10 Best Off-Road Winter Driving Trails in the United States

The United States is just a short drive away and well worth the distance if you want to go on an off-road adventure once you have exhausted all the options closer to home. Once you install your 4x4 off-road equipment, you will have dozens of trails to choose from, even in the height of winter. Most of the off-road winter driving trails on this list are also open in the summer, and visiting them during a different season can give you a unique perspective. Yet others are in more temperate climates, giving you a fall-like experience even in the height of winter.

#1 Big Bear Lake in California

Sitting high enough to get snow despite being in California, Big Bear Lake is close to San Diego and sits in the San Bernardino Mountains. As you drive through the snow, watch out for the hidden boulders and rocks. You can drive along 4×4 trails as well as what used to be logging trails but are now delegated to off-road adventures. This trail also has sections for all skill levels. Beginners will love the Champion Lodgepole Trail, while experienced drivers will love the John Bull Trail. While you are in Big Bear Lake, you may also want to go for an adventure on Gold Mountain Trail, Skyline Divide OHV Trail, Gold Fever OHV Trail, or the Pioneertown to Big Bear OHV Route, with the first being the most challenging of the bunch. Dishpan Springs Trail is also a good option if you want a challenge.

#2 Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming

The Big Horns are fun to drive over in the summer with their rolling hills and valleys, but in the winter, you get to add a beautiful coating of snow to the mix. You can easily spend weeks exploring the Big Horn Mountains, as the Bighorn National Forest has more than 1,500 trails, plus 32 campsites. Consider throwing your cross-country skis or snowshoes in your 4×4, as well. One of the great things about off-roading in the Big Horn Mountains is that most of the roads are open to 4x4s.

#3 Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota

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Head to Black Hills National Forest, and you will find miles and miles of trails for snowmobiles and 4x4s, all of which are groomed, maintained, mapped, and marked, so you don’t get lost. There are 3,600 miles of road, most of which you can use motorized vehicles on and more than 700 of which you can enjoy OHV driving on. You will glide over the packed snow as you enjoy the views that come with driving at a high altitude. You may also want to spend some time out of your vehicle, enjoying winter camping or rock crawling. Just remember to get your trail permit!

#4 Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina

If you want to enjoy a winter off-roading adventure without the threat of extreme snow, consider the barrier islands in North Carolina. Cape Lookout National Seashore spans 56 miles and does not have any paved roads at all. You can easily make the most of off-roading here by camping, as well, as you can camp at any point along the beaches. The only rule is to not drive on the sand dunes. You will also need to budget some time to get the ORV Education Certificate, which is required for driving in the area.

#5 Dun-Good ATV Trails in Wisconsin

Go to Marinette County in northern Wisconsin, and you will find Dun-Good ATV Trails, which are maintained by the Dun-Good Riders ATV/UTV and Snowmobile Club. You will almost always find more than 200 miles of trails conveniently groomed and ready for your off-road adventures. The trails are groomed weekly, including during the winter. The trails are open year-round, so visit in the height of winter then come back again in the summer to compare. In addition to giving you a chance to put your best off-road equipment to the test, you can also go hiking, hunt, and cross-country ski.

#6 Mojave National Preserve in California

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The Mojave Road spans 140 miles and includes mountainous roads that are likely to be coated in snow during the winter as well as areas at lower elevations that are unlikely to have snow. In those areas, you will be able to spot the sandy, rough track that the area is famous for. Taking your off-road vehicle equipment on this trail will give you a brief tour of the Mojave National Preserve. You will also find yourself going up and down over multiple mountain ranges, providing a great challenge as you gain more than 2,500 meters. Just keep in mind that this trail is most popular between October and April, so you are likely to find other vehicles along the way. Some of the most popular routes in the reserve include taking Aiken Mine Road to the local Lava Tube, visiting Clark Mountain at 7,929 feet, and Caruthers Canyon.

#7 Paiute Trail in Utah

Drive over to South Central Utah, close to Moab, and you will find the Paiute Trail. This trail is a loop measuring 275 miles long. Best of all, that path includes plenty of towns where you can load up on supplies. If that’s not enough distance for you to enjoy, consider branching off onto one of the side trails that are also well-marked and add 1,000 more miles. There are also plenty of forest roads to enjoy. Best of all, this trail is a great way to introduce your family to off-roading, as you don’t need special off-road rescue equipment; the normal 4×4 gear will cut it in most areas.

#8 Tug Hill State Forest in New York

Tug Hill State Forest has 12,242 acres of land, and it is perfect for off-road enthusiasts who love driving through heavy snow. Heavy snowfall is almost guaranteed thanks to the forest’s elevation on top of the Tug Hill Plateau. The only thing you will have to be aware of is that some of the trails are just for ATVs and snowmobilers. Even so, you will have no shortage of trails that welcome your 4×4. The area is also large enough for you to find a spot to claim as your own by leaving tire tracks on freshly fallen snow. In the winter, you can complement your off-roading with hunting hare or white-tailed deer.

#9 Wasilla in Alaska

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If you are interested in off-roading in Alaska, Wasilla is the ideal location, as it is close enough to amenities and festivities in Anchorage but still remote enough to not be overly crowded. Put your custom off-road equipment to the test on trails as well as frozen lakes and rivers. As you drive, keep an eye out for dogs training for the Iditarod, as many of them train here. Remember that you are sharing the trails with others!

#10 White Mountains in New Hampshire

The White Mountains are in the Appalachian chain and are known for absolutely horrible weather that will put expert off-roaders to the test. Make sure to have off-road heavy equipment tires and other essentials before hitting these trails, as you can expect heavy snow, freezing temperatures, and dense fog. All those challenges lead to a strong feeling of accomplishment and an even more enjoyable adventure. Both Jericho Mountain OHV Trail and Hopkinton-Everett Reservoir are moderately difficult for off-roading, giving you just enough of a challenge to be fun.

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One Response

  1. Happy to see the Black Hills on this list. It is often overlooked and always underestimated. Highly recommend the Black Hills Cruiser Classic in July. It is an event put on by the local Toyota group, and you will not be disappointed.

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