Challenge your Jeep and your driving skills with routes ranging from a mud-caked play day to a 575-mile workout.
Nothing says summer like rolling back the top on my ’95 Jeep Wrangler and heading to the mountains for a serious off-road adventure.
Don’t get me wrong, Jeeps are fun everyday drivers, but they really hit their stride on the trail – hob knobbing over boulders, scratching up steep hillsides and humping stumps that would murder regular cars.
Thankfully, here in the Pacific Northwest we have lots of opportunities test our metal from adventure areas (called ORV’s) to epic multiday campouts.
Ready for an adventure? Here are four top Jeep trails in Washington that you shouldn’t miss.
Naches Pass Trail
Where: From Greenwater to Cliffdell
One of the state’s most popular Jeep trails is also one of the most historic. The Naches Pass Trail was constructed in 1853 to attract wagon trains arriving on the Oregon Trail.
It was used for a short time but then abandoned because it was deemed too difficult. What broke the spirits of early settlers is now the delight of off-roaders. The 9.5-mile route is now recognized as one of the best Jeep trails in the world.
Travel through quintessential high country, crossing delicate meadows, old-growth forest and sweeping views of the Cascades.
The route isn’t terribly difficult, although it does feature tight off-camber turns and narrow rocky sections to challenge you.
At Government Meadows a free log cabin is a welcome overnight stop and a terrific place to watch wildlife. It’s near the Pacific Crest Trail so you can share stories with hikers walking from Mexico to Canada.
Another highlight is at Naches Pass Cliffs where the early settlers had to lower their wagon trains over the cliff using nothing but ropes, and you can still see where they left groove marks in the stone.
Backcountry Discovery Route
Where: From the Oregon border to the Canadian border
For an epic Jeep trail that will blow your mind, Washington’s Backcountry Discovery Route is a heroic 575 miles of dirty fun that crosses the entire state.
Expect to take 5-6 days driving over mostly unpaved roads and narrow 2-track suitable for novices. Some sections have steep inclines, tight corners and sheer drop-offs but many technical sections have alternate routes so you can detour around the tough stuff.
The northern half feels like the Old West, featuring scrub brush, Ponderosa pines and ranging cattle. In the south, the forests become thick and you roll past views of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier.
The WBDR is a multiday endurance journey with plenty of secluded campsites along the way, but if you’d rather sleep in a bed, there are many short detours to hotels.
Walker Valley ORV Area
Where: Just east of Mount Vernon
Walker Valley is a playground for all things off-road. Less than ninety minutes from Seattle, it’s one of the most convenient ORV’s to reach.
About 10 miles are dedicated to 4WD vehicles, which includes mellow dirt roads, tight tree-lined trails full of roots, rocks and ruts along with rocky hill climbs to viewpoints.
Walker Valley features a 4X4 play area, which is enormously popular for improving your skills. Be warned: Your social media account will blow up when people see pictures of your Jeep scaling boulders and navigating muddy ruts that are almost as tall as your vehicle.
In the middle of it all is a sandy playground known as “the pit” where you can race down an impossibly steep cliff to a flat basin below.
Elbe Hills ORV Park
Where: Southwest Washington near Elbe
If you’re the kind of driver who likes to come home with inches of mud caked to your car, then Elbe Hills is the place for you.
In the summer, there are sections that can be done with most 4WD vehicles. When it’s wet, this ORV is known for thick muck and wide sloppy puddles to play in.
Of the eight miles of 4X4 road, the Busywild trail is probably the toughest, and you could spend all day on this single section. It features lots of mud and water with big deep ruts that aren’t for the faint of heart or those with small tires. When it gets torn up, you’ll be glad you have a winch to pull your rig out.
The Mainline Trail has a little bit of everything from boulders to forested areas where it’s wet, watery and muddy. Be prepared for lots of tight turns in the trees.
On the Gotcha Trail you can test your driving skills squeezing between tight tree openings and stump mazes. Don’t forget to look up for a jaw-dropping view of Mount Rainier.
Dwayne Lane’s Auto Family is a family-owned and -operated business serving the Puget Sound since 1954. With multiple brands and several locations their goal is to treat all customers like family.