Guide to Northern California Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails  by Charles A. Wells

Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails Guide Book

by Charles A. Wells (FunTreks)
Guide to Northern California Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails  by Charles A. Wells
This book covers 75 of the best 4-wheel-drive trails in northern California. Cruise along the cool Pacific coast and high into the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. A mix of great SUV trails and difficult hardcore trails, including the Dusy/Ershim, Fordyce Creek and the famous Rubicon. Nine different regions include trails near Mt. Shasta, Redding, the Lost Coast, Santa Rosa, Red Bluff, Grass Valley, Downieville, Gold Lake, Auburn, Lake Tahoe, Bear Valley, Sonora, Bridgeport, Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Big Pine, Lone Pine, San Jose, Coalinga, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Shaver Lake, Bakersfield, Lake Isabella, Ridgecrest and Mojave.

© 2004 Charles A Wells/FunTreks. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 75.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 75.

Pass mines on way to great camp spot in secluded wooded canyon. Wildflowers and dramatic views of lava domes from 8,300 feet. Narrow, tippy shelf road with tight switchbacks. The last half mile is rocky and susceptible to rock slides. Overgrown and brushy in places. Suitable for stock SUVs with low-range gearing.
Independence, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 9.1
Explore a fun maze of forest roads around Mammoth Lakes featuring overlooks of the area. Finish with a hike to interesting Inyo Craters. Dirt roads, narrow and steep in places. Suitable for stock SUVs with 4WD. Easy to get lost, but it’s part of fun. Good ATV area.
Mammoth Lakes, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 12.2
Just a short drive from the town of Shaver Lake. High views of Shaver Lake from Bald Mountain Lookout. The trail is fun to drive and is reminiscent of slickrock trails in Moab, UT. Rocky, steep and tippy in places. Best done in a modified vehicle. However, a good driver in an aggressive, high clearance stock SUV can get through with patience, a bit of rock stacking and an experienced spotter. For those willing to take some risk of minor damage, this is a very rewarding trail. Sometimes the snow doesn’t melt in the shaded forested sections until mid June. I found deep snow in late May and barely got through with the help of my winch. Route-finding is challenging because much of the trail crosses exposed granite where tire tracks are faint. The trail is marked with closely spaced Jeep symbols, but if you miss a turn, you can easily wander off in the wrong direction. Backtrack if necessary to last Jeep symbol. Best to drive the trail with someone who’s done it before.
Shaver Lake, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 9.2
Camp, hike and fish at idyllic Barrett Lake at end of trail. Makes a great weekend trip. Forest Service closes trail without notice when it gets too wet. Call ahead for status. A wilderness permit is needed to hike beyond Barrett Lake. Relatively short but a very difficult trail. Large boulders shift sometimes increasing possibility of body damage. Very high ground clearance and lockers required. Narrow 6 feet-wide gate at start of trail keeps out extra-wide vehicles. Not for stock SUVs. ATVs allowed.
Placerville, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 4.3
Trail meanders up and down a series of steep rolling hills. First part of trip passes through fire damaged area. Contact Diablo 4-Wheelers Club regarding annual “Run-a-Muck” event held here in mid-July. Mix of easy dirt roads and rocky climbs. Difficult side obstacles are optional. Suitable for aggressive stock 4WD SUVs with skid plates. Trail is well marked with brown posts the entire way.
Sierraville, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 8
Explores a beautiful, high area west of Lake Tahoe. Many lakes and viewpoints. Trail may not open until early July due to deer migration. Narrow, steep and rough in a few places but suitable for stock, high clearance SUVs. Some tight brush. Be careful when wet.
Tahoe City, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 18.4
Most tourists reach Bodie Ghost Town (Bodie State Historic Park) via paved Highway 270. The trip described here is a more interesting backcountry route starting north of Bridgeport. On the way you’ll see great views, structures at the Chemung Mine and the historic site of Masonic. Any high clearance SUV can make it in dry weather.
Lee Vining, CA - Mountain Biking,Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 28
See giant white caverns of Holly Ash Cleanser Mine, Bonanza Gulch Post Office and old miners cabins including the incredible Bickle Cabin with hundreds of pieces of old mining equipment. Note that the mines are private property, so treat them with respect and care. The trail also goes by famous Burro Schmidt Tunnel. Last part of trail crosses through the heart of the rugged El Paso Mountains. It is a long, remote and complicated route for those who really want to get deep into the backcountry. You can skip this part of trip by exiting early through Mesquite Canyon. The first half of route through Bonanza Gulch is easy. Second half of route crosses remote, mountainous terrain where trail is narrow and rocky in a few places. Route-finding is complex so pay close attention to directions. Suitable for most stock SUVs with high ground clearance and low-range gearing.
Johannesburg, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 27.6
Dramatic high views of massive Trinity Lake. See Mt. Shasta on a clear day. Secluded camping or picnicking. Alpine View Forest Service campground. Mostly a wide, graded road except for one steep, narrow section. Tight trees in a few places. Avoid when wet. Closed in winter.
Weaverville, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 22
Short, convenient, high ridge trail that ends at scenic lake. For owners of stock SUVs seeking more challenge than ordinary forest road. Good camping and fishing. Popular ATV trail. One moderate rocky challenge near the start requires high clearance and good articulation. Middle section of trail is mostly easy. Last half mile is difficult and hiking is required to reach lake. Suitable for aggressive stock SUVs except at the end.
Shaver Lake, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 5.5
Tour scenic foothills below towering Sierra Nevada Mountains. Take side trips to wilderness hiking trails. Explore optional network of rougher roads around Longley Meadow. Many ATV and dirt bike trails. Variety of dirt roads ranging from smooth gravel to narrow, rocky two-tracks. Challenging, optional side trips on network of marked forest roads. Suitable for stock, 4WD, high-clearance SUVs.
Bishop, CA - Mountain Biking,Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 16.9
A thrilling and scenic descent to the Middle Fork of the Feather River. Great camping and fishing especially in the fall. A designated “Wild & Scenic” area. Similar to Stag Point Trail #8 except rougher, steeper and narrower towards the bottom. One tight switchback has been chewed up from uphill tire spinning. Stock 4WD SUVs with low-range gearing can make it when trail is dry. Not for novice drivers. Avoid when wet. Best time late spring through fall. Take insect repellent.
La Porte, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 6.6
High views of Mono Lake and Lundy Lake with towering Sierra Nevada Mountains as backdrop. See old mines and spring wildflowers. Brushy, bumpy two-track road traverses rolling foothills of the Sierras. Suitable for stock, high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive SUVs.
Lee Vining, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 12.2
A mildly challenging drive to a high, scenic ridge. A good SUV adventure. Camp overlooking Bear Valley Ski Area or stay at Bear Trap “Cowboy” Cabin now owned by the Forest Service. Green Sticker vehicles are allowed except on Cabbage Patch Road. First half is rocky and steep in places. Last half is easy. Can be muddy in spots when it rains. Suitable for any stock high clearance, 4-wheel-drive SUV with skid plates and low-range gearing.
Arnold, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 13.9
South portion of the park allows 4WD and green sticker vehicles. This area covers 52,000 scenic acres with elevations between 800 and 4,000 feet. Only Benmore Creek Loop Trail is described here. Camp at Red Mountain Campground inside the park. Open all year except during rainy periods. No fees. Steep, narrow climbs and descents through tight brush. Rutted and washed out in places with occasional rock obstacles.
Ukiah, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 13.5
Climb to a beautiful high plateau above Bishop. Most of the trail is near 10,000 feet with one route climbing over 11,000. Visit remote Schober Mine. Enjoy wildflowers in early summer along Coyote Creek which you will cross several times. Camp on the edge of John Muir Wilderness and hike to secluded lakes just inside the wilderness boundary. Enjoy dramatic views of the Palisade Group, the second highest cluster of glaciated peaks in the Sierra Nevada. Good fishing at Funnel Lake. ATVs and dirt bikes allowed but stay on existing roads at all times. Much of the route is easy although narrow and steep in places. Skid plates are recommended for the last rocky mile nearing the hiking trail to Baker Lake into John Muir Wilderness. The final approach to Schober Mine is very steep and narrow but relatively smooth. Snow can block the trail well into July.
Bishop, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 57.6
The longest trail in the Red Mountain area with excellent camping and fishing. Coyote Lake, because it is the largest and deepest lake, has the best fishing. A great weekend trip. Popular winter sports area. Signs mounted high on trees are for snowmobiles. Don’t camp within 100 feet of lakes or in wet areas. Pack out all trash. Trail enters wilderness at end. A series of challenging boulder fields, very narrow in places. One section, immediately after Red Lake, is borderline extreme with giant tree roots mixed with boulders. For modified vehicles only. Differential lockers recommended.
Shaver Lake, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 3.8
A short but stunningly beautiful trip that reaches an elevation over 10,000 feet directly across the valley from Mammoth Mountain. Watch for hikers and mountain bikers. Stay on designated roads. Volcanically created Mammoth Lakes Basin is a premier outdoor recreation area with incredible places to see and explore. Don’t miss the drive up to Twin Lakes, Twin Falls and Lake Mary. Smooth road of compacted volcanic pumice with a few washed-out bumpy spots. Suitable for any high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive SUV. Snow may block trail well into July. Fine, white dust in summer.
Mammoth Lakes, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 5.2
Follows a high ridge across the center of the Lake Basin Recreation Area. Stunning views of Deer Lake with Sierra Buttes as backdrop. Follows Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Fishing at two lakes. A few steep, rough spots but mostly easy. Suitable for stock, high clearance 4-wheel-drive SUVs.
Auburn, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 6.8
Start of trail is a long drive from any direction but the scenery is superb. Highways 88 and 4 are National Scenic Byways. The Upper and Lower Blue Lakes area is a popular recreation destination offering many places to camp, hike, bike and fish. Deer Valley Trail passes through a non wilderness corridor of the Mokelumne Wilderness. Stay on designated route. Serious rock obstacles and potentially deep water crossings. Not for stock SUVs. High clearance and lockers recommended.
Markleeville, CA - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 6.6