For outdoor enthusiasts, winter is not a time to sit inside and play video games and catch up on all the latest movies. Enthusiast haul out their skis, snowboards, skates and load up their snow machines and drive their Jeep Wranglers out to the country and some fabulous off-road recreation. Check out some of the best off-roading destinations winter has to offer. Here’s a list of five great places to embark on an outdoor adventure when the snow starts falling.
Winter driving on back roads does involve learning a few new tricks. Snow and ice are pretty indifferent to the braking power of your vehicle. Just because you have a four wheel drive doesn’t mean you can turn those tight corners any faster or come to a stop any sooner than anyone else. It does, however, mean you’ll be able to navigate those barely plowed roads better and crunch through rough terrain with a lot more traction than a low-riding sedan. It’s important that, before you take your first off-road adventure in snow country, you practice stopping on ice and learn how to lean into a slide instead of trying to fight it. Do you have 4 wheel drive but are still worried about getting stuck in the snow? Grab a lift kit for you Jeep Wrangler to better navigate any obstacles you might encounter when venturing off the beaten trail.
Big Horns Mountain, Wyoming
Located in Central Wyoming, the Big Horns are a sister range to the Great Rockies. Summers in the Big Horns are a delight all in themselves. With Alpine meadows, rolling hills, sheer mountain walls and glacier carved valleys, you pretty much have your pick of terrain. The Bighorn National Forest contains thirty-two campgrounds and over 1,500 hundred trails, giving off-road drivers ample opportunity to explore the magnificent back country scenery. In the winter, the mountains lie thick in powder snow—the ideal conditions for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and trying out your snow shoes. Wildlife is abundant in this scenic area. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to view some Bighorn sheep.
Lake Tahoe boasts access to the Rubicon Trail, one of the most challenging off roads in America. It also boasts of some of the heaviest snows in the Continental United States and the largest concentration of ski resorts. While Lake Tahoe residents are very enthusiastic about their winter sports, including building snow forts and snow men, they recommend not taking any of their heavily snow clad off-roads without a four wheel drive.
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Part of the Appalachian Chain, White Mountains, which cover about a quarter of New Hampshire and part of main, are the most rugged mountains in New England. In the autumn, they are spectacular with their vivid forest colors turning shades of gold, orange and startling bright red. In the winter, the 6,288 foot Mt. Washington, holds the dubious distinction of having some of the worst weather in the world. Freezing temperatures, dense fog, and heavy snows dominate the windswept, rocky summit, making it a unique challenge to any off road adventurer. But challenges are what it’s all about, even when Jack Frost is tapping at your windows.
Alaskans never stop enjoying life, even when the temperature drops down to zero. Winter festivals begin in October with the weeklong Alaskan Native Convention. Enjoy the traditional holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, then the festivals remain in full gear as it steps into the Alaskan Fur Rendezvous, and hustles in March with the dog sled races.
Wasilla is where you want to be for your winter off-road driving. You are close enough to Anchorage to fully enjoy the celebrations, yet far enough away to escape the main crowds. Wasilla is home to more Iditarod champions than any other area of the state. You can follow the trails as the dogs are taken out to race, and best yet—the start of the Great Race itself. Four wheel driving amusements include taking your vehicle out on the lakes or driving on the equally solidified Susitna River. It’s an uncanny feeling to know there’s water underneath you, but it’s also enormous fun as you watch the dog sleds whizzing by your windows.
St. George, Utah
Utah is inviting you to join it for Winter on the Rocks. Their gathering place will be at the Washington County fairgrounds, January 27th and 28th. The twelve scenic trails featured for the event range from the beginner’s trail blazer ambitions with Mike’s Mile to the more experienced bold riders willing to take on the challenging Nasty Half.
Celebrating its third year, the event draws hundreds of off-road drivers from its neighboring states of Colorado, California, Arizona and Wyoming, as well as its own four wheel drive alliance. All proceeds go to non-profit organizations that advocate responsible use of recreational land by the public and fight against their closure. If you love off-road driving, make a point of joining Winter on the Rocks. Thousands of off-road trails are threatened with closure each year. Like many, I believe they should be open for all to enjoy, not just a few!