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Top 10 'Wheeling Cities - Home Sweet Home

Posted in How To on July 1, 2007
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Photographers: Jay Kopycinski

Since you're reading this magazine, chances are good that 'wheeling is a big part of your life. When you aren't wrenching on your rig, you're out on the trail. And when you aren't on the trail, you're just waiting for the next chance to air down the tires and shift the transfer case to low range. If going off-pavement takes a high priority in your life, it makes sense to live someplace where you can "scratch your itch" on a regular basis.

We compiled a list of dirt-friendly cities around the country (and beyond), complete with local trails, shops, and other important statistics. We tried to make this article as useful and realistic as possible, so we left off locations like the Los Angeles metro area (sorry, Hammers) in favor of places that you can actually afford to live without a trust fund. We've rated the locations based on factors such as cost of living, median income, year-round weather, convenience for accessing good 4x4 trails within two hours' time, and the quality and diversity of 'wheeling you'll find. While we don't claim to have located every shop and every trail in proximity to each town listed, this should give you a good idea of what to expect from these various locations.

Raush Creek in eastern Pennsylvania is a popular desitination for Philadelphia wheelers.

The City of Brotherly Love wouldn't have been on this list a few short years ago. However, private land that was once used for coal mining is now being converted to off-road parks at a number of locations. Philadelphia is the fifth-largest city in the country, so it will appeal to those who like to balance their four-wheeling with more cosmopolitan pursuits. Those include world-class restaurants, the Liberty Bell, and other historical monuments, as well as those famous cheesesteak sandwiches.
Population: 5,834,000
Elevation: 45 feet
High Temperature: 86 (July)
Low Temperature: 25 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 41 inches
Median Home Price: $112,000
Median Household Income: $31,000
Local Shops: Hoak's Four Wheel Drive, National Four Wheel Drive, Up and Over Innovations, Skid Row Automotive, Quadratec
Local Clubs: Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance, Jeeps "R" Us, Keystone Krawlers, PA Wheelers, Pipeline Four Wheelers, R.O.V.E.R.S. (Land Rover)
On The Web: www.offroaders.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Unknown
Trails Within Two Hours: Clearfield, Martian's Creek, Rausch Creek, Shamokin.

Tellico OHV Park is the South's premier wheeling destination. With a variety of trails featuring rocks, mud, and water crossings, there is something for everyone. Tellico is 3 1/2 hours from Nashville, but it's well worth the drive.

Nashville is synonymous with country music, and music is indeed a huge industry there. Health care, transportation, and publishing are also big business in Nashville. In addition to the Grand Ole Opry, Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee state capital are also located here. There is a lot of good 'wheeling in the south, but not in the same concentration as the 'wheeling locations in the Western states due to the lack of public lands. For that reason we've included locations beyond a two-hour drive limit here.
Population: 1,311,000
Elevation: 597 feet
High Temperature: 89 (July)
Low Temperature: 28 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 48 inches
Median Home Price: $139,000
Median Household Income: $39,797
Local Shops: Bridges Performance Off Road, Tennessee Off Road
Local Clubs: Rock Solid Jeep Club, Southeast Toyota Land Cruiser Association (Toyota), Tennessee Rovers, Traxx in Motion, Xtreme 4x4 Columbia Offroad Club
On The Web: www.atomiccityfourwheelers.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Unknown
Trails Within Five Hours: Coal Creek ORV Area, Gray Rock, Harlan, Jellico,Monteagle, Morris Mountain ORV Park, Uwharrie, Tellico, Wheeling In The Country, Windrock.

Tulsa boasts a vibrant economy that is home to oil, aerospace, and aviation. The Arkansas River passes through Tulsa and offers fishing, kayaking, and horseback riding, while its downtown enjoys a world-renowned music and art scene. The three major 'wheeling destinations in Oklahoma are Clayton, Poteau, and Disney. Clayton is a bit more than two hours from Tulsa, but it was worth including here. Oklahoma rigs typically feature 1-ton axles, huge tires, and loads of horsepower to climb the steep, loose hills.
Population: 833,000
Elevation: 740 feet
High Temperature: 94 (July)
Low Temperature: 26 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 41 inches
Median Home Price: $123,000
Median Household Income: $37,000
Local Shops: Chris Nikel's Off Road Center, Sam's Off Road
Local Clubs: Extreme 4Wheelin', Green Country Cruisers (Toyota), Tulsa Four Wheelers
On The Web: www.okoffroad.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Unknown
Trails Within Two Hours: Busline, Cass, Crum Creek, Disney, Kiamichi Mountains, Lost Creek, Purple Headed Monster, Snake Pit, Survey Line, Three Stage, Timberline, Yanush Trail.

Sacramento has an abundance of trails directly to the east in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Rubicon Trail, shown here, is located off of Highway 50, while additional trails can be found off of Interstate 80 as well.

Wheeling has long been a tradition in Northern California, dating back to the first Jeep Jamboree more than 50 years ago. That tradition is still alive and well in Sacramento, which sits at the western base of the Sierra Nevada. Sacramento offers nearby fishing, water skiing, and snow skiing for year-'round activities. Employment is just as diverse, with Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, and Wachovia being among the top employers in the area. And this being the capital of California, you just might run across Ah-nold on the trail in his Hummer.
Population: 1,975,000
Elevation: 52 feet
High Temperature: 94 (July)
Low Temperature: 41 degrees (January)
Annual Precipitation: 18 inches
Median Home Price: $225,000
Median Household Income: $39,000
Local Shops: 4Wheel Parts Performance Center, Capitol City Jeepers, Central 4WD, Extreme Gear Off Road, Foothill 4WD, Inchworm Gear, Parts Mike, River City Diffs, Rock Equipment, Welderbilt, WFO Concepts
Local Clubs: Bedrock 4 Wheelers, Boonie Bouncers, California Trail Runners, Flat Fenders Jeep Club, Hi-Landers 4WD Club, Mudsuckers 4WD Club, Rock-N-Roll 4x4 Club, Sacramento Jeepers, Sacramento Widetrackers, Sierra Treasure Hunters, Toys on the Rocks (Toyota), Webilt
On The Web: www.cal4wheel.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Prairie City
Trails Within Two Hours: Barney Riley Trail, Barrett Lake, Bear Valley, Deer Valley, Fordyce Creek, Greenhorn Creek, Rubicon, Strawberry Trail.

Salt Lake City is called the "Crossroads of the West." It's located a nearly equal distance from Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Given this location, it's no surprise that transportation is one of the major industries in the city, along with banking, government, and tourism. Tourists come to enjoy some of the best fly-fishing, snow skiing, and rockclimbing in the country. Four-wheelers can find plenty to explore in the Wasatch Range, although many are lured instead towards the red rock of Moab, about a four-hour drive to the southeast.
Population: 1,800,000
Elevation: 4,330 feet
High Temperature: 89 (July)
Low Temperature: 25 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 15 inches
Median Home Price: $153,000
Median Household Income: $37,000
Local Shops: Creasey's Off-Road, Cruiser Outfitters, Hole Shot Offroad, Jack It, Mepco, Midnight 4x4, Outer Limits Motorsports, Rock Logic 4x4, Rocky Road Outfitters, Ruff Tuff Products, Six States DistributorsLocal Clubs: Cascade Cruisers (Toyota), Highlander 4x4 Club, Hoggs 4x4 Club, Just Hangin' 4x4, Wasatch Explorers, Wasatch Outlaw Wheelers
On The Web: www.rockymountainextreme.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: 5 Mile Canyon, American Fork Canyon, Constrictor, Little Moab, Providence Canyon, Rattlesnake, Uintah Mountains
Trails Within Two Hours: 9 Mile Canyon, Cat Canyon, Chainsaw, Grand Staircase Escalante, San Rafael Swell.

Penrose is located approximately one hour south of Denver, near Colorado Springs. The trails are short but extremely difficult.

South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and some outrageous four-wheeling. In addition to the endless hills and valleys of the Badlands, the Black Hills feature some of the country's premier rockcrawling. Rapid City also has an affordable cost of living, Ellsworth Air Force Base, and a diverse industry that includes mining, cement production, manufacturing, and ranching.
Population: 89,000
Elevation: 3,247 feet
High Temperature: 86 degrees (July)
Low Temperature: 11 degrees (January)
Annual Precipitation: 17 inches
Median Home Price: $124,000
Median Household Income: $36,000
Local Shops: Black Hills Off Road, Chimney Canyon 4x4, Twisted Customs
Local Clubs: Black Hills 4Wheelers, Dakota Territory Cruisers (Toyota), Yahoo 4 Wheelers
On The Web: www.bh4wheelers.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Badlands Boogie, Calamity Canyon, Dugan's Prospect, Motherload, Old Miner
Trails Within Two Hours: Bikini, Full Size, Fruity Pebbles, Hal Johns, Hangman, Iceman, Jake, Kong, Rice Krispies, T-Back, Twister, Upper and Lower Buzzworm.

Hal Johns is just one of the numerous river-bottom trails located in the Black Hills just west of Rapid City.

Located along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, it's easy to see why this place is often referred to as "Crawlorado." Denver is home to a number of 4x4 clubs and some of the country's premier off-road shops. The weather in Denver is relatively mild for most of the year, but snow and rocky trails are abundant in the nearby Rockies. Employment opportunities are as diverse as Qwest Communications, King Soopers grocery chain, and Lockheed Martin, who are a few of the area's top employers. There's plenty of good local 'wheeling within two hours' driving, and farther afield, the legendary trails of the San Juans-including Black Bear, Cimarron, Imogene, Ophir, and others in the state's southwest corner-are only a few hours away.
Population: 2,830,000
Elevation: 5,280 feet
High Temperature: 88 degrees (July)
Low Temperature: 15 degrees (January)
Annual Precipitation: 15 inches
Median Home Price: $224,000
Median Household Income: $40,000
Local Shops: 4Wheel Parts Performance Center, Edgewater Jeep Repair, Four to Go, High Country Performance 4x4, Mile High Jeep Rebuilders, Off Road Solutions, Poison Spyder Customs, Slee Off Road, Spidertrax
Local Clubs: Big Horn Jeep Club, Colorado Go-4's 4 Wheelers, Jeep Junkies, Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Renegade Jeepers, Rising Sun (Toyota), Rover Riders (Land Rover), Trailridge Runners, Twisted Metal Off Road Club
On The Web: www.colorado4x4.org
Trails Within Half An Hour: Colorado Off Road Extreme, Lefthand Canyon, Spring Creek
Trails Within Two Hours: Carnage Canyon, Chinaman's Gulch, Holy Cross, Independence, Iron Chest, Mount Blanca, Wheeler Lake.

The Rio Puerco area, west of Albuquerque, offers a variety of terrain from sand to rocks. More of a play area than a trail, there are a variety of obstacles to challenge any vehicle.

Albuquerque is in the heart of the southwest, with plenty of red-rock four-wheeling to be found in any direction-Las Cruces to the south, Phoenix to the west, Colorado and Moab to the north. Closer to home, Albuquerque is home to Intel, Sandia Labs, and Honeywell, as well as many other tech firms. The cost of living is reasonable and other outdoor activities, such as skiing, mountain biking, and golfing are all readily available as well.
Population: 713,000
Elevation: 5,314 feet
High Temperature: 92 (July)
Low Temperature: 24 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 8.5 inches
Median Home Price: $135,000
Median Household Income: $43,000
Local Shops: 4Wheel Parts Performance Center, Albuquerque Off Road, All Jeep Parts, Desert Rat Off-Road Center, Mesa4x4, Southwest 4Wheel Drive
Local Clubs: High Desert Cruisers (Toyota), High Desert Rovers (Land Rover), Hot Wheels Off Road, New Mexico 4Wheelers
On The Web: www.nmvjc.org
Trails Within Half An Hour: Elephant Hill, Puerco
Trails Within Two Hours: Amado, Bad Hair Day, Canyon de Chelly, Coyote Hills, Edge Canyon, Gates of Hell, Gordy's Hill, Jaws of Death, Jemez, Red River, Squeeze Canyon, Tank Trap, Quebradas, Zuni Mountain.

Budweiser Canyon is one of many trails located on Peavine Mountain, directly northwest of Reno. The trails range from mild dirt roads to rock-filled canyons.

Reno, Nevada has more to offer than all-you-can-eat buffets and second-tier musical acts. With no state income tax, friendly business laws, and the highest percentage of BLM land in the nation, Nevada has a lot to offer four-wheelers. The proximity to lakes such as Tahoe and Pyramid offer great fishing and other activities that complement four-wheeling, and the "rain shadow effect" from the Sierra Nevada makes for relatively mild weather most of the year.
Population: 371,000
Elevation: 4,498 feet
High Temperature: 91 degrees (August)
Low Temperature: 21 degrees (December)
Annual Precipitation: 7.5 inches
Median Home Price: $276,000
Median Household Income: $50,000
Local Shops: 4Wheel Parts Performance Center, Donny's 4Wheel Drive World, Folbeck 4WD, Samco Fabrication, Shaffer's Off Road (Carson City), Truck Town USA
Local Clubs: Battle Born Cruisers (Toyota), Canyon Crawlers, Hills Angels, Reno Jeepers
On The Web: www.reno4x4.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Billy Bobs, Bronco Canyon, Bud Canyon, Hunter Lake, Moon Rocks, Steve's Loop, Twister
Trails Within Two Hours: Barney Riley Trail, Barrett Lake, Bear Valley, Deer Valley, El Dorado Canyon, Fordyce Creek, High Rock Canyon, Rubicon, Pine Nut Mountains, Sand Mountain.

Not all the trails around Phoenix are as hard as Pet Cemetery, but this photograph should give you an idea of the potential found in close proximity to the city.

Phoenix is as close to the center of the four-wheeling universe as you're likely to find, with an abundance of high-caliber fabrication shops and some of the most challenging and scenic terrain we've ever seen. Of course, with temperatures regularly reaching triple digits in the summer, you may only want to run these trails at night. That leaves the day to work in the booming construction and tech industries, or perhaps work at one of the local fabrication shops. Most of the trails are located either north of town near Florence Junction, west of Phoenix in West Mesa, or an hours' drive to the east in the Superstition Mountains. There are probably numerous other washes further from town, but with mild winter weather and so much great 'wheeling close to home, why travel?
Population: 3,072,000
Elevation: 1,100 feet
High Temperature: 104 (July)
Low Temperature: 43 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 7.7 inches
Median Home Price: $175,000
Median Household Income: $41,000
Local Shops: 4Wheel Parts Performance Center, 4Wheeler Supply, Campbell Enterprises, Fly-N-Hi, Randy Ellis Designs, Off Road Unlimited, Performance Off Road
Local Clubs: Arizona Classic Bronco (Ford), Arizona Dust Devils, Arizona Land Cruiser Association (Toyota), Arizona Lo-Rangers, Arizona Rock Rats, Arizona Rough Riders, Arizona Zuki Rangers (Suzuki), Copperstate 4Wheelers, Creepy Crawlers, Mesa 4 Wheelers, Ridge Running Rovers (Land Rover), Roadrunner 4Wheelers, Sonora Desert Scouts (International)
On The Web: www.azvjc.org
Trails Within Half An Hour: Ajax, Anaconda, Annihilator, Armageddon, Asylum, Axle Alley, Bartlett Lake, Bushmaster, Elvis, Hellraiser, Highway to Hell, Jawbreaker, Landslide, Martinez Canyon, Upper and Lower Firebird, Upper and Lower Terminator, Upper and Lower Woodpecker, Pet Cemetary, Predator, S&M, Seed of Chucky, Suzy's Choice, Twisted
Trails Within Two Hours: Sedona, White Tanks.

Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada and is renowned for its beauty and diversity. Unfortunately it also has the highest cost of living of any Canadian city. Shipping, mining, and timber have long been the largest industries in B.C., although biotechnology, video game development, and a growing film industry have helped diversify the economy. Vancouver is a large, densely populated city, but you do not have to travel far from the city center in order to encounter backcountry roads and trails.
Population: 1,967,000
Elevation: 7 feet
High Temperature: 71 (July)
Low Temperature: 32 (January)
Annual Precipitation: 48 Inches
Median Home Price:CD $518,000
Median Household Income: CD $37,000
Local Shops: North Shore Off Road
Local Clubs: Coastal Cruisers (Toyota), Herd of Turtles, Roverlanders (Land Rovers)
On The Web: www.bc4x4.com
Trails Within Half An Hour: Unknown
Trails Within Two Hours: Hut Lakes, Walker Valley, Whipsaw, Wilson Lake, Windy Ridge.

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