The best places to go off-roading in the U.S.

It’s time to start planning next summer’s off-road-driving trip. Image credit: Trusted Choice.

The best places to go off roading in the U.S.

It’s here — the BFGoodrich Tires Outstanding Trails of 2015 list has been announced. Each year the company selects the best trails in the U.S. based on their uniqueness, terrain type and popularity with off-roading enthusiasts. Winning clubs are presented with a $4,000 grant to help preserve access to the trails. We’ve taken a closer look at each of the winners.

Barrett Lake Trail, El Dorado National Forest, Calif.

Barret Lake Trail, California (Image credit:

Barret Lake Trail, California (Image credit:

Barrett Lake Trail is for folks who mean business. It’s relatively short but is a very challenging trail for modified, narrow, short wheel-base vehicles. Large boulders on the trail sometimes shift, increasing the possibility of vehicle body damage. Very high ground clearance and lockers are required. There’s a narrow, six-foot wide gate at the start of the trail that keeps out extra-wide vehicles. If your vehicle can’t fit through the gate, it won’t fit through narrow points on the trail. This rock crawling trail is in the Eldorado National Forest and the reward is the stunning Barrett Lake and its campground located at the end.

The trail was closed for a few years but has recently opened after a great deal of work was put into it. A bridge over Jones Creek was completed, rolling dips were built in and around two meadows, stream channels were stabilized and approaches created.

Hi-Landers Four Wheel Drive Club nominated the trail and have been maintaining it and conducting work parties to support the bridge contractor, Trails Unlimited and the EDNF Forest Service. The trail has been rerouted over the new bridge and the abandoned segments of the trail have been restored to nature. The club intends to use the Outstanding Trails funding for upgrades to the campground.

Applegate-Lassen Wagon Trail, Nevada

In 1843, part of the Applegate family of Missouri headed west along the Oregon Trail to the Oregon Country. It was a journey. Tragically, they lost two children during the voyage. Not surprisingly, that led the family to find a safer way through to the Willamette Valley. Now known as the Applegate-Lassen Wagon Trail, this is the last piece of an original 1849 wagon train trail where you can still see evidence of that historic time in our nation’s history. The route was used by thousands of emigrants from Imlay, Nevada, to Surprise Valley, California. Their diaries were so detailed that it is possible to reconstruct their journeys. Read some excerpts here. High Rock Canyon, which is part of this trail, is sometimes called the Little Grand Canyon of Nevada.

The High Rock Trekkers club nominated this trail and has worked with federal agencies on a number of projects along it. The club hosts a trip led by experienced guides along the trail every July, promising superb desert and mountain scenery with many historical points of interest. It intends to use the funds to update Steven’s Camp cabin (built by Tennessee Ernie Ford as his getaway place) and the spring box and plumbing at the cabin.

Bald Mountain OHV Trails, California

These trails provide riding opportunities throughout the year on a variety of terrain types with varying levels of difficulty. The trails are easily accessible and reach a pinnacle at Bald Mountain Look Out Tower, which stands at 7,826 feet.

The Bald Mountain OHV route is the only route in the district that is open year-round. It’s known as the “easy way” to the top of Bald Mountain. It’s described as a loop, but from the top you can return the way you came or explore more challenging routes in the area.

High-clearance 4WDs are required. This trail has several terrains including a rough, rutted surface with rocks up to nine inches, mud, deep sand that may be impassable for inexperienced drivers and stream crossings up to 18-inches deep. Certain sections may be steep enough to cause traction problems and you may encounter very narrow shelf roads with steep drop-offs and tight clearance between rocks or trees.

There are a variety of backcountry campsites and panoramic views along the trail. There are also options for trail runners, hikers and cyclists if you’d like to get out of the car and experience nature a bit closer.

The Clovis Independent 4 Wheelers group looks after the trails and has a video of that beautiful part of the world at their site.

The group plans to use the funds to complete road and trail maintenance and encourage activity on authorized trails by removing hazards and maintaining drainage structures.

Black Bear Pass, Silverton, Colorado

The “steps” of Black Bear Pass are off-camber ledges with long drop-offs into the creek below. This trail is mostly easy to moderate with the exception of a mile-long section of world-famous switchbacks that are very tight and narrow — with 900-foot drop-offs that make for spectacular views and four-wheeling. Your vehicle should have low-range 4WD, good tires, good brakes, excellent articulation and a fully functional emergency brake. Switchbacks are one-way downhill — there’s no return to start once you start your descent. Clearly it’s vital to make sure your vehicle (and your skill) is up to it.

This trail treats drivers to incredible views from high above Red Mountain Pass and Telluride. You’ll get close-up views of historic mines and dramatic waterfalls, including the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls. The road is closed November through May 1 but the best time to go is July to September. It gets cold at elevation, so pack warm clothes.

The Creeper Jeepers Gang of Durango nominated this trail and will use the funds to continue erosion control on old trails. The club is also considering installing more signage to prevent off-trail driving. They will also look to continue funding the Alpine Loop patrol to help law enforcement on the Alpine trails.

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