If you’ve been off-roading for a while, then you’ve probably driven over every single mile of rough terrain in your local neighborhood. If you’re an avid off-roader, you’ve more than likely done the same routes so many times, you could do it with your eyes shut. True or not? You’re now so familiar with every boulder, crevice, creek or nook and cranny when you’re overlanding trails close to home that you could probably select the right gear to climb even the steepest slope in your sleep. Yes, the one thing you never thought would happen has, and off-roading has become, if not downright boring, just a little too stale and sedate for enjoyment.
You no longer get that buzz of adrenaline you used to do when the weekend approaches and you reverse your jeep out of the garage. It’s a shame, but route familiarity does knock the edge off the excitement. So what can you do to put the thrill back in your off-roading? The answer is relatively simple. Start to plan some off-road vacations driving over the toughest off-road jeep trails there are.
Think ahead. You’ve prepared your jeep, packed your rucksack plus all the supplies you can think of that could come in handy, and you’re ready to hit the road for a real adventure. Where are you going? Slip some Beach Boys music on, because you’re about to start in California, which has some of the best North American overland routes ever.
1.Pinyon Mountain Trail, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California
If you’ve been searching for a challenge, then you’ll have found one on the Pinyon Mountain Trail in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California. While it may not be one of the lengthiest off-road drives, it’s undoubtedly one of the more testing. Expect to come across, and of course, attempt to surmount, obstacles like Heart Attack Hill and the Squeeze. Believe it, they’ve not been named lightly. There’s just enough space in the rock formation nicknamed the Squeeze to get a jeep through. If you judge it wrong and get wedged, the only way you’re going to get out of your vehicle is through the roof. Yep, it’s that tight. Even more demanding of a driver’s skills is Heart Attack Hill. It’s a slope which takes nerves of steel to navigate and even then, you’ll probably find you left your stomach at the top of this almost vertical downhill drive.
Tips: This is not a drive to do alone. Go in a group as the chances of needing to be towed out of a difficult situation are high. Don’t do Pinyon when it’s raining either, it’s way too dangerous.
2.Valley Of The Moons, Jacumba, California
What’s more exciting than doing an off-road drive in California? Doing two, of course. Yes, California really is one of the best states for off-roading. So while you’re there, head over to Jacumba and hit the trail which runs through the Valley of the Moons. Don’t expect it to be a scenic drive: this is a rocky, dusty, luna-type landscape with just the odd bit of brush to break the monotonous tone. No, the big fence you’ll find there isn’t an extra off-road challenge, it’s the US-Mexico border. What will put you through your paces are the enormous boulders and the granite slide you’ll need to drive over to get to the end of the trail.
Length: 7,5 miles
Tips: Carry a good supply of water, this is a dry, old desert. Make sure you go in the right direction or could end up off-roading in Mexico.
3.Rubicon Trail, Georgetown, California
If there’s one off-road trail which has got to be on any all-terrain driver’s bucket list, then it has to be the Rubicon Trail. So if you’re in California and have already done the previous two, you made the right choice by doing them first. After you’ve hit the Rubicon trail, which is reputed to be the toughest off-road trail in America, if not the world, you might not have a jeep left to do any more off-roading in. Is that an exaggeration? Drive it, and you’ll see for yourself, it’s not. At around twenty-two miles long, the Rubicon Trail is a conglomeration of boulders and rock faces nature might well have created just to test man and machine to the extreme.
Length: 22 miles
Difficulty: Badass bone breaker
Tips: Go with several friends and make sure they’re all carrying towing equipment, plus, throw some camping gear in the back of the jeep for good measure – in case you break down.
4.El Camino del Diablo, Arizona
El Camino del Diablo in Arizona is a real endurance test of both jeep and driver. As far as off-road routes are concerned, this trail can only be classed as long haul. The Devil’s Highway is a two hundred and fifty mile-long stretch of dirt road which snakes its way through the Sonoran Desert. The trail starts in the town of Ajo, where you’ll need to pick up a permit before setting out, and ends in the Fortuna Foothills. Don’t expect to meet many travelers crossing your path, other than a rattlesnake or two. When you’ve completed the run, pat yourself on the back, you’ve survived one of the most difficult and unforgiving road treks in America.
Length: 250 miles
Tips: Carry a plentiful supply of water. There’s none en-route. There’s also no emergency or salvage services so don’t do it alone, go in a convoy.
5.Alpine Loop Trail, Colorado
When you’ve had enough of dusty deserts, it’ll be time to expand your horizons to somewhere which promises to be a little fresher. Think snow-capped mountains, pine forests, burbling streams and cascading waterfalls. Think Colorado or more precisely the San Juan National Forest and a stunning sixty five mile stretch of off-road heaven.
The Alpine Loop Trail consist of a series of roads through and above the timberline which were cut out to act as fire breaks, but are in fact an off-roaders paradise. Go prepared to camp out overnight, because you really just won’t want to come back to the real world.
Length: 65 miles
Difficulty: Varied – from beginner to intermediate to downright difficult
Tips: Take warm clothing, it can be cold in them hills and watch out for snow drifts – even in summer. Take plenty of food too. All that fresh air does amazing things to an off-roader’s appetite.
6.Horse Hole Mud Bog, Florida
After having pushed yourself to the limit on some of the toughest off-road trails in the States, you may feel as if you’re ready for something a little different. Florida overland trails bring a whole new meaning to the word diversify. Forget boulders and stomach churning drops on the East Coast off-road trails, it’s time for mud, mud and then more mud. Or more precisely – bog. On the surface, the Horse Hole Mud Bog may not look too challenging, after all, it’s just a flat piece of ground with a covering of damp dirt, but it requires a whole different skill set to get through the slurry-like conditions. There’ll be wheel spins, splatters and maybe that all embarrassing moment when you get your jeep totally bogged down. Getting stuck solid won’t go unnoticed either, this is quite a spectator sport.
Difficulty: Fun to frustrating.
Tips: You’re going to get dirty, take a change of clothes. Mud is good for the complexion.
7.White Rim Trail, Utah
The White Rim Trail in Utah is the off-road trail to drive if you enjoy getting an adrenaline kick from narrow tracks with sheer drops by the side. Expect to be living on your nerves for three or four days, because even though it’s only a one hundred mile trip, the conditions are seriously hardcore. Once you get started there’s no turning back. Expect switchbacks which will test your steering skills, rock slides and corners so tight, your passengers will get out and walk rather than stare over the edge into the canyons below. Go well stocked with water as there’s none en-route and camping out is only permitted in designated sites. There’s safety in numbers and after a day on these roads, you’ll be more than pleased to see some fellow human beings.
Length: 100 miles
Difficulty: White Knuckle Ride
Tips: Go with other jeeps and make sure you’ve all got towing gear installed. This drive is so remote, calling out a tow truck will cost you in the region of a thousand bucks.
8.Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, Pennsylvania
There’s no better place to encounter folks with the same interest in off-roading as yourself than at an off-road trail park. Check out the Rausch Creek Off-Road Park which is a staggering three thousand acres of private land incorporating sixty miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty from easy to extreme. Drive the forest trails or do some serious rock crawling, whichever you choose, you’ll find a like-minded soul to share the experience with once the camp fires are lit of a night time.
Length: 60 miles of trails in total
Difficulty: Whatever you can handle.
Tips: Book in advance to make sure you get a place and take a friend, there’s a two vehicle minimum.
9.Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Michigan
Off-roading isn’t just about pushing your jeep to the limit. It’s also about how you, and it, get to grips with and perform on different surfaces. Silver Lake Sand Dunes in the Silver Lake State Park in Michigan, a two thousand acre stretch of shifting sands, is one of the few places where you can test yourself and your jeep in desert-like conditions. Mountain high banks of soft sand are a daunting obstacle and how you handle the accelerator is what will make you win, fail or suffer a rollover. Once a year, the location undergoes a jeep invasion, so don’t miss out on that. It’s an exhilarating event which kicks up a serious, jeep-induced sand storm.
Length: Depends how many times you go up and down the dunes
Tip: Take a shovel.
10.Imogene Pass, Colorado
Once you’ve done several new off-road routes and conquered all the surfaces mother nature has to throw at you and your jeep, you might well think you’ve got it sussed. Don’t believe it. There’s always one more challenge just that bit more daring than all the rest. Imogene Pass in Colorado, once a mine access road, zig-zags its way through gold mining country to a height of over thirteen thousand feet. Some of the new things you may have to overcome are low cloud coverage or thick fog. You’ll soon discover that off-roading adventures take on a whole new level of excitement when you can’t see where you’re going. Happy driving!
Length: 12 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to hair-raising depending on the weather
Tip: Fit your jeep with fog lamps before you go.