There are tons of amazing off road vehicle destinations in the U.S.—from the Chugach wilds of Alaska to the sandy tracks meandering through Florida’s Ocala National Forest. In West Virginia, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System tempts with one of the country’s most extensive off road trail networks spread out across more than 600 miles of rough-and-tumble Appalachian terrain.
Moab, Utah’s slickrock trails are some of the most celebrated—and all-around scenic—anywhere on the planet. Utah also plays host to the acclaimed, 275-mile-long Paiute Trail (parts of which are width-restricted routes), portions of which scrape past 10,000 feet in the high country of the Fishlake National Forest and surroundings. The San Juan Mountain backcountry around Ouray, Colorado also boasts an exceptional off-road vehicle trail network.
Sand lovers have the world-famous playground of the Imperial Sand Dunes outside Glamis, California at their disposal, plus the extensive dune fields of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the Beaver State’s south-central coast, the interior sand-scapes of Oklahoma’s Little Sahara Dunes along the Cimarron River, and the Lake Michigan dunes of Michigan’s Silver Lake State Park.
The list goes on, but to tighten the focus a bit, here’s a profile of just three of the best off-road trails in America.
Poison Spider Mesa (Moab, UT)
The 4WD trail network in the extraordinary Colorado Plateau hinterland of Moab, Utah—one of the world’s great adventure outposts—offers some fantastic side-by-side circuits. Among the very best is the legendary Poison Spider Mesa, a sandstone upland rising to 4,700 feet in the meander loop of the Colorado River west of town.
Open to UTVs as well as jeeps, ATVs, and mountain bikes, the Poison Spider Mesa Trail encompasses roughly a dozen awesomely varied miles: You’ll motor across soft sand, gritty gravel, and bare slickrock as you climb washes and impressive switchbacks to the heights of the mesa. You’ll have great views of the Moab Valley, the rugged fins between the Moab Rim and Behind the Rocks, and the high peaks of the La Sal Mountains to the east. Closer at hand are such landmarks as Little Arch, Jeep Arch, and the aptly named Pig Rock.
You can ride Poison Spider Mesa as an out-and-back, or make a more difficult loop of it by combining it with the Portal Trail.
Besides the moderately challenging 4WD track and the outstanding scenery, Poison Spider Mesa offers some amazing looks—right near the trailhead parking lot—at indigenous Fremont Culture petroglyphs and some genuine Jurassic-age dinosaur tracks in hefty rock slabs.
Wildcat Mountain: Hidden Falls Adventure Park (Marble Falls, TX)
With nearly 240 miles of OHV trails lacing its 3,000 acres of sun-blasted Texas Hill Country, Hidden Falls Adventure Park is one of the premier off-roading areas in the Lone Star State. A side-by-side has the full network of routes open to it, and some of the best—and toughest—await up on Wildcat Mountain in the heart of the park. Multiple trails (and part of Hidden Falls road system) access the peak, including the boulder-strewn and ledge-broken Wildcat Stairway—a full-size trail ranked in the toughest category—and the twisty, ATV/UTV-only Wildcat Trail.
You’ll have some nice Hill Country views from the top of Wildcat, but what’ll stick in your mind the most are the rocky, rutted tracks down in the rawbone scrub woods on its flanks.
Drummond Island (MI)
Set in the oceanic expanse of Lake Huron, Drummond Island boasts the most extensive closed-loop off-road vehicle trail system in the Wolverine State, and UTVs have plenty of mileage to cruise on these mostly state-owned lands. Deep forests, wildflower glades, and some rugged island ridges await you amid one of the top four-wheeling destinations in the Upper Midwest.