Where to Go Off-Road

How to Find the 4x4 Hot Spots

A 4x4 on a mountain trail

Ozgur Donmaz/Getty Images

You’ve got the ultimate 4WD vehicle that will take you off-road. Now, how do you find new places to ride? Maybe you want to try out the trails for the very first time, and you’re looking for beginner trails with an “easy” rating. Maybe you’ve managed to find a few places on your own, but now you’re looking for some more challenging backcountry 4WD roads.

Either way, here’s how to find new trails and maps in your area!

Join a Local 4x4 Club

By joining a local club, not only will you have someone to explore new trails with, but you’ll also have the benefit of knowledge and experience, as well as personal assistance, should you need it.

Active 4WD clubs typically hold meetings, as well as scheduled off-road trips. It’s a good idea to attend a club meeting first to get a good feel for the group before you head out on the road with them. Some clubs are family-oriented, while others tend to be more party-oriented, so you want to make sure you pick one that meets your personality.

Contact Your Local Association of 4WD Clubs

Most states (or sometimes regions) also have an Association of 4WD Clubs. These organizations help to put you in touch with the most active, best club for your specific interest and abilities. These organizations are also up-to-date on the latest land issues in your area, and they work to keep public lands open to public access.

Buy a Trail Map or Guidebook

You can find trail maps and backroad guidebooks in four-wheel drive accessory stores and map stores. They tend to vary in the degree of detail they provide. For example, you might find one written specifically for a particular trail. Or, you might find one that’s more regional in nature that includes several maps and tips regarding an entire area or region. A simple atlas will help you locate the public lands in your area, such as State Parks, State Recreation Areas, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), State Forests, National Forests, Off-Highway Vehicle Areas (OHV), State Vehicular Recreation Areas (SVRA).

For even greater detail, consider a DeLorme Atlas for your particular state. In it you’ll find topographical detail, most of the major backroads, and a handy index for quick reference to the detailed pages for each trail in your state and GPS coordinates, too.

Those who manage the public lands in your area also produce detailed maps for those specific areas. For example, the Bureau of Land Management provides a variety of maps and Desert Access Guides, and the National Forest Service maps are great because they clearly indicate dirt roads vs hiking trails, and whether or not a road is strictly a 4X4 road or not.

Look in Your Local Phone Book

Believe it or not, the trusty old phone book is still one of the most reliable ways to get to the source. As far as public lands go, you’ll want to look under the Government pages (usually a different color than the rest of the pages in the phone book).

Federal lands are found under the “United States Government” pages. For example, for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, look under the “U.S. Department of Interior”. National Forests are found under the “U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

For state parks, forests, and recreation areas, you’ll want to look under the State Government pages. They are usually found under the “Department of Environment and Conservation” or “Department of Environment and Protection.”

For city parks and recreation areas, look under the “City Government” pages.

Contact the office and ask for the person who is in charge of backroad activities or off-road driving. In addition to directions to the trailhead and basic guidelines for off-road travel, each office should also be able to provide you with trail maps and other material about the surrounding area. They will usually mail that information to you, or you can pick it up on-site.