14 Best Bay Area Off Road Trails

Are you looking to do some off-roading around San Francisco? While the city may not have many options, you’re not too far from some of the best trails to ride. There are loads of Bay Area off road trails to explore within a few hours drive from the city. With a bit of planning, you can hit up these spots in no time. So, where are the best off road trails in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area has some great off-road trails to explore. One of the top places is Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, which is about an hour away from the Bay area. It has rock trails, sandpits, and areas for beginners. The Rubicon Trail is another excellent option, but it is a bit further out.

Here are the 14 best Bay Area off road trails:

  1. Carnegie SVRA
  2. Knoxville Recreation Area
  3. Hollister Hills SVRA
  4. South Cow Mountain Recreation Area
  5. Frank Raines OHV park
  6. Rubicon Trail
  7. Red Lake Trail and Coyote Lake Trail
  8. Foresthill OHV
  9. Corral Hollow OHV Trail
  10. Peligreen Jeepway
  11. Prairie City SVRA
  12. Old Coast Road
  13. San Luis Reservoir SRA
  14. Penny Pines

If you’re looking for some Bay area 4×4 trails, they won’t be hard to find. Let’s go through the best Bay Area off road trails.

14 Best Bay Area Off Road Trails

White Car Parked on Off-Road Trail

1. Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area

Carnegie SVRA starts off our list as one of the best Bay Area off road trails. It is about an hour’s drive east of the Bay Area and one of the city’s closest off-road trails. Carnegie SVRA is open 24/7. It features a motocross track, 4×4 area, trials area, ATV track, riding trails, and beginner trails. There’s also a MotoMart and a campground. Riders love Carnegie for its rock trails, sandpits, upward climbs, beginner spots, and places to test big vehicles.

2. Knoxville Recreation Area

About a two drive to the north is Knoxville, which draws many off-road enthusiasts from the Bay Area every year. Offering nearly 18,000 acres of territory, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts enjoy the various terrains, rolling hills, and upper and lower camps that accommodate different rider skills. The site also offers other outdoor activities, such as biking and orienteering. Besides having one of the most extensive off-road trails in the Bay Area, Knoxville is also home to hardwood and vegetation species unique to the region. It is open year-round and provides free camping.

3. Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area

Just southeast of the Bay Area, about two hours away, is another public park where you can experience one of the largest Bay Area off road trails. The Hollister Hills SVRA offers 6,800 acres of beautiful landscape with 4×4, dirt bike, and ATV trails. There’s also hiking, biking, and horse riding at the Mudstone Ranch. This SVRA also offers campgrounds so you can be well-rested and explore more the next day.

Holister Hills SVRA

4. South Cow Mountain Recreation Area

Around two and a half hours to the north, South Cow Mountain spans 23,000 acres of hardpack, rocky, and loose dirt terrain that goes up to 4,000 feet in elevation. It is part of the 52,000-acre Cow Mountain Recreation Area, designating South Cow as the off roading Bay Area park in Northern California. So if you’re looking for some Northern California off road trails, check out South Cow. You can find the best areas with your ATV, 4×4 vehicle, or motorcycle. Another rewarding part? South Cow overlooks the beautiful Ukiah and Lake County.

5. Frank Raines OHV Park

Two hours east of the Bay Area is Frank Raines Off-Highway Vehicle Park. Known for its steep trails, rugged hill climbs, mud bogs, and dry 4×4 trails, the SVRA is popular with almost all OVH enthusiasts. However, since it’s mostly dry and the temperature can go up to 100 degrees, drivers are cautioned against overheating vehicles. The park is also usually closed from June to October due to fires.

6. Rubicon Trail

A three-hour drive to the East of the city brings you to one of the most famous off road parks in California, and even the world. Rubicon Trail is legendary among four-wheel enthusiasts because of its challenging terrains that reach more than 7,000 feet. At best, it may take you more than two days to complete the entire trail. Being one of the best off road trails in California, this site also hosts the annual Rubicon Trail event attended by enthusiasts every August. The scenery is beautiful, where you can find spectacular spots that overlook the lake. Whether you’re planning to join the event or explore more of this magnificent destination, make sure to prepare by bringing camping gear, such as this Coleman Dome Tent (view on Amazon) for a good night’s rest.

7. Red Lake Trail and Coyote Lake Trail

This part of the Sierra National Forest trail network, which is around 3 hours from the Bay Area, is a popular destination for advanced OHV enthusiasts. It features big boulders, high elevation, and a beautiful mountain lake at the end. Start at Red Lake Trail, which is the easier path between the two. Go through dense forests and stretches of accessible roads before you enter a series of rock obstacle courses at Coyote Lake Trail.

8. Foresthill OHV

A two-hour and a half drive from the Bay Area brings you to Tahoe National Park, where you can explore another off road trail – the Foresthill OHV Hill. This destination features multiple opportunities for crossing lakes, winding trails, and the view of the lake. Within the 100-mile stretch, you will encounter challenging trails and dirt roads. Being part of the National Park’s system, there are different areas available for camping. Make a reservation if you’re near the lake.

Foresthill OHV Dirt Bike

9. Corral Hollow OHV Trail

One of the nearest Bay Area off-road trails and considered a family-favorite is the Corral Hollow OHV Trail. This 14-mile stretch ranges from easy to difficult, with steep and rocky terrain. You will also pass through fantastic scenery to the ridge’s top, which becomes a ski run during winter seasons. From recommendations, the trail is ideal for visiting from May to November.

10. Peligreen Jeepway

A combination of scenic spots, rough and narrow paths, graveled terrains, and campgrounds, the Peligreen Jeepway is another trail that you can discover near the Bay Area. The beginning is considerably easy, but then it progresses into a rough road. You will come across volcanic ridges and wide paths full of gravel once you reach Ishi Road. The site also has several camping spots where you can rest before continuing your next drive.

11. Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area

Less than two hours away east of the Bay Area is Prairie City SVRA. Situated at the foot of Sierra Nevada, this spot has interesting terrain and various trails that can accommodate different types of off-highway vehicles. Some areas are flat while others have rolling hills. Enthusiasts riding bigger vehicles will enjoy the 4×4 pyramid obstacles, mud and sand pits, and rock courses. Other facilities within Prairie City include a kids’ track, Go-Kart track, midget track, MX track, camping sites, and picnic areas.

12. Old Coast Road

Less than two hours away from the Bay Area, Old Coast Road offers scenic trails for off-road driving. The 10-mile stretch is relatively moderate, where some riders used two-wheel vehicles instead of 4x4s. Some areas are considered rough and rutted, but you’re well-covered as long as you ride one with sufficient ground clearance. With views of the Big Sur and the surrounding mountains, this is a nice trail if you’re looking to escape the city.

13. San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area

Located two hours southeast of the Bay Area, this small off-road trail is popular among beginner OHV trekking. The place is open for day-riding and features a relatively flat landscape, loading ramps, and areas where you can set a small picnic. San Luis Reservoir is an ideal place with around 150 acres of land to enjoy. It takes around half an hour to complete and is great if you want you or your young ones to learn about off road trail riding.

14. Penny Pines

Located three hours north of the Bay Area, Penny Pines is an OHV trail found inside the Mendocino National Park. Being rehabilitated from the 2018 River and Ranch fires, this area features around 135 miles of black diamond trails. With steep and challenging terrains, the Penny Pines trail system is recommended for more experienced off-road vehicle drivers. The trail system also has access to easier dirt roads, camping grounds, and dry river beds.

Bay Area Weather for Off-Roading

The weather is very diverse due to its proximity to the ocean and the bay. During the summer, you can expect a temperature of around 70 to 100 degrees. The majority of the OHV trails and SVRA parks are open for the entire year, but you also have to be cautious during extreme temperatures and weather conditions. Although Jeeps, ATVs, and 4×4 vehicles can tread on mud and rough dirt roads, it is best to tread lightly on steeper areas during rainy weather. Also, consider measures to avoid overheating your vehicles during the hot summer. Visit your nearest Bay Area off road shop to prepare.

Conclusion – Bay Area Off Road Trails

So, what are the 14 best Bay Area off road trails? To summarize, here they are again:

  1. Carnegie SVRA
  2. Knoxville Recreation Area
  3. Hollister Hills SVRA
  4. South Cow Mountain Recreation Area
  5. Frank Raines OHV park
  6. Rubicon Trail
  7. Red Lake Trail and Coyote Lake Trail
  8. Foresthill OHV
  9. Corral Hollow OHV Trail
  10. Peligreen Jeepway
  11. Prairie City SVRA
  12. Old Coast Road
  13. San Luis Reservoir SRA
  14. Penny Pines

Whether you’re living in the Bay Area or just visiting, there’s so much to explore. With these off road trails Bay Area offers, you can have an excellent outdoor adventure, stay off-the-grid, and get your weekend adrenaline rush.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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