10 Popular Off-Road / Overland Trails To Hit For 2023

Top Off-Road & Overland Trails For 2023

A Bucket List Guide To 10 Must-Do Off-Road Trails & Routes For 2023: Popular Options For All Skill Levels – Detailed Guide

Off-roading is an exciting and adventurous way to explore the great outdoors. With countless trails available all throughout the United States, from easy scenic routes to challenging rocky terrain, off-roading is an activity that everyone can enjoy. For the 2023 wheeling season, we have compiled a list of 10 must-do off-road trails showcasing the beauty and diversity all over our country.

Whether you’re a seasoned off-roader or a beginner looking for a new challenge, these 10 trails offer something for everyone. Each trail has unique features, including rugged terrain, stunning scenery, and exciting challenges. Off-roading takes you to some of the country’s most beautiful and remote areas, from the deserts of the Southwest, the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and the sandy beaches of the Southeast.

So pack your gear, fuel your vehicle, and prepare for an unforgettable off-roading adventure this summer!

Remember – tread lightly, leave places better than you found them.

These trails are all relatively common knowledge, respectful trail coverage (to preserve them for a long time) is important to us.

Note: These trails are in no particular order 

How We Selected These Trails

Black Bear Pass Off-Road Trail - Ouray To Telluride

Before we dive into the list of 10 must-do off-road trails, let me start by saying that although I have yet to hit any of these trails… the only thing stopping me is the fact that they’re all more than a 24-hour drive from where I’m at, but trust me when I say they’re all at the top of my bucket list!

Now, let’s talk about how I came up with this list. I didn’t just randomly pick ten trails; I did my research and got some input from my fellow off-roaders on Instagram. After sifting through countless reviews and recommendations, I narrowed down the list based on a few key factors that I think are important for any off-road adventure.

Terrain

Off-roading is all about getting off the beaten path and tackling challenging terrain that most vehicles can’t handle. Because of that, the terrain was my number one criterion to look at. Yeah, it’s nice to have easy gravel roads from time to time, but those who are looking to off-road are looking for more of a challenge.

As I combed through numerous trails, I carefully considered several factors related to terrain:

  1. Would it be possible to traverse across for the average off-roader vehicle?
  2. Is there a variety of terrain types that offer different challenges?
  3. Is it challenging enough for it to be a memorable adventure?

Fortunately, many trails checked all these boxes and featured diverse terrain types, including rocks of all shapes and sizes, water crossings, dirt roads, mud pits, and sand. However, this post would go on forever if I listed all the great off-road trails with exciting terrain.

Views

This brings me to my second criterion, the views.

Let’s be honest here, many of us who are off-road or overland do so to test our limits and push beyond our comfort zones, but we also decide to embark on these journeys to see the beauty our world offers. The thrill of conquering challenging terrain is certainly a big draw; however, it’s not just about the journey but also the destination.

One of the biggest perks of off-roading is the opportunity to explore stunning and remote areas that most people never get to see. That’s why the views and scenery are as important as the terrain when picking a trail to go off-roading. The beauty of the natural world can be inspiring, and there’s something truly special about experiencing it from behind the wheel. From breathtaking mountains to serene forest landscapes, the views can enhance the entire experience and make it a more memorable adventure.

Level of Difficulty

Off-roading can be a thrilling and challenging activity, but it’s also important to prioritize safety and personal comfort. That’s why the level of difficulty is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a trail. Some off-roaders crave the excitement of navigating treacherous terrain and conquering steep inclines, while others may prefer a more relaxed and less challenging trail.

While searching for the top 10 best trails, I made sure to include various trails rated for different skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned off-roader looking for a challenge or a beginner just starting out, choosing a trail that matches your experience level is important. This will provide an appropriate level of challenge and excitement and ensure your safety on the trail.

Trail Length

When it comes to off-roading, the length of a trail is often a personal preference.

For some, a shorter trail that can be tackled in an afternoon may be more appealing, while others may enjoy a multi-day adventure that spans many miles. Longer trails may also offer camping opportunities and more of the surrounding area’s natural beauty, which can enhance the overall experience.

What I would say to those considering the length of the trip for their next adventure: choose trails that are long enough to provide a sense of adventure and exploration while also being manageable and enjoyable.

How To Prepare Your Vehicle

How To Prepare For Off-Road & Overland Trails

Before hitting the trails, there are a few things that you should keep in mind to ensure that your trip is safe and enjoyable.

One of the most important things is making sure that you’re prepared! This means being properly equipped for the terrain you’ll be navigating. Some of the things to consider include: having appropriate tires, suspension, and other necessary modifications. It’s also important to make sure that your vehicle is in good working condition, with all necessary fluids topped off and brakes and other critical systems in good repair.

This goes hand-in-hand with being prepared, but ensure you bring the right gear and equipment for the trail.

Some of our top recovery gear items include:

  • Winch (rated for your vehicle)
  • Recovery Rope and Straps
  • Traction Boards
  • Tire Repair Kit
  • Recovery Points
  • Shackles
  • Air Compressor
  • Communication (Radios, Garmin InReach)
  • First Aid Kit

It’s also a good idea to bring extra food, water, clothing, and a map of the area you’ll be exploring.

Maps & Route Guidance

Having a plan and knowing where you’re going is important to do prior to any trip. Whether you’re following a specific trail or exploring a new one, it’s a good idea to download all the offline maps (onX, Gaia, Google) you need beforehand to understand where you’re headed clearly. Many remote areas don’t have cell service; even if you’re in an area with cell service, it’s important to have maps available. Having offline maps can help you avoid getting lost, especially if you’re exploring remote areas that are not well-marked.

Check The Weather

Something that may be a no-brainer is checking the weather forecast, as conditions can change quickly, especially in mountainous regions. You don’t want to find yourself in a dangerous situation due to unexpected weather. Be prepared with appropriate clothing and gear, including rain gear and warm layers, even if the forecast looks good.

Safety Is Key

Finally, it’s important always to put safety first when off-roading. This means scouting out potential unknown hazards and obstacles before attempting to navigate them. It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings and stay on designated trails to avoid damaging sensitive natural habitats.

1. Mojave Road – California

5th Gen 4Runner wiith Dobinsons Snorkel
Picture: @ayeyothisiskyle
  • Location: Mojave Desert, CA
  • Pass Required: Groups of 7+ vehicles / 25+ people require a permit
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate – Difficult (depending on the portion)
  • Rear More About This Trail

The Mojave Road is a 138-mile-long trail that takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Mojave Desert. The Mojave Road has many different trails that you can explore, some of which are rated intermediate, and others are rated difficult and require high clearance and four-wheel drive.

The Mojave Road can be driven from either west to east or vice versa, and there are many smaller roads that you can explore down; however, tread lightly as it is illegal to go down any paths that are not marked. The road is mainly sandy, with large washes and plenty of rocks, and a stock 4×4 can traverse most of the road.

It’s important to note that because of the extreme heat in the summer months, many people choose to run this road during the fall, winter, and spring months. But traveling during these months also presents its own issues, such as washouts from summer monsoon floods and snow or ice in the winter months, making the road impassable. However, bringing extra water and supplies is important regardless of the temperature.

When off-roading in this area, staying on designated trails and respecting them is important. The area is home to delicate ecosystems and cultural resources, so leaving no trace and packing all your trash is important.

2. Moab (multiple trails) – Utah

Moab, Utah - Popular Place For Off-Road & Overland Trails
Picture: @evergreen_rnr
  • Location: Moab, UT
  • Pass Required: If your vehicle is not street-legal, you must purchase a $30 permit
  • Level of Difficulty: Easy – Difficult (depending on the trail)
  • More About This Trail

This one is kind of cheating because there are so many trails within the Moab area that you can go out and explore. With 1.8 million acres of public lands surrounding Moab, off-roading enthusiasts have countless opportunities to explore the terrain. Among the most notable trails include Fins and Things OHV Trail, Chicken Corners OHV Trail, Hell’s Revenge OHV Trail, and Gemini Bridges OHV Trail.

Moab offers a diverse range of trails that cater to different skill levels. There is something for everyone, from the easiest trails that are passable for a stock high-clearance 4WD vehicle to the most challenging ones that require more built vehicles. Before hitting the trails, it’s essential to know which ones are suitable for your vehicle’s capability, and experienced spotters may be necessary to navigate some obstacles.

Moab’s trails offer challenging obstacles such as steep climbs, rocky descents, and narrow ledges. Still, they also feature well-worn dirt roads with fewer obstacles. The scenic beauty of the trails is unmatched, with breathtaking views of sandstone cliffs, canyons, and the Colorado River.

It’s worth noting that Moab is a popular off-roading destination, and it can get crowded at times. You may need to spend the whole day on the trails waiting for groups to pass through obstacles, but the experience is worth it. Bring plenty of water, food, and other essentials, and be prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

3. Washington Backcountry Discovery Route – Washington

Washington Backcountry Discovery Route - Must Hit Off-Road Trails
Picture: @adi.wardhana
  • Location: Spans the entire state of Washington
  • Pass Required: None
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate – Difficult (Depending on the section you pick)
  • Read More About This Trail

If you are unaware of the Backcountry Discovery Routes, there are a few located all over the US, including Washington state. This BDR is done in 6 sections.

The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR) is an epic off-roading adventure that spans 575 miles, showcasing the diverse landscapes of Washington State. Starting in Stevenson, WA, and heading north to British Columbia, Canada, this route takes you through the Cascade Mountains and explores parts of Eastern Washington.

This route showcases the diverse landscapes that make the Pacific Northwest so captivating, from towering peaks and dense forests to picturesque valleys and cascading rivers.

As you embark on the WABDR, you’ll encounter a wide range of surfaces that will put your off-roading skills to the test. You’ll navigate through varied terrain, from dirt and gravel roads to paved sections. Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, you may encounter obstacles like rocks, ruts, sand, mud, and snow. The WABDR is an advanced trial where you can encounter steep climbs, technical sections, and demanding terrain requiring skillful maneuvering.

One aspect that adds to the allure of the WABDR is the high elevations you’ll experience along the way. The trail takes you through mountainous regions, with the highest point reaching an elevation of 7,000 feet. The roads on this route receive minimal maintenance, making it a true backcountry adventure. It’s advisable to carry offline and paper maps to navigate effectively, as GPS signals can be unreliable in remote areas.

4. Black Bear Pass – Colorado

Black Bear Pass Trail - Southwest Colorado
Picture: @swellrunner

Black Bear Pass is an exhilarating trail in Colorado that starts in Telluride and ends in Ouray. It’s important to note that this trail is rated as advanced and should only be attempted by experienced off-roaders. Along the way, you’ll witness stunning scenic views of the San Juan Mountains, Bridal Veil Falls, and Ingram Falls.

The trail is known for its steep climbs, tight switchbacks, and narrow roads with steep drop-offs. Depending on the road conditions, certain areas may be impassable. The terrain is mostly loose rocks, steep grades, narrow ledges, and rock steps that require precise wheel placement. Given the trail’s difficulty, it’s recommended to have lockers and rock sliders to protect the undercarriage, as well as a winch and plenty of working recovery gear in case of an emergency. It is worth noting that while not super technical (can be done with a good driver in stock 4Runner), it does present some dangerous spots.

The trail starts with a challenging climb up a narrow road that leads to the top of Black Bear Pass, where you’ll see the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The real test comes with the descent down the pass, with narrow switchbacks that hug the cliffside and steep drop-offs that can be intimidating, even for seasoned drivers.

Exercise caution and ensure thorough preparation before embarking on this trail. It demands technical skills and a well-equipped vehicle to tackle the rugged terrain. Don’t forget to enjoy the exhilaration that this trail offers.

5. Imogene Pass – Colorado

5th Gen 4Runner On Imogene Pass In Colorado
Picture: @go.xplre
  • Location: Telluride, Colorado
  • Pass Required: None
  • Level of Difficulty: Intermediate – Difficult
  • More About This Trail

Imogene Pass is another challenging trail in Colorado that takes you through some of the state’s most beautiful areas. The trail is rated difficult. Again, it’s recommended for experienced off-roaders only. The trail starts in Telluride, Colorado, and ends in Ouray, Colorado.

The terrain along Imogene Pass consists of rocky sections, steep ascents and descents, narrow roads, stream crossings, and breathtaking views of alpine meadows, waterfalls, and mountains. As you traverse the trail, you’ll encounter switchbacks and tight turns that require careful maneuvering. And, of course, it goes without saying to exercise caution with this trail. Similar approach to Black Bear Pass.

Fun fact, this trail reaches an elevation of over 13,000 feet, making it one of the highest passes accessible by vehicle in the San Juan Mountains. Be prepared to see some amazing views!

As you navigate Imogene Pass, take the time to appreciate the incredible vistas and the area’s rich history. Imogene Pass is famous for its mining history. In fact, you’ll encounter remains of old mining structures along the trail, which is something you don’t get to see very often.

6. The Georgia Traverse – Georgia

Georgia Traverse Overland Trail Route
Picture: @jafrush

The Georgia Traverse is about a 400-mile trail that stretches along Northern Georgia, touching the surrounding states a few times. It is a mix of paved and unpaved roads and is rated as intermediate. While the route is designed to be traveled east to west, running it in the opposite direction is possible. The trail passes through several national forests and offers scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The terrain along the Georgia Traverse varies throughout the trail. You can expect to encounter muddy sections, rocky stretches, forested areas, river crossings, and challenging hill climbs. You’ll also see that a good part of this trail is completely paved. However, it will take you through scenic landscapes, including picturesque forests, rolling hills, and serene countryside.

7. Rimrocker Trail – Colorado / Utah

RimRocker Off-Road Trail From Montrose, CO to Moab, UT
Picture: @padi4x4

The Rimrocker Trail is a stunning route spanning approximately 160 miles, showcasing the captivating landscapes of Colorado and Utah. This trail serves as a thrilling adventure, connecting the towns of Montrose, Colorado, and Moab, Utah. Whether you’re embarking on a weekend getaway to Moab or seeking an unforgettable off-roading experience, the Rimrocker Trail is the perfect starting point.

Throughout your journey, you’ll be mesmerized by the breathtaking views that unfold right before your eyes. Majestic mountains, expansive plateaus, deep canyons, and remarkable rock formations will be your backdrop throughout the entirety of the adventure. The trail provides stunning views of rugged landscapes, including the Uncompahgre Plateau, La Sal Mountains, and the beautiful Colorado River.

It is a moderately challenging trail that caters to off-roaders with some experience under their belt. The terrain presents a variety of surfaces, ranging from dirt and gravel roads to more demanding sections with steep inclines, rocky patches, and occasional washouts. It’s an opportunity to test your skills and vehicle capabilities while immersing yourself in the wild and unpredictable nature of the trail.

During this trip, you’ll be tracing the path of the historic Rimrocker Wagon Road used during the late 1800s for mining operations; the Rimrocker Trail provides you to follow in the footsteps of early pioneers. It’s a chance to connect with history while indulging in this adventure.

8. Box Canyon Road – Arizona

Box Canyon Road - Overland Trail Route In Arizona
Picture: prorngerunner
  • Location: Florence, AZ
  • Pass Required: State Trust Land permit is required
  • Level of Difficulty: Easy – Intermediate
  • Read More About This Trail

Nestled in the state of Arizona, Box Canyon Road invites off-road enthusiasts to embark on an exciting trail. Spanning about 20 miles, this trail promises a thrilling experience through the captivating landscape of the Sonoran Desert. Box Canyon Road is near Florence, Arizona, and it serves as a gateway to exploring the breathtaking desert terrain and immersing oneself in its stunning vistas.

As you traverse the winding path of Box Canyon Road, you’ll be greeted by sights of towering saguaro cacti, rugged canyons, and expansive desert panoramas. This trail goes through a narrow canyon, providing a one-of-a-kind adventure as you navigate its twists and turns. Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse desert wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, and an array of bird species.

The terrain along Box Canyon Road showcases the diverse features of the desert landscape: loose gravel, sandy stretches, rocky patches, and occasional steep inclines and descents. As you traverse the trail, take a moment to marvel at the geological wonders exposed by the canyon walls, offering glimpses into the region’s geological history. These remarkable rock formations, sculpted over thousands of years, add to the allure and natural beauty of the trail.

9. Ocala National Forest – Florida

Ocala National Forest In Florida - Off-Road & Overland Trail System
Picture: @4runnin_ry

The Ocala National Forest in central Florida offers an enchanting off-roading experience amidst its lush wilderness. With a vast amount of trails spanning over 200 miles, this forest provides ample opportunities for exploration and adventure.

The Ocala National Forest is one of the world’s largest continuous sand pine scrub forests, making it a unique and ecologically significant area. The forest is home to a rich diversity of plant and animal species, including the threatened Florida black bear and the elusive Florida panther.

As you traverse the Ocala National Forest, prepare to be captivated by its scenic wonders. Crystal-clear lakes such as Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs, and Lake Kerr are must-see destinations, providing you to indulge in refreshing breaks or moments of tranquil reflection. The trails you’ll navigate showcase various landscapes, ranging from dense pine forests to enchanting oak hammocks and cypress swamps. With each turn, new vistas unfold, offering a feast for the eyes.

Be prepared to encounter a variety of terrain and potential obstacles. While some trails cater to beginners with relatively easy paths, others present more formidable challenges. Expect uneven terrain, sandy stretches that may test your vehicle’s traction, and occasional mud patches. Keep an eye out for fallen logs, narrow pathways, and branches that may require careful navigation. Prior research and understanding specific trails and their difficulty will help ensure an enjoyable experience tailored to your skill level.

10. The Dunes – Oregon

The Dunes OHV Park In Oregon - Off-Road Trails
Picture: @_abbottwaed

The Oregon Sand Dunes, located along Oregon’s central coast, offers a remarkable off-roading experience where you can encounter sand dunes and stunning coastal scenery. The dunes span approximately 40 miles and provide a playground for sand enthusiasts.

As you explore the Oregon Sand Dunes, you’ll be treated to amazing scenic views of sand hills, valleys, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The proximity to the coast adds a touch of magic to the experience, as you can enjoy the cool sea breeze and sometimes catch glimpses of marine life. This makes it a very popular destination in the summer months.

The terrain of the Oregon Sand Dunes varies, offering something for all skill levels. There are endless opportunities, from wide-open areas for high-speed rides to steep slopes, sharp crests, and challenging trails.

What sets the Oregon Sand Dunes apart from other dunes across the country is their distinct combination of size, biodiversity, and proximity to the ocean. These dunes are among North America’s largest coastal sand dunes, with some reaching heights of over 500 feet. The vast and ever-changing sand expanse creates a distinct and dynamic landscape, providing thrilling challenges.

Final Thoughts

Popular Off-Road & Overland Trail To Take Your 4Runner In 2023
Picture: @evergreen_rnr

Whether you’re seeking breathtaking mountain vistas, thrilling sand dunes, or serene forest landscapes, there is a trail to satisfy your adventurous spirit. The key is to consider the length, location, level of difficulty, and scenic views when selecting a trail that suits your needs.

From the rugged beauty of Black Bear Pass in Colorado to the expansive sand dunes of Oregon, there is something for every off-roader to enjoy. Remember to research and prepare accordingly, ensuring your vehicle is equipped with the necessary gear and permits, and always prioritize safety during any adventure.

Ultimately, the best trails offer a combination of challenge, scenery, and adventure and are tailored to your specific needs and preferences. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable off-roading journey to create lasting memories in the great outdoors. Happy trails!

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Skot Gteene
Skot Gteene
7 months ago

Small point of correction, Black Bear Pass is one way only and starts off Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton. You cannot take it from Telluride toward Ouray. On a sad note it is likely to be closed this year due to heavy snow that hasn’t melted enough to open it this year.

Mark
Mark
10 months ago

Great article! To get started, the BDRs are the way to go. All the downloads have waypoints, gas, hotels, points of interest, etc already included. Easy to follow and adjust your levels of interest along the way. I’ve done the AZBDR, NVBDR and the CABDR. Next on the list is the WA and OR BDRs.

Anthony Bower
Anthony Bower
10 months ago

Don’t forget the Trans America Trail!

Eric
Eric
10 months ago

Did Black Bear and Imogene in 2021. BBP (Black Bear Pass) scared the crap out of our group but once we completed it we realized it was all head games and result of the videos that we see. Pack a good spotter and follow his/ her direction and you’d be ok!

Once you complete BBP and then do Imogene then it was really nothing… could be that we did both trails from the Ouray side and dropped into Telluride and that made things a lot easier.

Some people do BBP in the morning, have lunch in Telluride, then go back to Ouray through Imogene. It’s doable, but we just didn’t.

Eric
Eric
10 months ago
Reply to  Marie Dubray

you can see them at here
just need to scroll down all the way lol that trip was in 2021.

in_a_4runner
in_a_4runner
10 months ago

This is wonderful Marie, I was waiting for an article to drop other than a MOD or Upgrade to the 4Runner vehicle. These type articles should be posted often . . . This is just Amazing! Some other articles could be on Recovery Techniques, Camp Kitchen recipes or Gear, Other Resources on Trails Rides, Meetups & such. What do we know about “Death Valley”? Alabama Hills? Geology Tour? Or Spots at Big Bear & Big Sur? Reading your article, encourages me break out the Map on Mojave. I can’t wait until your next post

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