Are you new to off-roading and looking for some best off-road trails to explore, or are you a seasoned wheeling veteran seeking new resources to find a new trail to venture on? Regardless of your experience level, in this article, I’m going to share with you some tools and resources that I’ve been using, which I believe will be valuable in helping you venture onto your next trail adventure.
Before exploring resources, it’s crucial to remember an important message. You’ve heard it before in the beginner guide to overlanding and other articles in our blog, but it can’t be overstated enough: please travel responsibly on the trails. It’s been my motto for years, and it’s crucial to ensure that we don’t damage the trails, drive recklessly, or wander off designated paths. We must be responsible for everything we bring and take it out, leaving no trace behind and improving the environment. It’s our responsibility to maintain these paths open for future generations to enjoy.
Now, let’s move on to the first couple of resources. You may hear a lot of finding trails by joining local groups, guide books or GPS apps, as I mentioned in the earlier article overlanding on a budget. But in this article, I will sort all these resources into 10 ways.
General Google Search
The initial search option available is a standard Google search, as expected. It is common knowledge that Google’s algorithm presents varying search results based on the keywords entered and the geographical location of the user. For instance, if a user in the United States searches for hiking trails in Mexico, the outcomes displayed may differ from those seen by a user in Mexico. Therefore, searching for trails in a foreign country is advisable to open a new incognito window in the Chrome browser.
So it’s better to search the off-road trails in your area. Let’s say search keywords”off-road trails in San Diego” for relevant information. Upon conducting this search, I found a good assortment of off-road trails in San Diego and some YouTube trail videos, including a Corral Canyon trail. Check out the first one for the Corral Canyon OHV area. I didn’t find much information on Google about this area， but I clicked on the website, and it took me to the United States Department of Agricultural Forest Service. They did a great job of providing information about trails, camping, hiking, and fishing in their parks. I found out that this particular trail is located in the Cleveland National Forest.
The Forest Service website provided a map and information about the trail’s difficulty level, but there weren’t GPS coordinates or detailed specs about obstacles on the trail. Nonetheless, it’s still a great website to check out if you want to explore the area.
You can also search keywords by “OHV State name”, such as OHV California”, you can see plenty of trails websites and the national forest service. While it had some great information, unfortunately, it required payment to download the map or GPX files. Instead, I recommend checking out other websites such as BLM, OHB, and National Forest.
Google Maps for off-road trails
When you do a general google search, Google Maps also come as as results. Google Maps is another resource for finding trails. I often use this tool to search for green areas like parks and explore the surrounding roads and paths. I enjoy discovering new trails by wondering where a particular road or path leads.
One of my favourite trails, the Black Mountain trail, was actually discovered a couple of years ago while using Google Maps. I have since spent a considerable amount of time on this trail. I highly recommend using both trailsoffroad.com and Google Maps as excellent resources for finding new trails.
Find off-road trails on Bureau of Land Management
The second resource is checking out the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, which are usually quite open and offer plenty of space to explore with few restrictions.
Check on the site, and you will see the information of OHVs on public lands. By Clicking “find an OHV area”, you can search the area by state, vehicle and keywords.
Let’s attempt to locate some areas in Arizona. Once you explore the region, you’ll come across many suggestions, which is an excellent method to gain a broader understanding of all the domains in the state. However, it may not necessarily provide precisely what you’re seeking. Hence, there is an alternative option available.
So you can use site search by some specific field. Let’s search the keyword “Barstow”, and it will lead you to the page of the Barstow field, and you will see all the recreation areas.
And this area drew my attention, El Mirage OHV area. El Mirage is a popular location for the motion picture industry, where many major movies have been filmed, including Terminator, Star Trek, There Will Be Blood, Tommy Boy and more.
The region encompasses 27,275 acres with recreation opportunities for motorcycles, ATVs, trucks, cars, buggies, land yachts, model airplanes, model rockets, ultra-light aircraft, gyrocopters, and parasails. El Mirage also has campsites and an ATV technical course.
So BLM site is quite useful for exploring some areas around you.
Among all these trails site, I still found a very useful one and it’s entirely free – TrailsOffroad.com. They have a vast network of trails and provide a ton of useful information. On the website, you can find trail ratings, length, elevation, and estimated completion time. What’s even better is that they offer GPX files, similar to a Global Positioning file, which can be downloaded and uploaded into various apps. The file includes waypoints along the trail, and each of these waypoints typically contains information about the location. Moreover, the website usually features a video and a trail description. You can navigate to each of the waypoints to learn more about them.
For instance, number six is a scenic location with pictures and a brief description of the trail’s narrowing and cutting path. The best part is that this service is entirely free, and you can spend hours exploring off-road trails. Thanks to their excellent efforts.
Get off-road Trails from Youtube & Forums
As someone who enjoys hitting the trails, I’ve found a few resources that are incredibly helpful when it comes to finding new places to explore. Of course, there’s always word of mouth – talking to other off-roaders or outdoor enthusiasts can be a great way to learn about hidden gems in your area. But there are also several digital resources that I rely on。
One of the most obvious options is to use off-road communication tools like CB radio or ham radio to ask other drivers about good spots to check out.
Beyond those two options, I find a few other websites and apps very helpful. YouTube, for example, is an incredible resource for finding trail videos. While many of these videos are simply GoPro footage of a driver’s windshield, they can still be informative and inspiring. TrailRecon is one YouTube channel I’ve found to have some really well-produced and informative videos. But you know these are just videos, and you can NOT get a whole lot of details about GPS coordinates and offshoots and scenic stuff.
Forums can also be a great place to find information about trails in your area. While there are definitely some great forums out there, OverlandBound and the JK Forum are two that I’ve found to be pretty helpful. These forums allow you to connect with other off-roaders and get recommendations for trails to check out.
Online groups and communities
never underestimate the power of word of mouth, even in the digital age. The Internet has opened up an entire world of online communities and Facebook groups where you can gather valuable insights and the latest updates on various fields.
To make the most out of these online communities, you must find the right groups that cater to your needs. For instance, you can search for Facebook groups that focus on specific vehicle types or field names. Alternatively, you can look for general “overlanding” or off-road trail groups that offer a more comprehensive range of information.
However, if you want to get the most relevant and concentrated information, you should join groups specific to your local area. Look for groups named after the state or road name, where you’ll find people familiar with the area and can provide valuable insights and recommendations. You may even find local enthusiasts willing to offer help and support, which can be invaluable when planning a trip.
I have also come across numerous trail communities’ websites. These websites often facilitate offline events such as hikes, treks, and other trail-related activities scheduled in advance. These events allow community members to come together, enjoy nature, and foster a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals who share a love for the outdoors.
Apart from offline events, these communities also plan trails in advance and make them available on their websites. This information helps people looking for a specific trail plan their trips accordingly. Additionally, these communities often recruit members to join their events, which can be a great way to meet new people and make friends with similar interests.
These are two apps that I think you’ll love if you’re not already using them. The first one is the Gaia app. I’ve been using it for a long time now, and you guys will see it in my Jeep when I’m out on the trail. It is a great resource for not only tracking your routes and giving you information about where you’re at, but you can also use some of the map overlays that they have to find new trails. I do it all the time. I’ll break out my iPad when I’m out there and be like, “Oh, there’s this nice little offshoot. Let’s go explore that.” It’s a really great app.
The other navigation apps that I really like is the Magellan TRX app. It’s also a very informative app. It allows folks to upload trails that they’ve been on. So, there are thousands and thousands of trails across the United States that people have uploaded and put information about on it. It’s a really good resource. I used to have the Magellan TRX 7 in my Jeep, but I found that that thing just didn’t work well for me. However, I love the software on my iPad. It’s really good. Both of these apps you can use on your phone, on your iPad, and your desktop computer.
Standard Paper Map
Despite all these digital resources, I think there is one resource is often overlooked, which is a standard map. You can find maps at many places, including Amazon, local stores, gas stations, visitor centres, and ranger stations. National Geographic prints excellent maps with a ton of detail, and the US Forest Center also produces high-quality maps.
I am a fan of paper maps: they provide a larger, more detailed picture of the area you’re travelling in than a GPS screen. This can help you better understand the terrain, geography, and potential hazards. And you can use a paper map to plan your route in advance and mark important waypoints or landmarks, such as fuel stations or rest areas. This can help you avoid getting lost or stranded without fuel.
It’s essential to remember that if you use a map, you need to bring it with you and have a compass. You should also have some navigation skills. The topography on a map provides details that you might not find on GPX files, making it an invaluable tool. Maps are incredibly valuable and should not be discounted.
off-road Trails Guide Books
When I started off-roading, books were among the best resources I found for finding trails. Over the years, I have used some great trail guides, and one of my favorites is the one by Charles Wells and Matt Peterson. The book is called “Guide to California Backroads and 4×4 Trails”. This book is available on Amazon, and the authors have also written several other guides. I know there’s one for Utah there’s one for Colorado and some other places across the US as well I think there’s an Arizona one too.
There are many books out there that provide information on trails, history, and other routes that you could take from those trails. They can also be a great resource for camping sites and other useful information while on the trail.
Local Ranger Station & Club
Another great resource for finding fun and great trails is the local ranger station. When you visit the local ranger station, you can find a lot of information that may not be in a book or online. The rangers are always out on those trails and can tell you about the great places to go, trail conditions, closures, and any other important details. Be brave to say Hi to them, and I bet you will leave with a great wealth of knowledge.
Your local off-road club is a great resource if you want to connect with other off-roaders. You can go online and search for a Jeep Club, Off-road Club, or Toyota Club in your city or county. You can also search on Facebook for specific clubs in your area. Connecting with these people is great because they have already traveled the trails in your area and can be a wealth of knowledge.
Talking with them online is one thing, but meeting them offline is another. Meeting people in off-road clubs can also lead to amazing adventures. You might get lucky, and someone will invite you along on a trail they know well. This is how it all begins, and before you know it, you’re having an amazing time on the trails.
The last but not least, someone will just jump into their car and explore until they meet a dead-end. While I definitely wouldn’t recommend getting lost, I do encourage you to try exploring some of those off-the-beaten-path areas.
There are always plenty of ways to find trails. You never know what you might discover! Just remember, it’s important always to travel those trails responsibly.