If you are accustomed to city pavement, you quickly discover learning to drive off-road involves acquiring some new techniques. While the challenges of the rugged roads look enticing, the last thing you want to do is crash and burn your prized Jeep. Here are a few trails and quick Jeeping tips you’ll need to safely navigate through your first few off-roading adventures.
The first thing to do is accustom yourself to uneven surfaces, ruts and bumps, twists, turns and steeper grades than you’ll find on a paved highway. Bring along a buddy Jeep, drive at a relatively slow, even pace, and explore some of the easier Jeep trails before biting into more extreme terrains.
For those with some experience, these 5 Winter Riding Destinations will better satisfy your off-roading hunger.
The Santa Clara Divide Road
A very popular road is the Santa Clara Divide Road, which begins on the paved Sand Canyon Road, east of Santa Clarita, California. It is an easy trail for 4WD and for 2WD with high clearance. The Divide Road is a one-lane paved road leading to Magic Mountain that breaks off into several trails, some a little more difficult than others. The most difficult of the various trails is the Beartrap Canyon Trail. You cannot access the top of Magic Mountain, as the gate has been closed by the forest service. You can, however, move along the ridge toward the top without very much trouble. The trail is uneven and ranges from graded dirt to some paved sections. This is thirty miles of fun, with spectacular scenery, on a shelf road, with elevations ranging between 2,600 and 6,400 feet.
Apex Road, Colorado
Those who read our piece on the Warden Gulch Cleanup know Colorado has a lively off-roading scene and there’s no reason there wouldn’t be will all of the prime off-roading trails open to the public. on West of Central City, Colorado, you can find the Apex Road leading you to the very small town of Apex – another great destination for those with limited off-road experience. Once a bustling mining camp, it now contains a handful of run-down buildings and a few colorful locals.
The Apex Road Trail is a multiple route trail used primarily by four wheel drive vehicles and is agreeable for all skill levels. It has some elevation, but only two steep inclines. While most of it is gravel, parts are dirt with shale fragments and rock litter. For more challenging trails, Colorado locals advise you join up at a meet and tag along, as frankly, most Colorado off-road trails are difficult.
Schnebly Hill Road
The quality of the thirteen mile Schnebly Hill Road depends greatly on the weather and the last time a grader has been through it. The unpaved trail is steep, twisted, and littered with rock debris. It will carry you through red rock mesas into Ponderosa Pine, ultimately leaving you in Sedona, Arizona. An extremely scenic route, it is passable for both four wheel drive and two wheel drive with high clearance. The town of Sedona has a year round population of around 10,000 and is a popular resort near Red Rocks Canyons and ancient Sinagua Indian ruins. The advantage of Schnebly Hill Roads is that once you’re in the area, you’re among the professional rock crawlers and can observe how they do it.
Harkers Island, North Carolina
This sparsely populated, unincorporated town is sheltered by the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Accessible by road, it also lays claim to some of the best Jeeps trails in the state. The trails are mostly dirt and sand, rutted and at a very low elevation. While the beach itself permits four wheel drives, they ask that in all inland areas, you stick to the trails and take care not to destroy the delicate eco-system. They advise lowering the air in your tires while on the beach and looking out for sun bathers.
Iron Range, Minnesota
Minnesota has some pretty rugged territory and much of which is not easily accessed unless you own a four wheel drive vehicle. Iron Range, named for its rich supply of iron ore, has recently developed as a popular tourist destination. It has over thirty-six miles of off-road trails, including the eleven mile Chisholm Trail that wanders through a varied terrain of mixed pines, hardwoods and abundant wildlife. Ranging from easy to difficult, depending on the weather, the dirt trail has some elevation and a number of rocky ridges. Many of the old mining pits have filled with water and now contain lake trout. The trail is closed during hunting season, but open for the rest of the year.
What local trail would you recommend for beginners?