Off-roading takes many forms, whether you’re traveling on two, three, or four wheels. We know some AWD and 4×4 vehicles never tackle anything more challenging than grandma’s country cabin driveway. But we thought we’d take a look at some off-road spots that offer considerably greater challenges. Here are five of the best places to take your 4×4 in the lower 48.
Utah – White Rim Road
White Rim Road is 100 miles long, winding around the Island in the Sky Mesa in Canyonlands National Park. Located in the north portion of the park, it’s just 40 minutes from Moab, Utah. When the weather is favorable, the road is considered “moderate” to “difficult” for 4x4s with high clearance. In other words, a Subie isn’t going to be your weapon of choice when tackling White Rim Road. Some stock Jeeps with off-road packages might make it, but you’ll probably want something that’s got a little more mod on it, such as a lift kit, bigger tires, and skid plates. Unfavorable weather can render some parts of the road impassable, particularly the west side by the Green River at flood stage.
California – Rubicon Trail
No off-road list would be complete without mentioning the Rubicon Trail, a 22-mile stretch of trail just west of Lake Tahoe. The Rubicon Trail runs through Tahoe National Forest and El Dorado National Forest. This off-road paradise is perhaps one of the most difficult, which is why the “Rubicon” name is only given to the toughest Jeep Wrangler series. Could you take a stock 4×4 on the trail? Sure, and a few people have made it onto the trail that way. They rarely make it out the other side unscathed, if at all! Better outfit your rig with extra protection and keep your eyes open – this is bound to be the toughest day you’ll spend off-roading.
Washington – Backcountry Discovery Route
If you have some more time on your hands and a moderately-capable 4×4, you’ll want to try the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. Much of Washington State is taken up by mountain ranges and more ultra-special scenic vistas than you can count. The Route is 575 miles long, running from Stevenson to Night Hawk, on the Canadian border. Explore the Cascade Mountains on your week-long trek, which you should plan to go between June and September. Other times of the year, many of the passes impossible to traverse due to heavy snow. For an AWD vehicle, just about all of the trail is accessible, but a hard-core 4×4 is needed to get to some of the better lookouts.
Pennsylvania – Rausch Creek Off-Road Park
On the East Coast, many off-roaders may pine for trails like those out west, but the lack of high peaks seems to be a stumbling block. Pennsylvania’s Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, 3,000 acres of trails, rocks, bowls, hills, and free camping, is located about 45 minutes north of Harrisburg. Rausch was created specifically to give off-roaders a place to legally enjoy their sport. Four-wheel drive Jeeps, trucks, and SUVs are all welcome, and the trails range from beginner to difficult, so there’s something for everyone.
Idaho and Montana – Magruder Road Corridor
Also known as the Montana Road and Southern Nez Perce Trail, the Magruder Road Corridor starts at Red River Ranger Station in Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest, about 90 minutes East of Grangeville, ID. After traversing 120 miles west, most of that through undeveloped wilderness lands, you’ll arrive in Darby, Montana. The trail takes you through 2.4 million acres of the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank-Church-River of No Return Wilderness areas. The single-lane road is undeveloped and is not intended for low-clearance vehicles or trailers. For eight to ten hours, it’s just you, a million acres of wildflowers and forests, and the Clearwater and Bitterroot Mountains.
If you’re planning an off-road excursion, you’ll need to be properly prepared if you want to enjoy yourself. Make sure you equip your rig right, pack enough food, water, gas, and a first-aid kit. Most of all, use your head. Taking things fast might seem like fun, but one bad turn could easily put your rig out for good, and paying $1,000 for a tow bill in the middle of nowhere isn’t our idea of a good time.