If your preferred way of enjoying Mountain House is on an off-roading adventure in your trusty 4WD, quad, or Side-by-Side, here’s a look at some of the best trails in the U.S.: from the Appalachian highlands and the Florida pinewoods to the plateaus of central Utah and the granite backcountry of the Sierra Nevada. If you haven’t hit up some (or any) of these topnotch routes, grab that bucket list and get the inspirational juices flowing!
Listed in no particular order, the following includes both specific routes and entire trail networks.
The redrock country around Moab, Utah is not only some of the most dazzling scenery in the world: It’s also absolutely legendary off-roading territory. You’ve got no shortage of incredible 4WD routes, but one of the easy standouts is the evocatively named 4,700-foot Poison Spider Mesa northwest of the community.
The substrate encompasses everything from powdery sand in washes to plenty of raw sandstone, and the roughly 10-mile-long route—also coveted by mountain bikers—involves no shortage of switchbacks and steep grades. And from the rock arches for which Moab’s neighborhood is famous for, to long views to the (often) snowcapped La Sal Mountains, the vistas are outstanding.
You can make a more challenging loop of the otherwise out-and-back Poison Spider Mesa Trail by combining it with the steep descent of the Portal Trail.
The Moab area isn’t the only four-wheeler mecca of national renown in Utah. Set in the Fishlake National Forest, the Paiute ATV Trail is easily one of the largest ORV trail networks in the U.S.: The main loop is a “mere” 275 miles long, but there are better than 1,000 additional miles of spur trails to explore as well. The scenery—especially in fall, when the aspens are doing their wall-calendar-worthy color show—is epic, and you’ve got a number of hamlets, from Richfield to Salina, that offer rider-friendly dining, accommodations, and services.
Technically part of the Rubicon Trail, which crosses the Sierra Nevada between the Gold Rush outpost of Georgetown and Lake Tahoe, is on a maintained roadbed, but much of it’s a rough-and-tumble jeep trail, and the whole shebang’s considered one of the great four-wheeling challenges in the country.
Once part of an indigenous path across the Sierra crest, the 22-mile-long Rubicon involves some gnarly rock-crawling and boulder-bashing along its rugged, up-and-down course, which includes such obstacles as the Post Pile, the Old Sluice Box, and the Soup Bowl.
Like Moab, the town of Ouray, Colorado, nestled in the mighty San Juan Mountains, is a famous jumping-off point for a rich network of four-wheeling trails. Instead of southeastern Utah’s slickrock, though, these trails weave their way through the sprawling high country of the Southern Rockies, offering top-of-the-world sorts of adventures.
Among the truly homerun options is the 75-mile-long Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, a 4WD circuit that takes in two grand mountain passes and tops out past 12,000 feet. Along the way you’ll pass through ghost towns from the San Juans’ mining heydays and drink in some jaw-dropping scenery, including such awesome peaks as the iron-oxide-rich Red Mountains; the king Fourteener of the San Juans, 14,321-foot Uncompahgre Peak; and the Matterhorn-lookalike Wetterhorn.
Windrock Park is the largest privately run riding zone in the country, boasting more than 300 miles of trails lacing through some 73,000 acres. The diversity of routes accommodates all kinds of off-road vehicles, from dirt bikes and ATVs to UTVs and full-size 4WDs. With a campground, general store, and other on-site amenities, this is quite the playground for off-roaders!
Encompassing more than 700 miles, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in southern West Virginia constitute one of the most extensive off-roading networks on the planet—a worthy Eastern counterpart to the Paiute Trail. The Hatfield-McCoy routes offer a wide array of difficulty levels, introduce you to the beauty of the West Virginia mountains, and stretch across multiple counties with a slew of ATV-friendly towns providing perfect stopovers. They don’t call the Hatfield-McCoy system “Trails Heaven” for nothing…
The 385,000-acre Ocala National Forest in central Florida is one of the Sunshine State’s most popular off-roading areas, as a number of OHV routes are maintained that offer riders the chance to explore lake-scattered subtropical backwoods. Two of the prime routes are the 125-mile-long Ocala North OHV Trail, which includes sections open to motorcycles, ATVs, Side-by-Sides, and other vehicles, and the 47-mile-long Ocala Adventure Trail, which accesses the outstanding Big Scrub: the largest contiguous swath of the imperiled sand pine scrub ecosystem anywhere.
Nothing like a lunch break on the trail or a dinner feast at a backroads camp with some quick-to-prepare and utterly delicious Mountain House meals packed on your four-wheeler! And check out this blog post for an essential gear list for off-roading adventures!