There is something incredibly liberating about taking a vehicle off-road and exploring the backcountry from the seat of a 4×4 or ATV. Driving on a remote and scenic trail requires skill, precision and confidence, not to mention a healthy sense of adventure.
Just like most other outdoor enthusiasts, off-roaders enjoy exploring wild places while visiting spots few other people ever get the opportunity to see.
There are thousands of miles of off-road trails spread out across the U.S., and each of them varies greatly in terms of distance, difficulty and aesthetic appeal. If you’ve been longing to leave the pavement behind and get your vehicle a little muddy, here are the five best destinations in America to do just that.
Moab is perhaps the best-known and most well-respected off-road destination in the entire country. Located in eastern Utah, Moab features a seemingly endless array of trails to explore.
There is something for just about everyone here, from relatively easy beginner routes to challenging paths that are specifically meant for the experienced off-roader driving highly modified vehicles.
Utah’s beautiful and expansive sandstone landscapes make for a dramatic backdrop on scenic drives that can be as leisurely or demanding as you’d like. You’ll enjoy stone arches, windswept rock towers and a starkly beautiful desert setting that is ideal for camping, hiking and mountain biking too.
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Georgia
Located in northern and central Georgia, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is a mecca for off-roaders living in the South. It features more than 80 different Jeep trails to explore, not to mention some of the finest scenery found anywhere in the region.
Beginners can cut their teeth on easier routes designed to ease them into the sport while still providing breathtaking landscapes to explore. Intermediate and advanced drivers will find plenty of challenges too, with miles of backcountry trail dedicated exclusively to off-road vehicles that include dirt, mud and rocks to scramble over and around.
Grand Junction, Colorado
Colorado is blessed with riches of outdoor treasures, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that it has some excellent off-road trails too. Located in the western part of the state, not far from the border with Utah, Grand Junction makes this list simply because of the wide variety of possibilities it provides to off-roaders.
Want to get muddy and sloppy? Head up to the spectacularly scenic Grand Mesa Trail. Want to climb hills or test your skills in soft terrain? Grand Junction’s Road 29 will give you everything you could ask for in that department, and more. Is rock crawling more your speed? The town has you covered there as well.
Nearby Bangs Canyon offers plenty of technical challenges for the truly daring. There are few places that have such variety of terrain types within a relatively short distance, making Grand Junction a great destination for drivers who enjoy different off-road disciplines.
Silver Lake Dunes, Michigan
For a completely different kind of off-road experience, head to Silver Lake in Michigan, where the large sand dunes make for a fun and challenging experience. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, the dunes spread out over roughly 500 acres of wide-open space.
Driving in the soft sand requires different skills than rock crawling or bashing through the mud, but it is no less enjoyable. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that drivers feel as they crest the top of a tall dune only to go speeding down the other side.
Along the way they’ll get some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, including miles of beautiful lakeshore.
The Rubicon Trail, California
California’s legendary Rubicon Trail is 22 miles of difficult driving punctuated by some of the most challenging rock crawling found just about anywhere on the planet. This is a destination that will test even the best off-road drivers, with sections that require patience, persistence and more than a little strategy.
Not for the faint of heart, the Rubicon is a trail that is on every 4×4 driver’s bucket list and is generally the high-water mark by which all other off-road routes are measured. This trail is so famous, in fact, that Jeep actually named one of its models after it.
If you’re looking for a stunningly beautiful off-road drive through the Sierra Nevada, and you have a great deal of skill and confidence, this is definitely the trail for you.