2 Jun

How and Where to Head Off-Road This Summer

Top Places To Have Some Off-Road Fun This Summer in the North America

Off Road Beach

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 63 percent of people live in cities, while cities take up only 3.5 percent of the land. There’s a lot of room to explore, but many of us rarely make it out of our city safety zones to do so. When you do decide to go on an adventure, what’s your activity of choice? Camping is a perennial favorite. Have you ever tried off-roading? There really is nothing like the thrill of it.

Off-roading combines the visceral surge of a roller coaster ride with the joy of driving, and to top it off, you get to revel in the beauty of nature. Off-roading isn’t a tame pastime—quite the opposite. Like any outdoor adventure, it requires a specific set of skills and knowledge. And like any extreme sport, it requires caution.

How to Go Off-Roading

All Terrain Vehicle

Seems simple enough, right? Grab a 4×4 or an ATV, find an off-road spot, and go. Not so fast. You don’t want to underestimate the danger of driving on unfamiliar, unpredictable terrain in a motorized vehicle. Being unprepared could be your first and last mistake.

A beginner’s guide to off-roading can help you get the most out of your trip. Here are the primary takeaways:

Plan ahead: Research where to go (see below), consult a map, and if possible, scout the area out first before you hit it with a 4×4

  • Know your vehicle’s functions:
  • 4WD High is best for charging ahead on dry terrain; use 4WD Low when maneuvering at slower speeds, over rocks and through mud
  • Engage the differential lock when you need to get unstuck—this causes all wheels to move at the same speed so that your vehicle doesn’t incorrectly compensate in an adverse situation
  • Check to see if your vehicle has traction control for slippery terrain
  • Pack the right gear, including the following:
  • First aid kit: The best MOLLE medical pouches have everything you need and will help save room
  • A high-lift jack, spare tire, and tools in case of a flat
  • Shovel for digging out of the mud
  • Spare gas can, drinking water, as well as spare water for the radiator
  • Tow rope rated for your vehicle’s weight, a winch, as well as a phone and walkie-talkies in case you get into a real bind

The winch and tow rope will come in handy if you can’t dig yourself out of the mud. But how do you make sure not to get stuck to begin with?

If you’re plowing through mud or sand, keep the vehicle in 4WD Low and maintain momentum best you can. Should you get stuck, first dig any blockage out from in front of all tires, and decrease tire pressure to 20 PSI, which delivers the best traction. Disengage traction control. Then, engage the differential lock, put it in 4WD High, and try starting out in a higher gear than first gear. You want to access maximum horsepower—don’t gun it, and ease out.

If you’re driving an older vehicle, keep your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel to lessen wheel whip. Newer 4×4 vehicles should come equipped with damper boxes to prevent whip. If you’re going to be driving through water deep enough to get in the air intake, attach a snorkel to the intake so that your engine doesn’t inhale water and die.

Wherever you go, take your time, maintain steady momentum, and don’t try to hot-rod it on your first try.

Where to Go Off-Roading

Do you want make your trip a destination adventure, or do you want to stick around in your neck of the woods? For short-term expeditions in your state, try checking the guidebooks at your local four-wheel drive accessories store, or a map store. The DeLorme Atlas for your state includes detailed references for trails and topography for backroads. It includes GPS coordinates, and you can look into public lands with Off Highway Vehicle Areas (OHVA) and State Vehicular Recreation Areas (SVRA).

Planning on camping? Before you head out, brush up on some landscape photography tips from award-winning adventure photographer Chris Burkard. You could come home with some stunning shots and turn your adventure into more than just a joyride.

If you’re looking for fantastic off-road destinations, look no further than the following:

Cleghorn Ridge Trail

Here, in the mountains between Hollister and Salinas Valley, you can access 24 miles of trails in the Upper Ranch, where there’s an obstacle course and mud bog for real go-getters. The Hudner Ranch area is 1,500 acres with some good trails for novices and  panoramic views of the area.

2008 Land Rover National Rally - Moab, UT

You’ll need an Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) permit from the state to explore this picturesque icon of America. There are guided tours and Jeep rentals for your novice needs, and miles and miles of old mining roads and 4×4 trails for all levels of experience.  Detailed trail guides are available upon arrival.

People have so much fun here that it’s, well, insane. There are guided tours available, with 300 acres of off-roading terrain, including one gigantic mud hole you’ll want to be aware of—talk to the folks there before you head out on your own. Watch for seemingly-miniscule puddles that turn out to be mud holes.

Jeep JK Wrangler Roof top tent sunset

Spanning an epic 80+ kilometers, the Whipsaw is best between July and August when there’s less rainfall. It’s a logging and mining road, and there are all levels of terrain here, so make sure you bring that tow rope and winch. Bring your camera, because you’re in for beautiful views.

This is an 800-acre off-road park with three mud holes, a mud track, camping, food, and a “drive thru buggy/ATV wash”. Expect to get down and dirty, with tracks such as Gator Slough, “a combination of hills, trails and definitely mud”. Your family can also check out truck and ATV races, along with truck pulls.

Ever since 4×4 trucks were invented in the US, off-roading has been a pastime for just about anyone who wants to do something different and exciting in a vehicle. Bring the right gear, bring an appetite for fun, leave fear behind, and you’re sure to have a blast off-roading in America this summer! And, of course, don’t forget to bring a four-wheel drive vehicle.

About The Author:  Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer and musician from Boise, ID. As a travel enthusiast with a passion for the written word, he loves to write about different destinations and fun activities when he gets the chance. Please find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0.