Though some may be more than just a short distance from San Francisco, the off-road trails of San Francisco offer excellent ways to get that hands-on experience so beneficial to thrill-seeking off-roaders. Once located, these trails are capable of keeping even the most critical of off-roaders well satisfied. Each has its own charm and benefits. Each is suitable for a a particular type of off-roader, and they all could use some good company, so let’s take a look at the top five off-road trails in and around San Francisco.
1. The Rubicon
For the brave souls who choose to do so, maneuvering up or down the twists and turns of the boulder-full Rubicon Trail requires a bit of commitment. Rumor has it that the trail has gone a bit soft from frequent use by standard vehicles. However, the actual experience does not fail to disappoint and definitely is not lacking in the challenge department. Expect at least a 2-day excursion, with few crowds, except during the end of July and beginning of August when the Trail’s biggest holidays, the Jeepers Jamboree and the Jeep Jamboree are busy underway.
2. Fordyce Creek Trail Drive
Just west of the Rubicon lies Fordyce Creek Trail Drive. Beginners need not venture here as the rough and rugged terrain is consistently marked as one of the most difficult and dangerous trails in California. After searching a bit for the trail-head, off-roaders will find winch hills and deep river crossings that make this trail quite infamous and well-known for its adrenaline-boosting thrills. Fordyce Creek Trail Drive is 12.3 miles of off-roading meant strictly for the experts, but first-timers shouldn’t shy away from this challenging opportunity to test and check their best 4-wheeling skills.
3. Bald Hills Road
Novices need not fear that there are few trails worth trying in the area. Nestled in near the National and State Redwood Forest is Bald Hills Road, and its easy skill level makes it a popular destination for off-road trail beginners. About 30.9 miles long, the route takes three hours to finish, and offers breathtaking views of California’s Pacific coast as well as of the Klamoth Mountains. Drivers should be aware that the road can be rocky, but generally the gradient is gradual. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Bald Hills on the way out.
4. Clavey Bridge Road
A journey through Stanislau National Forest highlights the off-road trail known as Clavey Bridge Road. A trail of moderate difficulty, Clavey Bridge Road snakes through the forest past the Tuolumne River and gives a sweeping shelf road view of the Clavey River, a great spot for catching rainbow trout. At 39.9 miles long, the trail takes about 3.5 hours to complete. Not far from the trail entrance, the Riverside Picnic Area offers a great place to gear up for the trip and take in the sights, sounds and beauty of the surrounding terrain.
5. Lost Coast Pacific Coast Drive & Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Last but not least in the top five is the Lost Coast Pacific Coast Drive & Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Just like its name, this is one of the longest on our list at 88.1 miles. This means it should take almost a full day to complete this journey, fit for all skills levels. It’s a remote trek through seldom explored coastal terrain, perfect for taking in awesome ocean views. The best time to go is in April or May when roads are less likely to be wet and thus more difficult to master. The icing on the cake is the Trail’s end at the Avenue of the Giants, a wondrous cluster of soaring redwoods.