23 Best Off Road San Diego Trails

Visiting San Diego and looking for some scenic off-road trails in Southern California? The fantastic scenery of California welcomes all types of outdoor activities and is especially exciting for OHVs, Jeeps, and dirt bikes looking to get out on some new trails.

Not only is San Diego a city that welcomes off-road drivers, but it’s also well-known for its advocacy in this regard. The San Diego Off Road Coalition (SDORC) is dedicated to making off-roading accessible to all, promoting it as a family experience, and looking out for the environment. Thanks to their cooperation with local authorities, you’ll find hundreds of miles of well-maintained off-road trails and some beautiful open spaces to enjoy in Southern California.

Where are the best off-road trails in San Diego and around? The best off-road trails in San Diego are:

  1. Proctor Valley Road Trail
  2. Otay Mountain Truck Trail
  3. Corral Canyon OHV Trail
  4. Wagon Creek Falls
  5. Sugarpine Mountain OHV Trail
  6. Strawberry Lake OHV Trail
  7. Palomar Divide Road
  8. Smugglers Cave
  9. Anderson Truck Trail
  10. Bear Valley Road
  11. Boulder Creek Road
  12. Cedar Creek Road
  13. Black Mountain Truck Trail
  14. Santiago Peak
  15. Bee Canyon Truck Trail
  16. Thomas Mountain Road
  17. Chariot Canyon – Oriflamme Canyon
  18. Upper Coyote Canyon Trail
  19. Santa Ysabel Truck Trail
  20. Lake Murray
  21. Fiesta Island
  22. Double Peak Park
  23. Bonita Cove Park

First Off – Where Can You Get Kitted Up at the Best San Diego Off Road Shops?

Before you leave the city, check out the following top off-road shops for any last-minute repairs or kit upgrade, or even a new off-road vehicle!

23 Best Off Road San Diego Trails

Blue Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in Borrego Spring California

1. Proctor Valley Road Trail

Ride near Chula Vista on this 7.9 mile-trail available all year round. It’s open for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running, so you’ll need to look out for pedestrians. This San Diego off-road trail is close to the scenic Otay Open Space Preserve and very close to the city. The trail can get quite rugged with overgrown vegetation, so riding it in a Jeep is the best way to experience it.

Depending on the time of year, you can see lovely flowers blooming in the spring, but otherwise, the trail is quite short, and near a main road, so it may not be that scenic all year. It does end at Jamul Casino if you want to end your day doing something different!

2. Otay Mountain Truck Trail

This out and back trail near Dulzura, CA, is 20 miles long and is traditionally accessed via Marron Valley Road. Free to use, it’s a great spot of San Diego offroading with wildflowers and a bit of a climb. Overall, this is an easy trail for beginners in an off-road vehicle. However, you can link onto the Minnewawa Truck Trail to carry on your journey or take several other trailheads to make it more enjoyable while you’re out. 

As you’re in the Otay Open Space Preserve, expect to enjoy some beautiful scenery as you round the park. You’ll also be very close to Mexico’s border, so don’t be spooked by Border Patrol vehicles.

This is also an excellent dirt bike trail in San Diego.

3. Corral Canyon OHV Trail

For more San Diego off-road trails, head 50 miles east to Corral Canyon OHV Area. This region has 50 miles of trails offroad, through challenging terrain but rewarding landscapes. The trails here also offer the advantage of being at a higher altitude, from 3,400 feet at Corral Canyon Campground to 4,169 feet at Bronco Peak. Take in all the views from high up!

You can stay over at the campground and enjoy more of the Cleveland National Forest.

4. Wagon Creek Falls

Take the Wagon Creek Falls trail from Deer Creek and get to know another one of the 4×4 trails in Southern California. Out and back across 19.7 km, you’ll be near Mount Shasta and will see a waterfall, among other amazing views.

Be ready for a steep climb over rocks and boulders at the end. Some drivers may need to get out and hike the last part!

5. Sugarpine Mountain OHV Trail

This is one of the southern California off road trails that also features beautiful wildflowers and mountain scenery. Located near San Bernardino, the Sugarpine Mountain trail is an out and back and covers 28.3 km. You can also connect to other trails while exploring more of the area around Silverwood Lake.

Off-Road Jeep Trail in California

6. Strawberry Lake OHV Trail

Head to this trail for a bit of difficult San Diego off roading! Camping and fishing are also popular on this out and back trail near Shaver Lake, and it features lots of boulders, making it necessary to have a lifted vehicle. You’ll definitely want to stop off and camp by the lake to fully enjoy the beauty of these spots.

7. Palomar Divide Road

This road takes you to the High Point Lookout in Cleveland National Forest. It’s a great day out offroading between San Diego and Los Angeles, featuring scenic views, relatively easy wheeling, and peace and quiet. You’ll be riding through Palomar Mountain State Park and make your way through cedar, pine, and fir trees. This is the only place in southern California where you’ll feel like you’re in the Sierra Nevada!

Palomar Mountain State Park also offers lots of sites for camping, wild swimming, and hiking, so you can extend your stay out there and enjoy nature to the fullest.

8. Smugglers Cave

For something quite different, an easy trail but a great destination: impressive caves with equally excellent views. Head to Smugglers Cave Trail for only 3 miles, but be prepared to see something a bit different on this California off-road trail.

9. Anderson Truck Trail

A newly popular spot for off-roading from San Diego, Anderson Truck Trail is located in Alpine and is on private property. It covers 12km point to point and offers you the chance to see wildlife. This is a fun dirt bike trail to try out and also a popular hiking spot.

10. Bear Valley Road

Another top San Diego off road trail, Bear Valley Road, gives you great views of Bear Valley and Cottonwood Valley. This is one of the closest OHV trails from San Diego. It was designed for beginners, but you can then connect onto the Corral Canyon OHV Trail. You’ll need a pass from the local ranger station or at stores in Pine Valley and Lake Morena.

11. Boulder Creek Road

Boulder Creek Road is 13 miles of great off roading just southwest of Julian, CA. The trail is part of a 21-mile road, and you’ll get scenic views all year round.

12. Cedar Creek Road

This trail was recently reopened after a bad fire and is currently being maintained up to October 31, 2020. It’s a scenic ride that takes you to a waterfall at Cedar Creek Falls.

13. Black Mountain Truck Trail

In Ramona, CA, you’ll find another gem among San Diego offroad trails. It’s a relatively easy trail but features beautiful views and is not far from Santa Ysabel Truck Trail. Plus, it’s considered one of the best trails in San Diego!

14. Santiago Peak

Get spectacular 180-degree views of Riverside County on this offroad trail close to San Diego. You’ll take the Holy Jim Trail up to the peak and then the Indian Truck Trail down, offering great views and some technical spots. You need a $5 adventure pass to ride here, and it’s best to go between November and March. The trail is currently closed.

15. Bee Canyon Truck Trail

Drive 15.5 miles over moderately tricky terrain at Bee Canyon Truck Trail. One of the great attractions here is bird watching.

16. Thomas Mountain Road

To reach the top of Thomas Mountain near Mountain Center, CA, you have a fantastic OHV trail at Thomas Mountain Road. There are lots of camping spots around, and it’s especially scenic coming down at sunset.

17. Chariot Canyon – Oriflamme Canyon

These two canyons are connected by 11 miles point to point, close to Julian, CA. It’s a great spot for scenic driving.

18. Upper Coyote Canyon Trail

Head to the Anza Desert to visit Coyote Canyon, which runs from Anza to Borrego Springs. You have the option to take the South Coyote Canyon Trail from the other end, but you cannot connect the two. The southern approach is slightly easier, while the Upper trail will provide some extra off roading challenges. Please note, Coyote Canyon is closed over the summer (June 1 to September 30) to protect water sources for the rare peninsular bighorn sheep. So, this is a trail you’ll need to do in the winter!

Red Jeep Wrangler Off-Road California

19. Santa Ysabel Truck Trail

You’ll reach further into the Cleveland National Forest by taking the Santa Ysabela Truck Trail. There are lots of uphill sections with great views.

20. Lake Murray Trail

Ride some more scenic trails all around Lake Murray on the Lake Murray Trail near La Mesa. You’ll get to see more amazing wildflowers, fish, camp, even swim in the lake!

21. Fiesta Island

This San Diego offroading trail is 4 miles long and close to the city, offering an excellent wildlife spotting opportunity and an escape into nature. This is a straightforward, flat trail.

22. Double Peak Park

The off road riding trail in Double Peak Park is 4 miles long, of moderate difficulty, and offers lots of scenic views from Discovery Lake. You’ll drive a loop up and down Double Peak, so enjoy the scenery!

23. Bonita Cove Park

Finally, check out another Mission Bay offroading trail alongside Fiesta Island Trail. The full loop around Mission Bay is 11.7 miles and will allow you to explore more of the little islets and waterways.

Conclusion – Off Road San Diego

So, what are the 23 best off road San Diego Trails? To summarize, here they are again:

  1. Proctor Valley Road Trail
  2. Otay Mountain Truck Trail
  3. Corral Canyon OHV Trail
  4. Wagon Creek Falls
  5. Sugarpine Mountain OHV Trail
  6. Strawberry Lake OHV Trail
  7. Palomar Divide Road
  8. Smugglers Cave
  9. Anderson Truck Trail
  10. Bear Valley Road
  11. Boulder Creek Road
  12. Cedar Creek Road
  13. Black Mountain Truck Trail
  14. Santiago Peak
  15. Bee Canyon Truck Trail
  16. Thomas Mountain Road
  17. Chariot Canyon – Oriflamme Canyon
  18. Upper Coyote Canyon Trail
  19. Santa Ysabel Truck Trail
  20. Lake Murray
  21. Fiesta Island
  22. Double Peak Park
  23. Bonita Cove Park

There is no shortage of off-roading trails in San Diego and the Southern California region. In fact, all the beautiful nature preserves, mountain parks, and forests make for impressive views and great technical variety for all off roading skill levels. So come and explore all of the off road trails San Diego has to offer.

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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