Top 13 Off-Road 4×4 Trails & Areas To Explore In Southern California: User-Sourced Reference

5th Gen 4Runner Off-Roading In Southern California

Explore Southern California Through These 4×4 Trails Rated For All Skill Levels

Welcome back to an all-new post featuring the top trails and OHV parks across America! Last time, we covered trails and areas to off-road in Nevada.

In today’s post, we are taking a look at trails across southern California.

Embarking on an off-road adventure in SoCal is nothing short of an adrenaline-fueled escapade. You have all sorts of terrain and different obstacles that you can test out. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the fan-favorite trails and OHVs each offering picturesque landscapes and unique paths for all experience levels. Gear up as we explore off-roading across southern California’s diverse and breathtaking terrain.

Let’s dive into this week’s fan-favorite trails!

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Each week, we cover new areas across the country to highlight the top off-road & overland trails.

Note: The trails listed below are in no particular order.

1. Johnson Valley OHV – Landers

5th Gen 4Runner at the Johnson Valley OHV in Landers, California

Submission By: Cameron (@driftrunner805)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

The Johnson Valley OHV is such a cool place to explore. I like that there are lots of flat surfaces to slide around, while also having a bunch of dunes and dirt jumps to fly over. I’m sure you’ve seen by now, that jumping the 4Runner is something I love doing so this is the perfect place to do that. You can also go as fast as you want, which is just half the fun.

On top of having fun during the day, there are also plenty of spots to camp if you want to spend the night over there.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I would rate this area a 1-10. For the most part, this OHV is super easy, with 2WD trails. You can also experience super difficult rock crawling spots that most people can’t make it up. There are obstacles for every skill level.

2. Alamo Mountain Loop – Gorman

5th Gen 4Runner on the Alamo Mountain Loop in Gorman, CA

Submission By: Blake (@wulf_runner)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

This is one of my favorite trails because it’s so close to L.A., offers great views, and has TREES! It’s also the perfect trail for a day trip with the family and has many great spots on top of the mountain to set up a day camp.

It’s located within the Hungry Valley SVRA and will cost $5 per vehicle to enter for the day (well worth the money). The trail is about 25 miles long and takes roughly 4 hours to complete. It starts at an elevation of 3,500ft and climbs to over 7,000ft offering exceptional views of the Los Padres National Forrest.

This trail is a must-do for anyone in the area!

What Would You Rate This Spot?

This is a super easy trail. It’s rated 2/10 on onX and any stock SUV can handle it. If you’re looking for a challenge this trail isn’t for you. If you’re just looking for a quiet relaxing ride in the wildness and a break from the busy city, this trail is perfect for that.

I highly recommend it for someone just getting into off-roading and doesn’t know where to start. As always with any trail, take your trash with you and leave no trace so others can continue to enjoy access to the trails.

3. Joshua Tree National Park – Joshua Tree

5th Gen 4Runner in Joshua Tree Area located in Joshua Tree, CA

Submission By: Allison (@charming4runner)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

There are several trails within the National Park, each showcasing unique desert landscapes. You’ll encounter a diverse range of natural wonders, from Joshua Tree forests and piñon pines to magnificent boulder fields and ancient volcanoes. Exploring abandoned mine sites and cabins can add a touch of history to your journey.

This serene environment invites you to slow down and appreciate the subtle beauty that the desert has to offer. Depending on the time of year, you might be treated to vibrant displays of wildflowers or have the opportunity to spot fascinating wildlife such as bighorn sheep, tortoises, tarantulas, birds, and butterflies.

You can also camp in designated campgrounds or find a secluded spot on BLM land to escape the crowds. Don’t forget to look up at the mesmerizing dark night skies! While the Park itself doesn’t have open riding areas or extreme hill climbs, fear not! Just outside the Park boundary, you’ll find a multitude of trails on BLM land waiting to be explored. And if you’re up for more adventure, Johnson Valley is a short drive away, offering more challenging trails.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

The park offers a range of trails with varying difficulty levels, typically rated from 1-5/10. However, it’s important to note that after a significant rain event, the ratings may change due to potential flash floods, which should be taken seriously. Be cautious of soft sand, sharp or larger rocks, and large ruts. For those seeking more challenging experiences, the adjacent BLM land and Johnson Valley offer trails that can push your limits to the max!

To ensure a well-informed adventure, the NPS website provides some detailed trail descriptions that can guide you in selecting the perfect route. Before setting off, be sure to check the Park’s website for any closures or restrictions that may be in effect. Even if you plan to tackle an easy trail, always be prepared. The desert is a rugged environment, and it’s important to note that cellphone signal is limited or nonexistent in this area.

4. Diablo Drop Off – Anza-Borrego

5th Gen 4Runner on the Diablo Drop Off in Anza-Borrego, CA

Submission By: Noy (@noy.runner19)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

This trail was the gateway to my off-road escapades—it kick-started my journey into this thrilling adventure. What made it particularly great was its accessibility. It struck that perfect balance of being easy enough that I felt entirely at ease bringing my family along. And here’s the cherry on top—it’s just a mere 1.5-hour drive from San Diego. That proximity made it very convenient; we could head out for the day and still make it back in time for a delightful dinner without any rush or hassle.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

As a beginner off-roader, I would rate this trail a 4/10. There are different off-chutes from beginner to moderate. You can decide which line you want to take, even the one that makes you yell O-Shoots!

5. 2N10 Mill Creek Rd – Big Bear

Toyota FJ and 4th Gen 4Runner on 2N10 Mill Creek Rd in Big Bear, California

Submission By: Jacob (@revenant_unknown)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I enjoy this trail for its convenience and options. You can easily drive straight up through and enjoy the scenery. It’s the perfect spot for anyone in Orange County who wants to get dirty and enjoy their vehicle. This is usually the first trail I hit when I get to Big Bear, I love it that much.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

Honestly, this trail is on the easier side. I have seen people get stuck and have helped recover, but for the most part, I’d rate it an easy 3/10 in the summer and a 4/10 in the rainy/winter seasons.

6. Pilot Rock OHV – Hesperia

5th Gen 4Runner at Pilot Rock OHV in Hesperia, California

Submission By: Dave (@t4rdave)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

This OHV is such a great area to explore, and what makes it so special is its universal appeal—it truly has something for everyone. For my wife and me, it’s become our go-to “long-cut” to the Lake Arrowhead Brewery from Hesperia to Lake Arrowhead.

On top of that, this area is special to me because I explored the OHV on my first off-road adventure. It’s a great spot for enjoying time with friends and family, and having a blast along the way.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I would rate the difficulty of the trail a 4/10 for the majority of the ride. It really does have something for everyone. It has fire roads and optional offshoots that let you test your off-road ability if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging.

7. Old Pilot Rock Trail – Hesperia

5th Gen 4Runner on Old Pilot Rock Trail located in Hesperia, California

Submission By: Dorin (@buck_rnr)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

The Old Pilot Rock Trail in Southern California is a thrilling journey that never fails to bring both excitement and stunning vistas. It’s one of those trails that consistently offers a challenge, keeping things engaging and exhilarating. What sets it apart is the breathtaking views that unfold along the way, adding an extra layer of amazement to the entire experience. This trail always manages to deliver a mix of adventure and natural beauty that keeps me coming back for more.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

There are plenty of challenging lines and it always changes due to weather conditions. With hill climbs, descents, and off-camber sections, I’d give it a 6/10. No matter how many times you’ve run it, there’s always a little pucker.

8. Anza-Borrego Area – Anza-Borrego

5th Gen 4Runner in Anza-Borrego, California

Submission By: Ray (@ray0ta)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I’ve only been here once pretty recently for a weekend camping trip and man I fell in love with the place right away. Mainly because of the countless trails in Anza-Borrego, it gives you a lot of room for fun activities. Kind of like a free for all you know?

What Would You Rate This Spot?

The only “difficult” part that I’ve been through was the Diablo Drop Off but If I were to rate the difficulty I’d say 4/10. It’s fairly easy for the most part but I’d recommend 4WD due to the sandy terrain. I know other trails in Anza-Borrego are pretty difficult such as the Squeeze or Heart Attack Hill but I’m mainly there for the vibes and if you’re there just for the vibes I wouldn’t even bother trying those trials.

9. Barstow High Desert – Barstow

5th Gen 4Runner in Barstow High Desert in Barstow, California

Submission By: Michael (@5thgenmike)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I’ve been working in the area for two years and there’s so much to explore and see. One minute you’re crawling up a steep rocky hill and the next it’s a wide open section with rollers and whoops. It’s always an adventure when I’m over here.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

As for rating this area, I’d say it varies out there. There are areas to ease into things and there are other areas that just go 1-10 in an instant. I would say that because of that, depending on which trails you go down you could be doing something as easy as a 1/10 and other areas that are much closer to a 10/10. If you plan on exploring around here be prepared because one minute you can be cruising at 60 miles per hour and the next thing you know you’re slipping while crawling a super steep hill.

10. West Camino Cielo Road – Los Padres National Forest

5th Gen 4Runner on the West Camino Cielo Road in Los Padres National Forest, California

Submission By: Joi (@peterpanda4r)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

This 19.4-mile trail feels like home to me. I’m a sucker for coastal trails. Besides the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Cuchima, this area offers great exploring. For the best experience, I recommend branching out to various offshoots that offer breathtaking valley views. It’ll be worth it.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

This trail offers a nice balance. If I had to rate this trail 1 – 10, I’d rate this trail a flat 6/10. If you’re new to off-roading, it can be a nice mellow scenic drive with occasional rocks and rough terrain. If you’re anything like me, definitely take advantage of the many offshoots you pass by throughout the journey that can make your adventure a little spicy.

11. Jawbone Canyon – Mojave

3rd Gen Tundra exploring Jawbone Canyon in Mojave, California

Submission By:@tundratrd22

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I love the Mojave area because it is perfect for a day trip with countless miles of trails to cover. This makes it such a fun adventure for anyone looking to go wheeling. It’s also in the flight line, so look up and you might have a trail buddy with you.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I would rate the level of difficulty at a 4/10. Some of the trails aren’t as friendly with full-size rigs like my Tundra but there is just enough mixture for everyone to enjoy. And this area is very easily accessible.

12. Valley of the Moon – San Diego

Land Cruiser at the Valley of the Moon in San Diego, California

Submission By: Alex (@4russic_park)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I enjoy the Valley of the Moon trail for off-roading because it offers a challenging and diverse terrain that tests your driving skills and provides an exhilarating experience. Additionally, the scenic beauty of the trail, with its unique landscapes and natural formations, makes for an unforgettable adventure in nature.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

Valley of the Moon Trail as 6/10 in difficulty because it presents a moderate challenge with varied terrain that is manageable yet engaging for someone with some off-roading experience. This rating suggests that the trail offers enough difficulty to be stimulating, but not so much that it becomes overly demanding or inaccessible for enthusiasts with intermediate skills.

13. Ocotillo Wells – San Diego County

Ocotillo Wells Off-Roading

Submission By: Brenan (@Trail4R)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I’m from Northern California so I don’t get down here much, but from what I’ve seen, Ocotillo Wells has some very diverse off-roading. This area is a massive 85,000-acre desert playground for desert racers, off-roaders, side-by-sides, and overlanders. Ocotillo Wells borders Anza Borrego so if you run out of spots to explore here, you can drive straight over to Anza and explore another vast opening. Ocotillo has many well-known off-road spots including wide-open desert roads for your prerunner or technical desert rock crawling trails. You’ll find everything from thick sand to graded roads and even washed-out canyons that you can drive down for miles. I was out there with a couple of local Prerunner guys. They showed me the Overlander paradise “Fish Creek”, some smaller technical trails, tight snake-like switchbacks, and a ton of other cool spots.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

You can take it easy out here or get into trouble real quick. There is no rating on the area in general as there are a ton of different trails to choose from. Fish Creek is rated a “2” in my opinion and that’s just because you might need 4WD for a few spots. Other than that, you can choose from hundreds of different unique trails out here for something more challenging.

Final Thoughts

Alamo Mountain Loop Trail

I’m sure there are so many spots we didn’t get a chance to feature in southern California, so make sure to share your favorites below. California is such a beautiful state with a variety of terrain ready for any adventure.

And don’t forget, if you want to be a part of a future trail guide post, make sure to submit your entry using the link above!

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6 months ago

interesting no one mentioned Cleghorn lol

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