5 Unforgettable Places to Take Your 4X4
We named our Winnebago View "Basecamp" because we drive our Class C RV into the wild as far as it can go, before taking off for a weekend of off-roading and overlanding in our 4x4 Jeep Wrangler. Then, when we need a shower and the workweek is starting again, Basecamp offers the reset we need.
Over more than five years of full-time RV travel, we've found some amazing trails for 4x4 adventuring. And as an added bonus, we're often able to find a beautiful spot nearby to stage our Winnebago.
So, if you have an off-road-capable vehicle and enjoy getting off the beaten path like us, then you'll want to visit the following five places to take your 4x4.
1. Coconino National Forest in Arizona
Coconino National Forest covers nearly two million acres in northern Arizona, but we especially love the area between Cottonwood and Sedona. This massive network of trails is surrounded by stunning red rock formations, like a towering audience facing you on center stage.
You have multiple options for camping in the national forest with your RV, though not all sites are equal. After turning off 89A, you have two options. You can leave your RV at one of the ATV staging areas while you scope out your favorite campsite, then come back for the RV. Or you can drive your RV slowly as you explore.
If you're nervous about driving your RV into unknown territory, then know you can't get into trouble on the main forest road (at least, in dry conditions). Some of the smaller roads may create issues for you, though, which is why scouting ahead with your 4x4 is a good idea.
As you scout, look for a level site for your RV, as well as connectivity on your devices - if that's important to you.
And now that your RV is parked, the hard part is finished! The rest is playtime. During our stay in Coconino National Forest, we enjoyed off-roading with no end point in mind. You can discover some phenomenal viewpoints of the red rocks, particularly at sunset.
While You're There
Don't miss the towns of Jerome, Cottonwood, and Sedona surrounding Coconino National Forest.
Eat at Haunted Hamburger in the old mining town of Jerome, where you should try to get patio seating with the national forest stretched out in front of you. Just don't underestimate the size of the dessert slices!
2. Tillamook State Forest in Oregon
Tillamook is known for cheese. But to 4x4 enthusiasts, the real draw is Tillamook State Forest, northeast of the town. With your Oregon OHV permit, which you can purchase for $10 at Tillamook Forest Center on your way to the trails, you have access to a natural playground.
Unlike Coconino National Forest, which no 4x4 vehicle should have trouble navigating, trails at Tillamook State Forest are rated by difficulty and can be dangerously challenging - depending on your skill level as a driver and capability of your vehicle.
We completed Cedar Tree, one of the 49 official Jeep Badge of Honor trails in the nation. But we chose not to attempt the more difficult Firebreak 5, another Badge of Honor trail, because we were wheeling alone.
Jones Creek campground is located near Tillamook Forest Center on your way to the trail system. But note that connectivity is nonexistent in the forest. Since we visited on an afternoon during the workweek, our Winnebago was based back in the town of Tillamook
We highly recommend Cape Lookout State Park if you can snag a spot. Port of Tillamook Bay RV Park is another quiet, no-frills option, and Blue Heron French Cheese Company offers free parking for up to two nights, in the center of town.
While You're There
Even if you don't stay at Cape Lookout, it's well worth a visit. Cape Meares Lighthouse is a popular destination, and you really do need to take the self-guided tour at Tillamook Creamery.
3. Sierra National Forest in California
We absolutely loved our wild camping stay in Sierra National Forest. Heading north from the town of Oakhurst on CA-41, search Google Maps for "Miami Creek OHV Area - Lone Sequoia Entrance." It was so fun camping for free in the middle of the forest, with immediate access to the trail system.
While 4x4 vehicles won't be challenged here, the scenery from the labyrinth of trails is magnificent. And how about this? The south entrance to Yosemite National Park and the famous Mariposa Grove is only seven miles away.
At Lone Sequoia Entrance, the road forks immediately. We went right to find a quiet pull-off on the side of the trail, that fit our 25-foot Winnebago and Jeep Wrangler. But there are several campsites to choose from (some more level than others).
While You're There
Soak in Yosemite for all its worth. Yosemite Valley was a bit of a madhouse during our summer visit, so we knocked out the highlights in one day over the weekend. During the rest of our stay, we hiked Sentinel Dome one afternoon and Mariposa Grove another. Our two-year-old mastered three two-mile hikes at Yosemite, for a total of six miles!
4. Big Bend National Park in Texas
Among our home base community in Austin, Big Bend National Park is the off-road destination everyone seems to talk about. We recently had a chance to experience Big Bend's beauty and its Jeep Badge of Honor trail, Black Gap. Since we visited over Easter weekend during an unusually wet spring, we got to see many desert flowers in bloom also.
Most 4x4 vehicles should be able to handle Black Gap Trail, so don't hesitate to get off the pavement. High clearance is recommended for parts of the trail, so check with a ranger for a trail update. No matter what, remember to follow best practices by packing extra water for the desert, and letting someone know where you're going in case you lose connectivity on your cell phone.
There is an RV campground in the national park, but you'll want to reserve ahead of time to get a spot. We stayed at Stillwell Store & RV Park, about 45 minutes from the Panther Junction Visitor's Center. While it provided no-frills camping, we reveled in the desert beauty surrounding us.
While You're There
Big Bend National Park is home to hot springs, hiking, and even a mountain range! To the west, Terlingua is a quirky, memorable town to explore.
5. Moab in Utah
No 4x4 guide is complete without mentioning Moab, an amazing town WinnebagoLife has covered on several occasions.
Moab is an off-roaders paradise, and articles upon articles could be written about the trails in this area. There's something for every 4x4 vehicle and driver skill level. Some favorites are within the Sand Flats area, which we happened to camp in as well!
Sand Flats Recreation Area is our favorite place to stay with our RV because of its proximity to off-roading and the town itself. There are 30 miles of 4x4 trails within Sand Flats, including two challenging Jeep Badge of Honor trails: Fins & Things and Hells Revenge.
If you prefer to wild camp with your RV for free, then prepare for analysis paralysis! It's hard to choose a favorite spot. We scouted out several sites, including Klondike Bluff Road, Willow Springs Trail, and Dalton Well Road. All of these and others have been reviewed on Campendium, so you can do some research to identify a spot that might be good for your RV and plans in the area.
While You're There
How much time do you have? Moab is a jumping-off point for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, plus an outdoor theme park for anyone who loves rock climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking. And when the thirst and hunger hit, I recommend Moab Brewery.
Where Do You Take Your 4x4?
These five locations represent a small segment of the 4x4 trails in the United States we've come to love. We're so fortunate to have our public lands, so tread lightly and leave it better than you found it. I'd love to hear about your memorable 4x4 adventures in a comment. We'll see you out there!