If you’re a person always in search of your next adventure, off-roading might be a great activity to try. Going off-roading allows you to see a new part of the world from the driver’s seat of a vehicle traveling over rough terrain. To a beginner, off-roading might seem daunting, but it’s not all that difficult. With the Eastern Sierra butting up against open BLM and the abundance of High Sierra routes that OHV vehicles travel, off roading options are plentiful.
These off-roading tips for beginners will guide you through your first off-roading experience.
Find a Trail
To go off-roading, you’ll need to find a trail. You should start on a solid ground trail. They can range in difficulty depending on their steepness and the roughness of the ground’s surface. If you want to try something a little different, you can try mudding or sanding, though these are typically more difficult than a solid path. There are plenty of designated off-roading trails to choose from in the Sierra Nevada. Here are a couple Starting options:
- Backroad Tours in the Eastern Sierra – Inyo County & Death Valley
- Inyo National Forest Forest is unique in California for the expansive network of roads and trails that can be explored with a street-legal high-clearance or green-sticker trail vehicle. Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV’s) have access to nearly 2200 miles of trails and roads leading through a million acres of non-wilderness lands. Some of these routes reach to nearly 12,000 feet in elevation and offer breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada, the Owens Valley, and the Great Basin ranges. OHV roads and trails lead to historic mines and structures, great dispersed camping, hunting, inspiring viewpoints, and a variety of day-use activities, such as hiking, swimming, fishing and more. Most of the OHV-legal routes in the Inyo National Forest are double-track, native surface roads, though about 50 miles of single-track and ATV trails are interspersed throughout the network. All vehicles must stay on these designated routes, except in the Poleta Open Area, east of Bishop, CA. This 2,500 acre area is managed jointly by the Forest and the Bishop Area BLM office for cross-country, or open motorized vehicle travel. Many of the roads and trails link to adjacent routes managed by the Bureau of Land Management. (BLM)
- Backcountry Discovery Trail – The Plumas Backcountry Discovery Trail (BDT) invites exploration of the remote areas of the Plumas National Forest. You can expect rough road conditions on gravel and dirt roads and a slow pace of travel, maybe only 30-50 miles a day…. This guide book describes the various routes and makes some recommendations on what types of vehicles can use them. Alternate routes, which are best traveled in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, are high lighted as well. Find out more about the BDT!
- Near Bridgeport California check out the Sweetwater Mountain range and the possibility of driving one of Nevada’s Tallest peaks.
Drive an Off-Roading Vehicle
It seems straightforward, but it needs to be said: don’t take your little sedan off-roading! Off-roading is better suited to a truck or SUV equipped with AWD or 4WD. For easier routes, AWD works fine, but for more difficult routes or those through mud or sand, 4WD is the better choice. You’ll also benefit from having a vehicle with locking differentials, which distributes power to the wheels that need it, even if one wheel of an axle pair isn’t making contact with the ground.
Use the Right Modifications
In addition to the basic off-roading specs your vehicle needs, you may want to add some off-roading modifications. Some common modifications for off-road vehicles include a set of off-road tires, a suspension lift kit to stabilize your vehicle and give it additional clearance, and recovery strap kits that will help you recover your vehicle if it gets stuck. When you’re just starting out, you don’t need every available off-roading modification on your vehicle. Keep in mind that you can always modify your vehicle later if needed.
Take It Slow
When you finally begin your off-roading trip, remember to take it slow. Allow yourself time to get used to the different driving environment and master the skills that off-roading requires. If you have a friend who is a skilled off-roader, bring them along to help you learn the ropes. Off-roading requires the balance of knowing when to take control versus when to go with the flow. With practice, you’ll learn to make these judgment calls and you can tackle more difficult terrains!
Use these off-roading tips for beginners when you’re first starting out, and soon you’ll be prepared for steeper, rockier, muddier, and generally more challenging off-roading routes. Keep at it, and you’ll gain a new life skill and hobby.