15 of The Best Off-Road Destinations in the United States

Hitting the open road is a quintessentially American trait, and no season calls for it more than summer. During this time, the sun is out, and the skies are clear, so it is the perfect time to explore the outdoors.

But might we suggest a new idea to make your trip more memorable? If you have a four-wheel-drive car, a penchant for adventure, and an appreciation for nature’s wonders, you’d enjoy off-roading on the countless trails that are found throughout the country.

So, to make your road trips a lot better, we’ve have listed some of the best off-road trips that you can make either on dirt, gravel, or both! Here are ten of the best destinations to go off-roading this summer season (in no particular order):

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley may sound menacing – and it is, especially around the summer. So, the best alternative is going in the spring or winter, when temperatures are balmier, and you can enjoy a lot of the roads than any other national park in the country. While around 91% of the park’s 3.4 million acres are secured in off-limits wilderness areas, approximately 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads give a lot of opportunities for exploration and recreation. This park is all about four-wheeling trips that await in numerous canyons, concealed from view of the average tourist. A favorite trail is found just south of Panamint Springs Resort, also known as Lookout City. Rising rapidly from the valley floor onto the Argus range of mountains where mining was booming until the outbreak of World War II, rock piles are strewn along the road, while scenic vistas greet you at the road’s end. There are also many exciting sites that you can visit, like famous Modoc mine, Wildrose Canyon’s Charcoal Kilns (25 miles over to the valley), and the infamous Manson Ranch, where the notorious murderer Charlie Manson hid from the police and set up his cult.

Moab, Utah

Among the best places in America to go off-roading is in the red stones of Moab, an area famed for some of the best trails in the world. It offers a little bit of everything, such as scenic scenery, sand, water, cliffs, enormous boulders, and slick rock. The terrain can be extremely harsh, requiring great physical and mechanical skill, but it’s worth the price for what a lot of people consider to be the perfect adventure destination. Trails, like the high-altitude Paiute, cuts through two mountain ranges and several miles of red rock cliffs, while bright blue skies and wildlife like deer, elk, and moose also add to the unforgettable experience.

Calico, California

What better place to drive through than a ghost town? Calico was a silver mine hub that went from boom to bust in the 1880s. It fell out of favor after hundreds of miles of tunnels had been dug into the mountains by fortune-seeking miners. It once had dozens of saloons, as well as brothels, as an archetypal Old West town. It’s since been restored and now resembles what it was like in its heyday.

The town was also designated a historical landmark and is under the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system today, visited by tourists from around the world. The colors that gave way to the town’s name continue into the nearby canyons and hillsides. For off-roaders, the real draw is just outside of town’s limits, here among the abandoned placer claims and shafts found throughout the region.

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan attract many off-road enthusiasts, but if you want to get away from other tourists, head up north, over the Mackinaw Bridge to the Upper Peninsula. Here you can get surrounded in a forest of pine and cedar, taking one of the hundreds of miles of trails that will lead you across deserted railroad tracks and high, river-crossing trestles to the remote beaches of Lakes Huron or Michigan. The region also hosts several beautiful rivers and pristine lakes, along with the second-largest waterfall on the eastern side of the Mississippi – Tahquamenon Falls. While you’ll have almost a lot of trails to choose from, Drummond Island, at the eastern tip of Lake Huron in Upper Michigan. It is ideal for advanced off-roaders, with its challenging 60-mile Drummond Island Trail, famed for its narrow trails, extreme terrain, and sheer grades.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

In Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest, you’ll not only find a huge opportunity to drive on hundreds of miles of off-road trails but some of the most breathtaking views throughout the country. A lot of the single-track trails are for the more advanced enthusiasts, with steep drop-offs, a few rocky sections, and narrow switchbacks, but the ATV trails are relatively moderate and easily driven by someone with at least average skills.
The Baumgartner area, found alongside the South Fork Boise River close to Featherville, is a popular choice, with a lot of off-roaders staying at Baumgartner Campground as it has trail access. It also has a natural hot spring and swimming hole. Aside from off-road driving, the region offers excellent hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, and whitewater rafting. It also has more than 300 species that live in this forest, including deer, elk, black bear, coyote, and beaver.

Hidden Falls Adventure Park, Marble Falls, Texas

Located just an hour or so away from Austin, Hidden Falls Adventure Park is regarded as an off-road treasure, with 240 miles of well-marked trails that can accommodate every type of off-road enthusiast from vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, and trucks. The trails are composed of everything from soft and hard pack dirt to rocky dirt and substantial rock sections. Along the way, you’ll witness the picturesque scenery that includes several waterfalls and natural springs that are perfect for taking a refreshing dip. Aside from that, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking are all popular activities here as well. So, if you want to spend a few days at the park, they offer tent and RV camping, as well as bunkhouses and cabins. Also, if you don’t have a vehicle of your own, you’ll find dirt bikes and ATVs available for rent.

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

The beautiful, lush forests of the Black Hills of western South Dakota boasts more than 600 miles of trails for off-road vehicles with a landscape that covers everything from grassy plains to heavily forested trails and thrilling rock climbing sections. Several trails are connected by 500 miles of “Roads Open to All Vehicles,” which together offer abundant opportunities for trips of varying degrees of difficulty and lengths, including an option to drive through them as loops.

The area has over 13,000 acres of forests, 11 reservoirs, and 1,300 miles of streams that you can explore, along with the odd old mining towns and sites. Campgrounds are plentiful as well, with over 30 in the forest offering easy access to the numerous trails, and a lot of other activities like fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, wildlife watching, and horseback riding. Some of the animals that are usually found in the area include buffalo, elk, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope, whitetail, wild burro, and mule deer.

Bald Eagle State Forest, Pennsylvania

The Bald Eagle State Forest covers around 200,000 acres in Pennsylvania’s Union, Snyder, Centre, Clinton and Mifflin Counties, and is considered a real jewel in the field of outdoor recreation. It spans towering, sharp ridges, and features miles of pristine mountain streams and numerous tracts of old-growth forest in addition to miles and miles of four-wheel-drive trails, dual-sport motorcycle trails and trails for ATVs as well as non-street legal vehicles. Also, dual-sport motorcyclists especially love the network of single-track and dirt roads here as they’re the most extensive network in the state and takes several days to explore fully. Aside from off-roading, fly-fishing enthusiasts can head to the famous White Deer Creek and Penns Creek, while paddlers will find the water trails for canoes and kayaks as an absolute treat.

West Virginia

There are more than hundreds of miles of roads to drive through in West Virginia, with conditions ranging from rock and gravel to sand and hard-packed dirt. Most of the mountains in the state are covered with vegetation, hickories, oaks, beech, and all the usual plants found in the undergrowth. Also, many are almost exclusively shaded in a high canopy of leaves that brings relief, especially in the hot summer season. The Hatfield & McCoy Trail System has around 500 miles of off-road trails that traverse through five counties that include systems open year-round to dirt bikes, ATVs. Also, utility vehicles, often connecting community trails that allow visitors to access “4×4-friendly towns” in southern West Virginia. If the trails alone aren’t enough to get your attention, the realization that you’re driving over some Civil War-era battlefields just as soldiers did in the 19th century, is sure to pique your interest. If you’re a newbie, try the Little Coal River Trails near Madison and Danville. The Pinnacle Creek West Virginia Trail System close to Pineville has a diverse choice for all types of riders. It is known for its incredibly scenic views in addition to being close to world-class whitewater rafting.

Molokai Forest Reserve Road, Hawaii

Unlike other forest reserves in Hawaii, the Molokai Forest Reserve is composed of multiple different non-contiguous geographic areas that reach a total of more than 11,000 acres of public land on this tiny Hawaiian Island. Driving through the Main Forest Road, also called the Molokai Forest Reserve Road, will let you witness incredible views that include waterfalls and plunge pools, sea cliffs, and Waikolu Canyon. Your off-road adventure consists of the Waikolu Lookout and the approximately 5,000-foot-high Kamakou Peak, which is covered by the Kamakou Preserve. Also, overnight camping is available at the Waikolu Lookout Campground, located deep within a hilly forest, where you’ll also witness a panoramic view of the canyon.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Hailed as one of the Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon can be considered as America’s geological masterpiece, so it’s not a surprise that it is among the most popular destinations for off-road riding within the National Parks System. Much of the surrounding parkland is operated by the Bureau of Land Management and open to off-road recreational activities. As there is a wide array of guided tours available in the entire area, this is the perfect place for those that can’t bring their vehicle or would like to experience off-roading for the first time. If you want to bring your 4WD, you’ll find several trail adventures await you, and some of them are around the canyon. One of these tracks depart from the town of Mesquite in Nevada and will lead you to overnight accommodations at guest ranches. Also, BLM officials can offer you the best advice on which trail route suits your particular needs.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Cottonwood Canyon Road, also called the Road 400, is a dirt road that joins US Highway 89 with Utah SR 12 right off Cannonville and passes through some parts of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, offering a scenic view into its center. As high clearance vehicles are required, it’s an ideal trail for four-wheeling, and drivers will be rewarded with an up-close look at some breathtaking natural features, such as colorful rock formations. If you want to walk, several outstanding hiking trails can be reached along the route as well. Some of these include the Hackberry Canyon, Cottonwood Narrows, and Round Valley Draw. Other attractions found on the northern tip of the road include Grosvenor Arch and Kodachrome Basin State Park, best accessed from Cannonville.

Lanai, Hawaii

While Lanai only has 30 miles of well-paved roads, the island has many more miles on an off-road drive, including the Munro Trail. The 12.8-mile, one-lane, the trail starts just north of Lanai City, going over the stables of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, and lets you witness the incredible vistas among the impressive Cook pine trees. You’ll also enjoy the sweeping canyon views and the chance to drive through a rainforest filled with eucalyptus, pine, ohia lehua trees, and ironwood. The picturesque lookout at Maunalei gulch offers scenic views of the surrounding islands of Molokai, Maui, Oahu, the Big Island, and the glistening Pacific Ocean before you reach Lanaihale, the island’s highest point at 3,370 feet.

Mendocino National Forest, California

The Mendocino National Forest offers the perfect opportunity for a lot of adventures, from hiking and biking to off-roading and wine tasting. While it’s near the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s still one of the state’s least-visited national forests. You can enjoy four-wheeling and then hit the surrounding wineries to try some of the region’s signature wines. The forest is California’s only national forest that is not cut through by a paved road, which makes it extremely attractive for people who enjoy the great outdoors. At its southeastern portion, Bartlett Springs Road goes into the woods, traveling through the southern edge, providing hundreds of miles of trails and spectacular views as well as fantastic camping and fishing.

Imperial Sand Dunes, Yuma, California

All of those movies you’ve watched with the hero stuck in the middle of the desert, like “Scorpion King” and “Lawrence of Arabia” weren’t shot in the Sahara, but here in California’s Imperial Sand Dunes. It is the nation’s biggest mass of inland dunes, which covers more than 40 miles along the eastern boundary of the Imperial Valley. With temperatures approaching 120 degrees in the summer months, this is the home of some of the aridest desert conditions in the US – and it’s easy to immerse yourself in the dunes and end up crossing the Mexican border. But with steep peaks rising hundreds of feet from the ground, dune bowls that are almost a mile in diameter, and one of the most scenic sunsets you’ll ever see, this is a favorite spot for many people. The area also acts as a haven for off-road enthusiasts except for the hottest months and welcomes more than a million visitors annually. Also, vehicle camping is allowed in all areas open to vehicle use, with sites available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Oceano Dunes, California

Formerly called the Pismo Beach, this 3,600-acre stretch of beach along California’s central coast is a rare gem. Almost half of its terrain is available for off-road driving, and there is nowhere else in the whole state where you can drive your 4×4 vehicle right out onto the stand, pick your ideal spot to camp, and spend the entire trip while enjoying driving across the dunes. The area is identified by conservationists, scientists, the public, and other organizations as the most beautiful, largest coastal dunes that are still under in the state. While the dune area can be fully explored in one day of driving, there are plenty of other activities as well, including swimming, surfing, horseback riding, and fishing.

Related Questions

Can You Drive In 4 High On The Highway?

In a high-range four-wheel drive, you can travel at all reasonable speeds. Engage this setting when you’re on the highway and roads are sketchy – wet, snowy, icy. It’s also suitable for level, loose-gravel roads, packed sand or mud.

Do You Have To Register ATV In Oklahoma?

You are required to register your UTV or ATV with the Oklahoma Tax Commission, who will give you a registration number along with a decal and certificate of registration. Also, the decal needs to be placed at the front of your ATV or UTV in plain sight. You also have 30 days after purchasing to register your ATV or UTV.

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