Off the Road Again: America's Top 4x4 Destinations


Delux four-wheel-drive machines get justifiably dissed as "urban assault vehicles" when their new owners waste all that traction on the runs to the dry cleaner and day-care center. If you want to put your own 4WD machine through the places for which it was really designed, read on to discover the best off-road destination around.

Utah and Arizona: Grand Canyon and Monument Valley
The Arizona and Utah region of the United States is home to one of the world's most unique geographies, a landscape perhaps best expressed in its most promenant features: Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. But while everyone who's been there will insist that you simply must check it out, the method of how to see so much in so little time has always been one of the larger frustrations. An off-road 4x4 trip may be the very best option.
You'll be awe-struck the first time you enter Death Valley and drive beneath giant sandstone pinnacles formed by millions of years of wind and erosion. The valley, located in northwest Arizona right on the Utah border, is truly one of America's natural treasures. The valley's scenery is otherworldly—straight out of the age of the dinosaurs. A network of jeep trails runs through the valley, accessing scenic vistas and a variety of old Native American sites.

Try to visit at sunrise or sunset to experience the rich colors and rugged beauty that have attracted countless Hollywood film crews to this area.

Just a few hours away from Death Valley, the northwest corner of Arizona, along the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon, is an off-roader's dream, with 7,600 square miles of high desert wilderness, scores of accessible jeep trails, and the splendor of the Grand Canyon. From St. George, Utah, a rough road takes you south toward the Canyon overlook at Tuweep Point. There you can see the Colorado River snaking along 3,000 feet beneath you. Heading back north, you will connect with paved Highway 67 at Jacob's Lake. This can take you to the North Rim in summer, but the road is usually closed in winter. If you've got the time, continue east to the Marble Canyon area. You'll find pretty scenery and a number of fun routes over reservation roads and through sand washes near the banks of the Colorado.

You can also book a river float trip from Marble Canyon or continue up to Lake Powell, worth a visit by itself.

Practically Speaking
At Death Valley, for a nominal fee you can take your own 4WD, or for a bit more you can book a guided 4WD tour at the park's parking lot, which overlooks the entrance to the valley. We recommend the guided tour unless you are experienced running in sand.

Accommodations and camping sites are limited, so it is wise to book in advance if you're planning to stay more than a day or two. Monument Valley is only a few hours' drive from the Grand Canyon and other major southwestern parklands.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 21 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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