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101 Places to Wheel Before You Die - Far West

Posted April 1, 2008

Far West

Arroyo Seco del Diablo, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
Location: Situated between Vellecito Wash Trail and Fish Creek Trail, the trail is generally run from South to North.N32 52.94'
Length: 8 miles
Time required: 1 hour
Experience level: Intermediate
Points of interest: Arroyo Seco del Diablo is a great trail, mostly known for the Diablo Drop Off - a steep sandy decent that is fun to run in reverse in high horsepower rigs with lockers. This trail winds through the scenic Carrizo Badlands and should be combined with Vellecito Wash and Fish Creek for fun wheeling and fantastic scenery that offers a very good overview of the Anza-Borrego State Park.
What you need: A capable stock rig or one with basic modifications - 31s, traction aids, etc.
Information: Anza-Borrego State Desert Park (760)-767-5311
---Sean P. Holman

Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Location: Miles of dirt roads located approximately 110 miles north of Reno
Time: At least two days
Experience Level: Intermediate (due to remote location)
Points of Interest: While "desert" conjures up images of an endless expanse of sand, the High Rock Desert is actually a diverse landscape home to various hot springs, settler history, and wildlife. It is also home to the world famous Burning Man festival.
What You Need: High clearance 4WD vehicle with large capacity fuel tank or spare fuel, spare parts, spare tires, and a supple suspension
Contact info: BLM Winnemucca Field Office-
---Harry Wagner

Brooklyn Jeep Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Location: The trail begins off of California Highway 62, east of 29 Palms.N34 06.82'
Length: 14 miles
Time required: 5 hours
Experience level: Intermediate
Points of interest: This is a great trail through the defunct Brooklyn Mining District of the Pinto Mountains, just north of the Joshua Tree National Park boundary line. Countless mines and challenging terrain will keep you entertained for at least half a day, be sure to combine this with Old Dale Road in to JTNP. Body damage is possible, but not likely.
What you need: Minimum of 33-inch tires, recovery gear, and supplies in case of breakdown.
Information: Joshua Tree National Park (760) 367-5500 BLM Palm Springs South Coast Field Office(760) 251-4800
---Sean P. Holman

Burns and Rattlesnake Canyon, Big Bear, California
Location: The trail head can be found just east of the intersection of Baldwin Lake Road and Vale Drive, east of Big Bear, California.N34 16.77 W116 47.78
Length: 20 miles
Time required: 4 hours
Experience level: Beginner
Points of interest: This trail, also known as 2N02, winds its way from the top of the San Bernardino Mountains down to the desert floor of Yucca Valley, taking you through rugged beauty and even an old growth Joshua Tree forest thrown in for good measure. Difficulty is low, scenery high and is the perfect day trip for the family, but you don't want to be in the canyon during inclement weather due to risk of flash floods.
What you need: Capable stock rig
Information: San Bernardino National Forest Big Bear Ranger District 909-382-2600
---Sean P. Holman

Charouleau Gap, AZ
Where it is: Northeast of Tucson, Arizona
Length/time: Plan on a long day or camp overnight to complete the approximate 20 mile trail.
The Wheeling Experience: This scenic high desert trail near Oracle offers a diversity of terrain including sandy canyons and rocky hills. With trail elevations at ~4000-5000 feet, the vistas of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado National Forest are enticing. The trail can be run year round with possibility of snow in the winter and high water levels in the washes after thunderstorms. Plan on wide day/night temperature extremes in this arid climate.
Points of Interest: The "Car Wash", a sometimes deep creek crossing can be an eye opener if the area has seen recent rains. As an aside, the Biosphere 2 research center is near here.
What You Need: To complete the trail, 32" tires and at least one locker would be advisable. Clearance issues may be a concern in rocky areas or where deep water sits after rain storms.
Contact info: The trail lies in Coronado National Forest. More information is available at:
---Jay Kopycinski

County Road 3N34, "Dishpan Trail," near Big Bear, California
Location: Approximately 12 miles of west of Big Bear, from the intersection of C.R. 1316 and Green Valley Lake Rd.
Length/time: 5 miles to Stove Flats turnoff, 10 miles to Pinnacles.
Time: 2 to 4 hours, depending on how much of the trail you run.
Experience level: Advanced.
Points of interest: None in particular, but you can run this trail knowing that you are following in the footsteps of immortals---er, former FW editors---because back in the day, we used to wheel The 'Pan every year in our Four Wheeler of the Year test. The first few miles are a rock lover's paradise---mostly uphill, with numerous "rock gardens," rutted sluices, cliffside dropoffs, and tree-lined squeezes. The trail was closed after the devastating fires of 2003, but reopened three years later. Sadly (for us), the passage of time and the evolving affects of nature have made this trail a lot gnarlier than it was 10 years ago, so we don't take stock test rigs over it anymore. For the SoCal hardcore, however, it's a must-wheel.
What you need: Advanced off-road driving skills, and a vehicle that's set up for a black-diamond trail: Low gearing everywhere; Dana 44s minimum (60s or nodular 9s would be better yet); lockers in both diffs; a flexy suspension; 33-inch tires minimum; a mandatory winch; spare 'shafts, hubs, U-joints, rod ends, and all those other parts that rocks love to eat; and the tools you'd need for field fixes.
Information: Big Bear Ranger Station, 909/382-2790,
---Doug McColloch

Dalton Highway, aka "The Haul Road", near Fairbanks, Alaska
Location: Approximately 85 miles north of Fairbanks, from the intersection of Elliott Hwy and Dalton Hwy.
Length: 415 miles.
Time: 12 to 18 hours.
Experience: Technically speaking, beginner, but . . .
Points of interest: Spectacular scenery---pristine wilderness, wildlife and desolate tundra in the Alaska north country---on this narrow and isolated 400-mile gravel/washboard road that ends at Deadhorse, near the Arctic Ocean. Built in the '70s as a pipeline road and supply route to the oilfields at Prudhoe Bay, the road is frequently trafficked by 18-wheelers, many pulling multiple trailers, and the huge plumes of dust and gravel they kick up virtually guarantee you clogged filters, a cracked windshield, and busted headlights as souvenirs. There are a few primitive campsites dotting the route, but for the most part, you're on your own here.
What you need: A knack for self-sufficiency, respect for the big rigs, and a road warrior's spirit of adventure. Also, spare fuel, food and water (you can buy supplies in Coldfoot, about midway along the route, but nowhere else for 200 miles in either direction), some stout shocks and tires, and an iron butt in general---the mostly-rough road gets more punishing the further north you go, and summer rains can wash out huge sections of it with little warning. Expect delays due to road repairs, have a CB keyed to Channel 19---it's the one the truckers use---and all the survival gear you'd need should you break down in grizzly habitat.
Information: BLM Fairbanks District Office, 907/474-2251,
---Doug McColloch

Diamond Creek Road, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Diamond Creek road runs from Route 66 at Peach Springs, Arizona down to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. While it is heavily used by river rafters as a shuttle take-out route, the bulldozed path winds down and around some spectacular scenery, which eventually ends at the mighty Colorado's edge. Creeks repeatedly interrupt the fast-descending road, making for some great photo opportunities while the final mile runs in the stream-bed of Diamond Creek. Lasting only18 miles, the route is easily completed in under an hour, though a heavy rain in the headwaters of either Diamond Creek or Peach Springs can add significant difficulty and even render the road impassable for days on end. The summer monsoon season (typically July through September) offers unpredictable conditions, so be ready to evacuate quickly. When the road is too badly damaged, the Hualapai Indian Tribe closes it for repair. Once floodwaters recede, heavy equipment typically has it back in use in a few days time. Beware of extreme heat in the summer months. A handful of sandy riverside clearings exist for camping, however you must first obtain a permit in Peach Springs.
---Robin Stover

Dusy-Ershim Trail, Northern California
Location: We could tell you, but then you might go there.
Length: 40 miles
Time required: 4 days
Experience level: Expert
Points of interest: Long regarded as California's best kept secret, the Dusy is arguably the best trail in California, with its narrow passages through trees and boulders that prevent a really good line and making body damage a high possibility. Enjoy Thompson Hill, which will make or break your trip.
What you need: Minimum of 33-inch tires, locker, body protection, recovery gear, and survival gear.
Information: US Forest Service High Sierra Ranger District (559) 855-5360
---Sean P. Holman

Florence Junction, AZ
Where it is: East of Phoenix metro area
Length/time: Area has a variety of trails from very short rock play trails to all day runs
The Wheeling Experience: This area is prime Sonoran desert wheeling consisting of sandy washes, rock crawling, and picturesque canyons. We like Highway to Hell, Woodpecker and Ajax Mine trails, Axle Alley and Martinez Canyon, but there are many more in the general area. Box Canyon just south is a popular mild trail destination. Wheeling is good year round, but very hot and dry in the summer. Flash floods can occur there. Just be mindful during thunderstorms.
Points of Interest: In the area you'll find various mining camp remnants and Indian petroglyphs carved on the rock canyon faces. Martinez Mine is a large abandoned mine that still has building structures in the canyon.
What You Need: Trails are mild to wild so suitable for a wide range of vehicles. This is the desert so you'll want to prepare for large swings in day/night temperatures and bring plenty of drinking water.
Contact info: Most trails lie within Forest Service and BLM lands.
---Jay Kopycinski

Imperial Sand Dunes
Where it is: Southeastern California near Glamis, California
The Wheeling Experience: Mother Nature has amassed a vast expanse of fine, blown sand and carved great rounded canyons and dunes across this area. People head to this sand box in droves to enjoy the awesome site of the dunes or kick up some serious sand with high horsepower rigs. It's fun to play follow-the-leader through the dunes or hang out at one of the competition hills. Best season is Halloween to Easter.
Points of Interest: Glamis on the north end has large dunes and the highest concentration of vehicles. Dune Buggy Flats (Gordon's Well) and Buttercup areas close to I-8 are popular family destinations and sport their own wide range of vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
What You Need: Most any wheeled vehicle can play in the sand here. Paddle tires get you up bigger hills, but 4WDs can do well with standard tires by airing down to increase flotation. Any vehicle running in the dunes must run a safety flag for visibility.
Contact info: Fee permits required for entry, camping and off-highway vehicles. More info can be found at:
---Jay Kopycinski

Jarbidge, Nevada
Location: 105 miles north of Elko, Nevada
Time: At least two days to scratch the surface of the area.
Experience Level: Intermediate (due to remote location)
Points of Interest: The town of Jarbidge is located far off the radar in the northeast corner of Nevada, near the Idaho border. The quaint town is miles from pavement in any direction and home to some of the best stream fishing and backpacking in the country. Jarbidge Road is famous in the land use community as one of the only roads that was reopened after being closed by the Forest Service. It crossed Jarbidge Creek numerous times and terminates at the Jarbidge Wilderness boundary.
What You Need: High clearance 4WD vehicle with large capacity fuel tank or spare fuel, spare parts, spare tires, and a supple suspension in order to get to Jarbidge. If you plan on travelling to the end of Jarbidge Road make certain that your vehicle is properly prepared for deep water crossings.
Contact info:
---Harry Wagner

Jemez Mountains, New Mexico
Location: Miles of dirt roads located approximately 60 miles north of Albuquerque
Time: One day
Experience Level: Beginner
Points of Interest: Various roads lead to remote hot springs and fishing spots, as well as the Valle Caldera and Bandelier National Monument. Native American pottery shards and excellent rock climbing routes can also be found in the Jemez.
What You Need: High clearance 4WD vehicle and a sense of adventure
Contact info:
---Harry Wagner

Lippencott Mine Road, Death Valley National Park, California
Location: On the western side of Death Valley at the end of Racetrack Road. N36 38.36' W117 34.43'
Length: 8 miles
Time required: 2 hours
Experience level: Intermediate
Points of interest: Lippencott Mine Road is a loose jagged road that clings to a hillside, bridging Death Valley National Park with Saline Valley. Be sure to spend time at the Lippencott Mine Complex, for a lunchtime vista.
What you need: Capable high-clearance 4x4, 33-inch tires are recommended. Road conditions can change depending on the season and recovery gear and survival supplies should be carried.
Information: Death Valley National Park (760) 786-3200
---Sean P. Holman

Mana Road, near Hilo, Hawaii
Location: Waimea, from the intersection of Highway 19 and Mana Rd.
Length: 45 miles.
Time: 4 to 6 hours, depending on conditions.
Experience level: Intermediate to advanced.
Points of interest: Dude, the trail's in Hawaii---does it get any better than that? But this isn't a sand-and-surf run---it's a high-altitude mountain ride around the periphery of Mauna Kea, the Big Island's biggest volcano, at elevations ranging from 6,000 to 8,500 feet. Most of the trail is graded dirt and gravel, though there are some rutted sections, some streambeds to ford, and occasionally steep inclines that can be tricky, depending on the weather. For your efforts, if skies are clear, you'll be rewarded with spectacular vistas of the volcano itself, the island's north shore, and the island of Maui to the northwest.
What you need: In fair weather, a stock Jeep with an experienced driver and the requisite recovery gear should be able to handle it. But rains can be heavy at times---especially on the Waimea side--and the trail can transform into a series of slippery slopes and sticky mudholes, so a set of aggressive tires, a rear locker, and a winch should be considered the minimum for a safe outing. Rain gear, warm clothing, and even some Rossignols are good ideas too; Mauna Kea can see snowfall in the winter, and yes, there are skiers in Hawaii.
Information: Hawaii Div. of Forestry and Wildlife, 808/974-4221,
---Doug McColloch

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