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Where to Wheel: 17 Wheeling Destinations From Mountains to Mud Parks

Posted in Features on November 9, 2017
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Where do you turn when you need some wheeling destination inspiration? Asking for advice when planning a 4x4 trip often generates similar responses. Off-road enthusiasts will sing the praises of trophy destinations like Moab or the Rubicon, but sometimes we just want to explore a trail that isn’t world famous. We’ve shaken the dust off some lesser-known destinations across the U.S. Read on and find everything from rolling forest roads and scenic drives to mud bogs and rockcrawls. Be sure to do your homework and check out the contact info and links we provided to make sure your plans aren’t foiled by seasonal closures, restrictions, or a permit requirement. Now get out there and explore!

Black Hills of South Dakota
What: Thanks largely to the work of local 4x4 clubs, the Black Hills now boast a healthy trail system. In the shadow of the venerable Mount Rushmore lies a network of rolling forest roads mixed with technical crawling. Though many trails have vehicle size restrictions, the Forest Service maps will lead you to trails appropriate for bigger rigs.
Don’t Forget: Once you’ve finished ogling Mount Rushmore, ask any local about Hippie Hole for a quick hike and refreshing dip in Battle Creek.
Info: Check out the Black Hills 4 Wheelers website (bh4wheelers.com) for info on the local wheeling and the club’s annual Dakota Territory Challenge.

Photo: Mike Magda

Jeeps crawling some of the more difficult trails in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Photo: Mike Magda

Las Cruces, New Mexico
What: Hardcore wheelers might know Las Cruces for the annual Chile Challenge, but there is far more to see there than just vertical waterfalls. Within Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument you will find a Southwestern twist on “mild to wild.” Want to explore winding, dry streambeds along the base of a mountain? Check out the Doña Ana Mountain trails. Want some more technical trails through a narrow canyon? Broad Canyon is for you.
Don’t Forget: Broad Canyon offers hiking and views of ancient rock paintings. Nearby, you can find fossils and footprints in the rock within Prehistoric Trackways National Monument.
Info: lascrucesfourwheeldriveclub.com

A rock rig climbing one of the spicier waterfalls in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Photo: The Four Wheeler staff

Powerline Park
What: The Midwest always seems to have some sort of wet stuff dropping from the sky, so it’s quite natural for folks here to really know their muddy ruts. Powerline Park is a 100 percent legal place to quench your thirst for hillclimbs, rutted woods trails, and mud bogs.
Don’t forget: Main weekends are Labor Day and Memorial Day; showers and camping located on premises.
Where: St. Clairsville, Ohio
Info: powerlinepark.com

Flexing through the muddy ruts of Powerline Park in Ohio.

Photo: The Four Wheeler staff

Sand Hollow
What: That’s not Moab! This state park sits in the southwestern corner of Utah and is home not only to red rock 4x4 trails, but also dunes and a lake. Cruise the sandy trails all day and relax at a campsite after a swim in the reservoir.
Don’t forget: Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are close by and worth a visit in the off-season when less busy.
Where: Hurricane, Utah
Info: stateparks.utah.gov, 435/680-0715

Jeeps wheeling the red rocks in Sand Hollow, Utah.

Photo: The Four Wheeler staff

Southington Offroad Park
What: A private park with 1,500 acres of wheeling in northeast Ohio, commuting distance from Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Rockcrawls, mud trails, obstacle courses, and family camping all available.
Where: Garrettsville, Ohio
Info: southingtonoffroad.com

Samurais on a knoll in Southington Offroad Park.

Photo: Southington Offroad

Jeep on the obstacle course at Southington Offroad Park.

Photo: Jered Korfhage

Big Bear Lake
What: Tucked into the San Bernardino National Forest is an escape from Los Angeles traffic, and some quality off-roading. We are willing to bet that if you were blindfolded and dropped off here, you might not even realize that it is not the famed Rubicon. You could spend an entire long weekend cruising the graded forest roads running between the more challenging trails. We recommend checking out Gold Mountain, Dishpan Springs, Holcomb Creek, and the venerable John Bull trail.
Don’t forget: Big Bear Lake has many hiking trails, boating and swimming opportunities, and even two ski resorts.
Info: backcountry4x4.com for maps and info

Built Suburban climbing a ledge on the Gold Mountain Trail in Big Bear Lake, California.

Photo: Jered Korfhage

Rausch Creek
What: Crawl, slog, or cruise through 3,000 acres of private-woods trails in southeast Pennsylvania at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park. Be sure to check out the large glacial deposit of boulders called “Rock Creek.”
Where: Pine Grove, Pennsylvania
Info: rc4x4.org, 570/695-3900

Fullsize rigs cruising one of the easier trails at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park.

Photo: Rausch Creek

The Alpine Loop
What: We’ve written many stories about Black Bear Pass, the famous one-way trail leading into Telluride, Colorado. That is always worth a run, but don’t forget it is only an offshoot of the entire system known as the Alpine Loop, a web of 4x4 roads weaving between the mountain towns of Lake City, Silverton, and Ouray, Colorado. Trails will take you above the clouds and across some of the tallest mountain passes you can see from behind the wheel. The majority of roads are passable in the summer months with high-clearance stock 4x4s. Check out Poughkeepsie Gulch for a bit more of a challenge, and a detour from the official Alpine Loop.
Don’t Forget: Bring some hiking boots and a camera because nearby is an assortment of 14,000-foot mountain peaks begging to be hiked when you need a break from wheeling. Check the Forest Service website for updates on conditions before you plan a trip, as many passes are snow covered until well into the summer. Camping is abundant in the San Juan National Forest, but expect spots to be limited on busy weekends.
Info: www.fs.usda.gov

One of the more forgiving rock gardens along the Poughkeepsie Gulch trail descending into Ouray, Colorado.

Photo: Jered Korfhage

Leadville, Colorado
What: If you can sneak in when it’s not buried in the snow, Leadville offers historic mining town scenery and wheeling fit for anybody. Spend the day cruising the forest roads in the White River National Forest, test your crawling skills on the Holy Cross Trail, or follow Half Moon Creek until the end for a rewarding peek at Champion Mine.
Don’t forget: The Arkansas River offers great paddling and fishing.
Where: Leadville, Colorado
Info: www.fs.usda.gov, 970/945-2521

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
What: Technically within the Siuslaw National Forest, the Oregon Dunes are constantly in motion—and you can be too, as you explore them with your 4x4. The 31,500-acre coastline paradise is also home to the Snowy Plover, meaning there are some birding opportunities as well as seasonal closures.
Where: Reedsport, Oregon
Info: www.fs.usda.gov, 541/271-6000

Redneck Mud Park
What: The folks in the Midwest think they know mud, but maybe they haven’t been to the real dirty south. Redneck Mud Park is a mud-splattered gem in Punta Gorda, Florida. With 800 acres of mud bogs, woods trails, obstacle courses, and camping areas, you will be hard-pressed to have a bad time. Plan a trip for the weekend with on-site camping accommodations and stay for the show—the park often hosts Trucks Gone Wild events as well as concerts on the main stage.
Don’t Forget: Test out the tug pad, watch the airboat races, and wash up at the in-house buggy wash.
Where: Punta Gorda, Florida
Info: redneckmudpark.com, 239/691-8557

Either bring a rig that can handle mud like this, or watch fellow wheelers wallow in the bogs at Redneck Mud Park.

Photo: Redneck Mud Park

Iron Horse Mud Ranch
What: 520 acres of prime swampland packed with trails, bogs, and more.
Where: Perry, Florida
Info: ironhorsemudranch.com, 850/584-5437

Hog Waller
What: 1,100 acres of mud bogging, trail riding, and family fun.
Where: Palatka, Florida
Info: hogwallermudbog.com, 386/643-8042

Cape Lookout National Seashore
What: North Carolina might already be on the vacation radar for touristy beach reasons, but why not add some 4x4 fun? Miles of Atlantic coastline await those who dare point their rigs toward the surf. Starting from Cape Hatteras, journey a bit farther down the coast and you will find Cape Lookout National Seashore. Accessible only by toll ferry, this island is rather off-grid and allows beach camping alongside the usual fishing, swimming, and lighthouse peeping activities.
Don’t forget: The island is primitive so carry everything you need for a weekend of camping and beach driving. Be respectful of the seashore, this is not a dune-ripping environment—obey posted speed limits and signage for marked driving areas.
Info: nps.gov/calo

Anyone with four-wheel drive can enjoy the beachfront treasures North Carolina has to offer along the Atlantic.

Photo: National Park Service

Uwharrie National Forest
What: 51,000 acres of recreation featuring an incredible off-road trail system. The Daniel and Dickey Bell trails are the perfect mix of rocky climbs and dirty ruts that define wheeling in the East. Be sure to do your research before you go; trails are open seasonally and some areas require access passes.
Where: Between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina
Info: visitnc.com/listing/uwharrie-national-forest, 828/257-4200

Windrock Park
What: A wonderland in Tennessee for 4x4s, families, and off-road fun. The park has 72,000 acres of wooded trails with a family-style resort atmosphere.
Where: Oliver Springs, Tennessee
Info: windrockpark.com, 865/435-3492

Beasley Knob Trails
What: The Forest Service calls this trail system “challenging” and recommends that only experienced drivers attempt the gravel roads, rock hill climbs, and steep ascents. Over ten miles of trails await anyone bold enough to enter the Chattahoochee National Forest. Check the Forest Service website for updates on seasonal closures, fees, and permits.
Where: Blairsville, Georgia
Info: www.fs.usda.gov/conf, 706/745-6928

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