trail from start to finish if you're not into snow camping for at least three nights.
Level of difficulty: 7
Probability of going: 7

5. Yellowstone and surrounding area
Why:
It's where the buffalo roam and the yuppies ski. Roll through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in your rust-hole Jeep, then poke on through the park.
How: You can fly into Jackson Hole and rent a Jeep or bring your own. You technically won't be doing much wheeling off-road, but if you grab a park map you'll be able to find several dirt roads that aren't regularly cleared. Just be sure to respect the park's boundaries and stay where you're supposed to.
Level of difficulty: 2
Probability of going: 8

6. Western Maine
Why:
People on the East Coast need to wheel as well. Winter seems to last 11 months out of the year there, so winter wheeling better be in any true Jeeper's repertoire.
How: Most, if not all, wheeling in New England is done on private land, so the best way to get your fix is to join a local Jeep club that frequents the area you're interested in. Check the Internet or your local 4x4 shop for listings. We've spun tires with the Overland Jeepers of Maine a few times and, other than the forehead freeze, had a great time.
Level of difficulty: 4
Probability of going: 7

7. Canada
Why:
To find out once and for all if they really say "eh" after every sentence. Also, we hear the scenery is pretty incredible.
How: We'd suggest checking out Banff, located in Alberta west of Calgary. It's in Banff National Park and offers crazy beautiful scenery. You can drive your junk up there, or if you're flying in, you can take an off-road winter tour. Check out www.canadianrockies.net for more information.
Level of difficulty: 3
Probability of going: 5

8. Moab
Why:
It's not 130 degrees like it is in the summer, nor is it alternating between rain, sun, and snow like it is during the spring. The scenery can't be beat, and it's practically deserted in the winter.
How: Drive in and head straight to Zax Woodfire Pizza for a few slices, fuel up, and hit some of the easier trails near town like Hell's Revenge or Poison Spider Mesa. There shouldn't be too much snow, but watch out for ice.
Level of difficulty: 5
Probability of going: 8

9. Alaska
Why:
It's the least-visited state in the union (you know we don't count North Dakota). Let's help a brother out.
How: We punched in a MapQuest route from our L.A. office to Anchorage and it spit out 3,727 miles one way, so chances are you'll be flying in and renting a Jeep. We'd suggest contacting the Alaska Extreme Fourwheelers Club (www.akextreme4x4.com) or the Alaska Off Road Jeep Club (www.akfabshop.com/alaskaoffroad) for more info.
Level of difficulty: 4-8
Probability of going: 5

10. Florida Swamp Buggy
Why:
Because the cold sucks, and swamp buggies are cool.
How: Fly in to Naples, rent a car, and drive straight to the Florida Sports Park. Be sure to check the park's Web site at www.swampbuggy.com for race schedules. We strongly suggest bringing your stock Jeep and weaseling your way into a race.
Level of difficulty: 1
Probability of going: 8

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