California ATV Trail Guide
The Best ATV Riding in California
When you think of California, you think of beaches, Hollywood, surfing, wine and sunshine. But all that pales in comparison to the quality of ATV riding in California, which ranks up there with the best in the nation thanks to the wide variety of terrain that includes mountains, deserts, and sand dunes. Perhaps you have heard it never rains in southern California…and snow is a rare event…which makes enjoying the outdoors on your ATV or UTV a daily, 365 times a year thing. Many enjoy the ATV riding in Los Angeles, primarily in the nature parks in the area, or a little farther out in the San Bernardino National Forest (see below). You won’t have trouble finding a multitude of places for ATV riding in San Diego, and the ATV riding in Palm Springs, especially in California’s largest state park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with its more than 600,000 acres of badlands just a little over an hour away, is prime. No matter what part of the state you’re in, when you’re looking for ATV trails near me in California, you’ll find them. Below is a list of just a few of the most popular places for UTV and ATV riding in California, compiled by the experts at Treadworld, with location information and websites where available.
Carnegie State Vehicle Recreation Area
Location: In the hills of eastern Alameda and western San Joaquin Counties, in the midwestern part of CA
One of the most popular ATV trails in California, this state vehicle recreation area offers a diversity of terrain that’s ideal for 4-wheeler riding, including rolling hills, steep rugged canyons, rocky washes and sandpits. The area has over 1,500 acres of riding area that includes more than 80 miles of trails, and offers ATV riders and UTV riders of all skill levels a great place to ride. No “Johnny-come-lately,” Carnegie began as a preferred spot for ATV riding in the 1930’s and 1940’s after years as first a cattle-grazing area, then a popular picnic area. Races were held here in the 1950s, and in the next decade, the privately-owned land was home to the Carnegie Motorcycle Park, until 1979, when the state bought the land to provide a place for off-roading in CA.
Dumont Dunes OHV Area
Location: 33 miles north of Baker, CA, on Highway 127
This area has 7,620 acres of sand dunes that provide ATV and UTV riding challenges, ranging from big bowls, to steep hill climbs, to flowing transitions, to open desert riding. It’s not the largest area for riding Dunes in California, but it’s preferred by many more experienced riders because the dunes tend to have a sharp top edge that provides challenges for even long-time 4-wheeler riders. This is actually two linked areas in one, with the main dunes area linked to Little Dumont, which is a great place for newbies and young riders, requiring less driving on dirt and sand. Keep in mind that this can be one of the hottest areas in California.
Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area
Location: Along the northern border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, about 2 mi southwest of Gorman, CA
Hungry Valley is the second (or third, depending on who you talk to) largest vehicle recreation area in the state, offering 19,000 acres, 30 square miles, and more than 130 miles of scenic trails for off-roading in California. It’s an especially popular area for ATV trail riding because it offers a diversity of terrain that suits all levels of riding experience. Young and less-veteran riders will enjoy the beauty and relative ease of the trails in the Native Grasslands Management Area, while seasoned riders may want to stick to the more demanding trails found in the hills and sand washes of the backcountry section of the area, as well as those leading into the higher difficulty Los Padres National Forest. Elevations in this area range from 3,000 to nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, it can be very hot and dusty, it occasionally snows here, and infrequent rainfall can provide some mudding trails. If you want to see what you’re made of, keep an eye open for the steep, twisting 5.7-mile Pronghorn Trail with its intimidating rock obstacles.
Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area
Location: In the Gabilan Mountains, outside Hollister, CA
This recreation area offers 6,800 acres with more than 180 miles of 4-wheeler trails, divided between the upper ranch area designated for 4×4 vehicles and special motorcycle events, and the lower ranch for motorcycle and ATV use. The scenic and varied terrain includes beautiful oak woodlands, rolling hills, lush canyons, and seasonal creeks. The area is in the Gabilan Mountains, and has elevations ranging from 660 feet to 2,425 feet above sea level. It has a history of providing ATV trails and UTV trails to California outdoorsmen and women that began in 1947 when Howard Harris founded the Bird Creek Hunting Club. The land was then passed down through generations from Howard’s great-grandfather, Jesse Whitton, who was a civilian surveyor for the John C. Fremont expedition in 1846, and who then returned to the area and bought 600 acres for $50 a pop. Howard was the last private owner of the property, and in 1975 the area was sold to the state and became the Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area.
Imperial Sand Dunes
Location: southeast corner of CA, near the border with Arizona and the Mexican state of Baja California
This is where to ride ATVs when you want to challenge the largest mass of sand dunes in the state— extending for more than 40 miles, averaging 5 miles wide, with dunes often reaching 300 feet high. Known to locals as Glamis, the area offers several popular dunes or hills that run north to south including: Competition Hill, a small dune that was extremely popular back in the day, when folks would race to the top, drink a cold one, then race back down; Gecko Road, running north/south along the west side of the dunes and lined with camping spots; Wash Road, running north/south along the east side of the dunes, also lined with camping spots in a series of washes; and Oldsmobile Hill, a big dune located in the dead center between Wash Road and Gecko Road that is a huge gathering spot, known to host as many as 30,000 people at specific moments. The area is open all year round, but you may want to time your visit to fall/winter/early spring to temper the 110-degree heat.
Johnson Valley-Rattlesnake Canyon
Location: 15 miles east of Lucerne Valley on Highway 247, in San Bernardino County, CA
Home of much of southern California’s desert racing, this area offers widely varied riding experiences ranging from smallish sand dunes to massive rocks to dry lake areas. The southeastern riding section sports a large mass of hills that is best for expert riders – which is known to rock-crawling fans as the “Hammers.” This area gets attention every year for a 10-day event what was attended by 80,000 off-road fans in 2022 called “King of the Hammers,” known as the toughest off-road race in the world.” To the north of the Hammers, riders will find ATV riding trails ideal for novice and intermediate riders that includes some small dune riding. Keep in mind that the temperatures often range from 100 to 120 degrees.
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area
Location: 5172 Highway 78, Borrego Springs, CA
With 85,000 acres chock full of ATV and UTV riding trails, this area is paradise for riding enthusiasts. The SRVA has a number of points of interest you may want to check out, including 17 Palms, where you’ll find a palm oasis in the middle of the desert, Blowsand Hill, which is a huge dune hill formed by sand storms, Devil’s Slide, a 200-foot high granite and sand island that stands as a riding challenge to even expert riders, Shell Reef, a hill once covered in water that is a prime spot for discovering ancient, fossilized shells, and Barrel Springs, which has mesquite sand dunes that are provide a convenient place to rest for wildlife and humans alike, thanks to shade and the availability of water. And, if you’re into mud bogs, head to Gas Domes, with its bubbling puddle of mud.
Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area
Location: Central California coastline near San Luis Obispo
When it comes to OHV, California doesn’t get much better than this SRVA with its vast stretches of sand dunes, which is heaven on earth for ATV riders that love riding on sand. Be aware that high tides, heavy rains, and blowing sand may restrict your ability to drive down the beach without getting stuck. You’ll find a few steep hills, a few water crossings, and a multitude of both small and large jumps.
Prairie City State Vehicle Recreation Area
Location: At the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills, 20 miles east of Sacramento, CA
In this more than 800-acre area, you’ll find a wide variety of terrain to explore including flat, open grasslands, rolling hills with native blue oak trees, and acres of cobbled crushed rock left over after gold dredges combed ancient river beds during the late 1800s. Keep your eyes open for a wide a wide range of birds and other wildlife, like golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and an occasional prairie falcon, as well as quail, wild turkeys, and pheasants. Lewis’ woodpeckers, acorn woodpeckers, and northern flickers, plus deer and coyotes.
San Bernardino National Forest
Location: In San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, east of Los Angeles, CA
This national forest provides some of the best off-roading in southern California with a system including 42 miles of 24-50″ trails, with an additional 166 miles of forest roads, and an additional 903 miles of roads available for 4-wheel-drive vehicles, which together offer a wide range of riding opportunities to match all experience levels, from newbie to expert. The trails are signed easiest, more difficult, and most difficult. The San Bernardino National Forest encompasses the San Bernardino mountains, San Jacinto mountains and San Gabriel mountains, a large, more than 800,000-acre area that gives you your pick from dozens of trails. Holcomb Creek OHV trail is a challenging 8-mile trail spanning a boulder field. The Cactus Flat OHV area is a wide, 25-mile loop trail that is popular with 4×4 riders. The 3,200-acre Summit OHV Area offers plenty of room for outdoor adventures, and is a good place to stage for the Cleghorn Ridge OHV Road, a scenic, nearly 15-mile trail rated for moderate ATV experience that features miles of beautiful wild flowers. Coxey Road is a 19-mile trail that offers an easy ride past campgrounds, lovely meadows, ridges, and scenic peaks. As you might expect, the Gold Fever Trail, a 20-mile trail best traversed with a high-clearance vehicle, takes you through the beautiful Holcomb Valley, which was a thriving gold rush area in the mid-1800s.
That’s Just a Few
When you’re riding your ATV in California, the question is less “where are the ATV trails near me”, and more, “what kind of climate do I feel like riding in today” whether you prefer the hot, hot, hot 110-degrees in the desert, or the sweater-required 60 degrees in one of the rain forests. California is all about riding diversity. We’ve only highlighted a few of the many California ATV trails here, but you’ll be able to find hundreds more throughout the state, with very little effort.
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Whether you’re ATV and UTV trail riding in California or anywhere else in the U.S., you can count on us to provide you with the dependable, high performance Master ATV and UTV Tires you want. Here at Treadworld, we have the right ATV tires for every type of adventure riding, in every part of the country. The ATV tires we provide you with offer the finest in top quality, long-lasting, never-let-you-down reliability, manufactured with strict tolerances from top rubber compounds, triple-tested for quality before being X-rayed to be sure they’re perfect, then covered by our Ultimate Advantage Lifetime Warranty. Don’t hesitate to contact our tire experts via live chat or email with any questions you may have on the best ATV tires for you.