Off Road Bucket List – Five Destinations You Need To Visit

bucketToday, everyone you meet has a “bucket list” – the people you know, the people you don’t know, and the people you may meet in the future, they pretty much all have bucket lists, it’s just that “in” right now. These lists, of course, vary by individual, and are similar in the sense that they are all items a person wants to accomplish, or a destination they have yet to visit.


Moab, Utah. Image Source

As this applies to the automotive enthusiast, a few examples that are surely on a bucket list somewhere might include; running at Sebring or Watkins Glen for a a club level sports car racer. A drag racer that vows to attend the U.S.Nationals at Indy, or the off road enthusiast that intends to take their 4×4 somewhere out in the great outdoors, are both examples of bucket list items. Okay, we admit, that’s pretty vague, but where exactly, would a true sand surfing, rock crawling, mudslinging, trail runner have on their bucket list?

With this question in mind, using due diligence and our vast array of knowledge on the subject, we at Offroad Extreme have compiled a list of five destinations every off road enthusiast must include on their bucket list. These five locations are “that great” and should all be etched in stone on every single off road enthusiast’s bucket list.


Canyonlands National Park. Image Source

Moab, Utah

Moab is located in Eastern Utah, and is home to two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands. Both parks feature thousands of miles of the most stunning, amazing red rock formations, and have landscapes found nowhere else in the Continental United States. What makes this location even better is the temperate climate of the American Southwest which is perfect for outdoor activities year round.


The desert at high noon, Canyonlands National Park. Image Source

The area also offers a complete array of backcountry trails with trails suitable for every experience level, from the beginner to the most experienced off roader. Most trails are suitable for stock, high clearance four-wheel drive vehicles, while the most difficult trails require first class off road equipment and the most experienced drivers.

A couple of the most popular trails are; Gemini Bridges, the easiest of the available trails, a 14-mile excursion ending at the spectacular twin arch formation aptly named Gemini Bridges. Chicken Corners is a 43-mile trail that got its name from the narrow section of the trail where local guides were said to allow “chicken” passengers to walk, rather than ride past the sloping section of trail.

moab #1

Hells Revenge, Arches National Park. Image Source

After a day of off roading you can take in the diverse culture and cuisine in the downtown business district of Moab. You will find everything from regional southwestern fare to first class gourmet dining. The Mill Creek Parkway is a perfect place to walk off the extra pounds as it meanders through the center of downtown Moab. You may also want to schedule your trip to Moab during the annual Moab Jeep Safari; this annual nine day event culminates on Easter Sunday and is attended by Jeep enthusiasts from all over the United States.


The Granite Bowl along the Rubicon Trail. Image Source

Rubicon Trail – Sierra Nevada

The Rubicon Trail is located due west of Lake Tahoe in the California High Sierras, roughly 80-miles east of the capital city of Sacramento. This 22-mile trail is comprised of non-maintained county road located in El Dorado and Placer Counties, and runs from the small town of Georgetown to Lake Tahoe. Originally a Native American route between the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe, the trail was re-discovered by immigrants sometime around 1840. By 1890 the trail had become an actual road and was the primary route to the historic Rubicon Mineral Springs hotel and resort. 


The Jeep named after the trail, The Rubicon Wrangler. Image Source

"Little Sluice" Image Source

“Little Sluice” Image Source

The trail is known for its areas of heavy timber and rugged granite common to the area. Some of the more challenging sections of the trail include Walker Hill, a steep uphill climb that provides a number of complex tests for even the most experienced drivers. The most difficult obstacle on the trail is only a bit over 100-feet, the boulder infested wash known as the “Little Sluice.” This area requires a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle with skid plates attached.

The Rubicon Trail is recognized as the premiere destination for off road enthusiasts throughout the United States. It has been referred to as the “Crown Jewel” of off road trails. Once rated as the most difficult due to the narrow passages, steep rocky climbs, and the occasional mud hole, this trail is not for the beginner, however, every off road addict needs to make the trek to this 22-mile long stretch of un-maintained road if for no other reason, to say you made it from one end to the other.


The Shoreline of Lake Michigan against the Silver Lake Dunes, postcard perfect. Image Source

Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Mears, Michigan 

Located along the shoreline of Lake Michigan approximately halfway between the cities of Muskegon to the south, and Ludington to the north, lies a 2,000-acre mountain of windblown sand known as the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Locals will tell you this is the closest thing to a desert you will find anywhere in the Midwest. The dunes separate over three-miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and the 690-acre inland Silver Lake. The Dunes are nothing more than sand, no trees, no scrub brush, no dune grass, just sand as far as you can see.

The dunes are considered as one of the largest deposits of living dunes east of the Mississippi and are part of the Silver Lake State Park. They are open to the public from April through October and are the only dunes in the Midwest open to private vehicular traffic. To add to the attraction, the entire north end of the park is reserved for those wanting to hone their sand surfing skills. The area is supervised by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, and certain restrictions may apply depending on the time of year you visit the area. In addition to the world class off road opportunities at the park, the entire family can enjoy a number of amenities the area has to offer like swimming, hiking, camping, boating and fishing. However, the primary draw is the mountain of sand, and the challenge of making it to the summit.


Sand Surfing at Glamis. Image Source


Sand as far as the eye can see. Image Source

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area – Glamis, California

Another excellent place to work on your sand surfing skills is located in the southeast corner of California just north of the Mexican border – Glamis. Glamis, or the Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest area of sand dunes in the State of California with over 118,000-acres of sand which equates to an area roughly 40-miles long by five-miles wide. Commonly called the Glamis Sand Dunes, for the small unincorporated community located on the southern end of the dunes, this little community has no permanent structures other than two small stores that exist solely to service the needs of the hundreds of thousands of off road enthusiasts that pass through the area every year.


Some “Sick Air” at Glamis. Image Source

The Glamis Sand Dunes are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, and attest to the fact this area is the most popular off road destination in Southern California. As a matter of fact, an estimated 1.4-million visitors come to the dunes every year, to have fun with friends and family. Although summer temperatures can easily reach 110-degrees, and average yearly rainfall is less than two-inches, you might want to visit this area between October and May when the climate is considered very mild and it is actually “desert season.”

The Glamis Sand Dunes are definitely worth a spot on your bucket list; however, the dunes can be difficult to negotiate if your sand skills are lacking, some areas are best left to the purpose built off road desert racers, in lieu of a stock CJ7. Airing down your tires and keeping your momentum are key when driving at Glamis. Check with the locals before setting out on any planned day trips. 

Imogene PassTelluride, Colorado

Last but not least, a beautiful destination with absolutely stunning scenery and some of the most picturesque landscapes you will ever have the privilege to see, is the Imogene Pass in Telluride, Colorado. Ghost towns, old mining sites, even a military fort built in 1904, are a few of the extras this off road excursion has to offer.

The Beautiful San Juan Moutain Range

Imogene Pass is a high mountain pass in the San Juan Mountain range, in the southwest section of the State of Colorado. This 13.2-mile stretch of wilderness connects Telluride, Colorado with Quray, Colorado and is the highest mountain pass in the San Juan Mountain range. It is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only, skid plates and low-range gearing are recommended, and this drive, known as the most thrilling in the State of Colorado, requires some advanced four wheel driving skills. This outing is not for the novice operator. The road is steep, rocky, and very narrow in places. The section of the trail aptly named the “Narrow Shelf Road” will sometimes experience two way traffic where the general rule of thumb is that uphill traffic has the right of way.

It’s also important to remember this trip will take you to elevations exceeding 13,000-feet, meaning it may be cold at the summit, so bring adequate clothing and be prepared to use it. The best time of year to visit Imogene Pass is after mid July because the pass is normally blocked by snow before then. As with any road trip, especially into areas that can experience extreme temperature changes, it might be best to check the conditions before leaving home.

These five destinations are all worthy of a spot on any off road enthusiast’s bucket list. They present a variety of driving challenges, and vast opportunities to experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes the United States has to offer. So, there you have it, the five destinations on our bucket list, feel free to add them to yours, after all, you never know when the old transfer case might seize up!

About the author

Chuck Green

As a professional writer, and photographer Chuck has always had an affliction for anything related to motorsports. Over the years he worked events from local short tracks to the high profile series of NASCAR, Indy Car, IHRA, and NHRA.
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