7 Best Off-Road Trails to Try Out This Winter

Adventure Listicles Motor By Emily Leikam

It’s that time of the year when the temperature begins to drop and most of us want to stay inside near a fire with a warm cup of hot cocoa in our hands. But winter weather also provides unique opportunities for snow-filled adventures. One such opportunity is the exciting world of off-roading!

There are thousands of amazing, well-maintained trails across the country that provide visitors with everything they’re looking for when wanting to zoom through rugged winter terrain. 

If you’re not interested in the exhilarating set of challenges and frigid feelings the snow brings, you can always check out amazing off-roading trails offered up in warmer, sunnier parts of the country. A lot of these areas (both cold and warm climates) offer rentals like ATVs, snowmobiles, and more so no need to worry about having your own.

Here’s a short list of some of the best spots in the country to find exciting off-road trails to try out this winter. 

1. Death Valley National Park, California 

Death Valley is located in Inyo County, California. Sitting in the southeastern part of the state, and dubbed “the hottest place on Earth,” Death Valley offers up one giant sandbox to play in.

But don’t be daunted by the name, this location is ideal for off-roading in the winter. With average temperatures only reaching the mid-70s, it’s a great place to escape the cold winter weather and enjoy the sun. The landscape is vast and wide open with some incredible views.

Death Valley does not allow dirt bikes or ATVs. However, visitors can still enjoy the backcountry roads with a Jeep or any 4WD vehicle. Check out Farabee Jeep Rentals before your visit, and rent a jeep for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore some of the most rugged terrain in the country. Racetrack Valley Road is one of the more popular routes with 29 miles of spectacular views. 

silver jeep in desert
Off-roading in Death Valley National Park. Photo by Matthew Dillon.

2. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree, not too far from Death Valley, is another amazing place to get away from the cold and go off-roading. Unlike Death Valley, Joshua Tree offers exhilarating opportunities for off-road lovers to take their ATVs or dirt bikes for a ride in the open desert.

If you don’t have your own recreation vehicle, it’s not a problem. There are plenty of great places in the area to rent an ATV and either take it out by yourself, with a group, or on a guided tour. Happy Trails Rental is located in Lucerne Valley, CA. They offer super cool UTV rentals that will allow you to cruise through Joshua Tree’s unique landscape at rushing speeds. If you’re exploring on your own and wondering what roads to take, check out Old Dale Road. It’s a 23-mile backcountry trail that takes you across a dry-lake bed, up steep hills, and through old mining towns. 

silver jeep on top of hill
Jeep navigating a hill on Thermal Canyon Road in Joshua Tree NP. Photo by NPS / Jennifer Kolm.

3. West Yellowstone, Montana 

West Yellowstone, right next to Yellowstone National Park, offers an extensive 400-mile trail system that is beautifully groomed and designed for those interested in snowmobiling. It’s the perfect place to enjoy dense forests, observe wildlife and head off into remote locations that give you a sense of peace.

Many visitors adventuring on these wild trails bring a pair of snowshoes or skis so they can also explore far-off regions within the trees. The region offers comfortable lodging where you can begin your snowmobile experience right outside your front door.

Madison Arm Loop is a great trail to explore for an easy and scenic 20-mile ride that meanders along the South Fork of the Madison River. The World Snowmobile Expo also takes place in West Yellowstone every year! 

man riding yellow snowmobile on snow
Snowmobiling near the long Togwotee Trail that ends in West Yellowstone. Photo by Show Us Your Togwotee.

4. Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

The Black Hills National Forest contains miles and miles of groomed, maintained, mapped and marked snowmobile and 4×4 trails that will guide you through exciting terrain. There are 3,600 miles of road, the majority of which are suitable for motorized vehicles. More than 700 of them are suitable for off-highway vehicles. These trails are in high elevations, offering some stellar views that may make you want to stay an extra day or two. Just make sure you have your trail permit! Also, check out the Motor Vehicle Use Maps to understand which roads you can drive on with certain vehicles. 

three snowmobilers on snowy road in woods
Snowmobiling in Black Hills National Forest. Photo by USDA Forest Service/Black Hills National Forest.

5. Marinette County, Wisconsin

Hunting, fishing, and, of course, off-roading is a way of life in Northern Wisconsin. In the town of Dunbar, you’ll discover the Dun-Good ATV Trails which offer more than 200-miles of a pristinely maintained trail system connecting 230,000 acres of forest land. This giant playground is perfect for those looking to go off-roading, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. The surrounding area is known as the “Waterfall Capital” of Wisconsin. It’s one of the most scenic locations in the state and an ideal destination for off-roading.

6. Little Sahara Recreation Area, Utah

Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah is a giant 60,000 acre sandbox full of dunes, trails and sagebrush flats. This location may be one of the most exciting places in the country to bring ATVs and go for a ride. Little Sahara also has plenty of space to bring your RVs or set up a tent and camp for the night. Here you can enjoy an exhilarating day off-roading through open land and spend the night looking up at the star-filled skies.

green OHV riding on sand
Fantastic OHV/ATV time in Little Sahara, Utah. Photo by Bureau of Land Management.

7. Grand County Trails, Colorado 

If you’re interested in off-roading through rugged, mountainous terrain with incredible views, then Grand County Trails in Colorado is the place to be. The most popular trail, Rabbit Ears Pass, is open year-round. This trail is located between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It’s a well-maintained, gorgeous road that is specifically designed for ATV and OHV recreation. The path slowly climbs up to 10,000 feet in elevation and provides extraordinary views of the Continental Divide. There’s also plenty of 4×4 trails in the area, beautiful locations to camp, and many more outdoor activities to enjoy. If you’re looking to rent an ATV or OHV from a nearby vendor, check out Alpine Motorsports Inc. They offer plenty of rentals and tours, especially for anyone with little experience off-roading through tough conditions. 

Get on the Road for Some Off-Roading

Off-roading in the winter can be extremely exciting and fun! However, it can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. If you’re going to be driving through snowy conditions, be sure you have a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Without it, it will be nearly impossible to navigate through thick snow. Also, be sure to get properly geared with items such as tow straps, shovels, and snow chains. Bring blankets, extra clothing, water and a first aid kit in case of any unexpected incidents. If you’re traveling in the open desert, don’t forget to bring a map and compass with you. It’s easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of where you are. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy your off-roading adventure!

Feature Image – Jeep driving on snow by Ozark Drones.

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aerial photo of black jeep riding on snow
Emily Leikam
Emily is an avid traveler and has been all around the world from Alaska and Iceland to Peru and Bali. Her home base is Nashville, TN and when not traveling you can find her hiking, practicing yoga or cooking/baking!