If you’re new to off-roading, live in the Southern California area, and are wondering where to go for an off-road adventure, then you are in luck. Southern California is truly a 4-wheel drive Mecca. California has thousands of trails comprising every type of wheeling anyone may desire. The Golden State has everything from forest trails, desert trails, insane mud pits, narrow sandstone slot canyons, sand dunes, and rock crawling, to some of the most legendary overland trails in all of North America–the Mojave Road, the Rubicon Trail, and the Dusy-Ershim Trail.
For novice 4WD enthusiasts, it is recommended that you start with trails suitable for your skill level and your vehicle capabilities. Numerous off-road trail networks are close to the metropolitan area, and these are suggested.
Saddleback Mountain/Cleveland National Forest (less than 1 hour from most places)
Between the north end of Orange County and southern Riverside County is a small mountain range which divides the two counties. At roughly 5,600 feet elevation, this trail network is situated in the heart of Southern California. It offers close proximity to get off-road, and it features some breath-taking views that many never see. Since Saddle Back Mountain is within minutes of home, these trails can easily be a day-trip or merely an evening trip to enable one to get away from the city and enjoy a sunset over the Pacific Ocean. There are several popular ways to get to the mountain:
On the Orange Country side, you have Maple Springs Road, also known as Silverado Canyon, and the southern end of Main Divide.
Corona offers Bedford Canyon, while a little farther south you have Indian Truck Trail. While all these trails are easy in nature, they each offer different types of scenery.
Azusa Canyon Area (less than 1 hour from most places)
The next recommendation is Azusa Canyon State Recreation Vehicle Area (SVRA). This quaint little all-in-one off-road area is located in the hills above Los Angeles just off the 210 Freeway. Azusa Canyon SVRA also offers spectacular mud pits, rock crawling obstacle course, hill climbs, water crossings, and plenty of open areas to have fun. These features make Azusa Canyon a great spot for novice off-road enthusiasts.
The best part of Azusa is that it is located within an hour drive from almost anywhere in Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. If you plan on playing in the Mud Pits, it is highly recommended that you bring a friend to pull you out or ask someone, beforehand, to help you. There is no cell service in this area so consider that fact into your plan. Azusa Canyon OHV Area is only open on weekends and holidays.