There are hundreds of thousands of unique off-roading locations throughout the United States. Some feature snowy peaks, rocky terrain, and muddy surfaces. However, many 4x4 enthusiasts love the feeling of hitting desert environments to get their thrills.
One of the country's best regions for desert driving is the American Southwest. This area features massive and colorful rock structures, beautiful scenery, and an infinite amount of land to explore. To help you narrow down the perfect, adventurous vacation, here are the best off-roading trails to explore in Arizona.
If you're new to off-roading or prefer a leisurely experience, you'll want to start off slow. While Arizona features daunting, thrilling terrains for veteran 4x4 enthusiasts, it also has plenty of destinations for the newbies.
Castle Hot Springs Road
Castle Hot Springs Road is just north of Phoenix, nestled between Lake Pleasant and Morristown. This area of the Sonoran desert is predominantly a scenic drive that takes you to elevated locations throughout the low mountains. The off-pavement section includes graded gravel roads that follow creeks, including Castle Creek. This is an excellent option for family outings!
Bloody Basin Road
Relatively close to Castle Hot Springs Road is Bloody Basin Road. You'll find this destination just south of Camp Verde, and the trail itself passes through Agua Fria National Monument. Again, this is an elementary off-roading location, so it's better suited for newbies looking for a day of sightseeing.
Discover petroglyphs and archaeological dig sites along your travels, and reach altitudes up to 5,000 feet! Additionally, you can find beautiful hot springs hidden away along the road.
Four Peaks Wilderness is an area northeast of Phoenix that's the perfect space for off-roading. This location is suitable for all types of capable vehicles, and its main draw is the vast, open space.
The road itself runs about 28 miles one way. However, there are many side trails just waiting to be explored. Most will take you to the top of the peak!
If you've been off-roading for a while and are looking for a more difficult challenge, consider these moderately challenging trails.
Arizona features the Grand Canyon, which is a stunning natural site that also has excellent off-roading locations. Just south of Jacob Lake is Point Sublime. The national park does not technically recognize it as an official trail, but it's 100% legal to take your 4x4 here for a day of thrills.
It's mostly comprised of backroads that wind through different elevations, offering stunning views and overnight camping experiences. The various terrains you'll encounter include rock, mud, and sand.
Frequenters of Lake Havasu may be familiar with this moderately challenging destination. Beginning in Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, Vampire Mine runs for about 28 miles. It's not a trail for newbies, as there are several tricky parts that require a high-performance vehicle and expert knowledge.
Some parts of the area are very steep, while others are adjoined by water crossings. Additionally, you should not—and can not—leave the beaten trail or travel at night. If you're up for the adventure, the views here are definitely worth it.
Let's show Tucson some love by including Gunsight Pass. Located east of Green Valley, this moderately challenging destination offers impressive views of the Santa Rita mountains. Certain parts of the trail will take you to elevations over 5,000 feet.
Additionally, many of the climbing sections are narrow and rocky, so ensure your vehicle is suitable for the terrain. If you're a 4x4 enthusiast with experience, we highly recommend Gunsight Pass.
Now, if you're the type who seeks challenges and, above all else, thrilling experiences, here are the trails for you. These areas are unforgiving and only suitable for experienced drivers. Accidents are more likely here, so ensure you pack the proper recovery and survival gear—and never go alone.
Sand Bowl OHV Area
The Sand Bowl OHV Area is located on the western border of Arizona. From afar, this region may appear easy and suitable for all drivers. However, the slopes found here are quite steep, and the surface consists of soft sand. Without proper techniques, you might find yourself slipping sideways as you climb.
This may lead to flips and crashes. However, Sand Bowl OHV Area is an open area meant for off-road driving, and you can have fun in the sun all day long. If you're a seasoned vet, we highly recommend this destination.
If you're a history buff with off-roading experience, consider traveling northeast of Phoenix to drive Reno Pass. It's an abandoned military road built in 1863 and features Fort Reno at the conclusion of the trail.
It spans around 20 miles round trip, but the terrain is not for the faint of heart. It's steep, narrow, very rutted, and the brush is tight. Additionally, the area is very remote compared to the other destinations on this list. However, the desert views are unmatched.
Drive down to President's Choice if you find yourself east of Cienega Springs. It's better suited for modified, high-performance vehicles, as the difficulty level is extreme. The tall rocks are jagged and offer little wiggle room for maneuvering.
It's recommended that you bring along a spotter to avoid any unnecessary body damage. Additionally, following the route isn't always straightforward. However, the challenge alone is worth the adventure.
Those looking for a quick excursion just north of Sedona should visit Soldier Pass. It's only around a mile in length and can be efficiently completed in an hour. Along the way, you'll catch amazing views of the Devil's Kitchen and Seven Apache Pools, two red-rock formations.
The difficulty level of Soldier Pass is complex but not intense, making it the perfect spot for individuals looking to up their skills. It's also close to residential areas, allowing for quick recoveries in the event of an accident.
This is just our list of the best off-roading trails to explore in Arizona, and there are so many more locations to consider for your next 4x4 vacation. Remember to always research the areas you are visiting and plan for the event of an accident. Before you hit the road less traveled, prepare your car for action by using TopLift's Jeep hard door storage products for easy door removal and storage.