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5 Tough Winter Destinations to Challenge Your 4x4

Put your 4x4 to the test.

By Trent Jonas

5 Tough Winter Destinations to Challenge Your 4x4

Winter does not mean the end of 4x4 season by any stretch. But with road and trail closures, it can be difficult to track down places for snowy four-wheeling adventures. But fear not—they’re out there! From Minnesota's national forests to the Black Hills of South Dakota, here are a few tough winter destinations to challenge your 4x4. 

Superior National Forest, MN

Northern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest extends westward along the Canadian border from the north shore of Lake Superior to Voyageurs National Park and includes the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Outside the Boundary Waters, the forest is criss-crossed with rugged forest roads and trails, many of which are open to 4x4 vehicles. And given its location along the northernmost latitudes of the Lower 48, you can bet that Superior National Forest gets plenty of snow to challenge your 4x4. During winter, some of the forest’s roads are fully maintained, others only somewhat, and many are not maintained at all. Depending on where you are in the forest, you may find yourself sharing the road with snowmobilers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers, logging trucks, as well as possible moose and wolves. Set up your basecamp at Gunflint Lodge, on the edge of the Boundary Waters and in the heart of the forest, from where you can jump off to many forest service roads and enjoy some non-motorized winter fun, as well. 

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Paiute Trail, Sevier County, UT

Although largely known as an ATV trail, many sections of the extensive Paiute Trail network are open to 4x4s. The network is generally open year-round but may become impassable during times of extremely heavy snowfall, so be sure to check conditions before you head out. Your winter adventure will take you through and around the Fishlake Natural Forest, stands of hardwood and coniferous forest, along the Sevier River valley, and from mountains to meadows. For easy access to the trail, stay at Paiute Trails Inn in centrally-located Marysvale, Utah.

Eagle River-Florence District, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, WI

Extending across northern Wisconsin, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest’s many ranger districts offer plenty of opportunities for 4x4 enthusiasts to get out and challenge themselves when the snow flies. And the forest service roads and trails in the Eagle-River Florence Ranger District afford the opportunity to do so across some of the most scenic of the forest’s million-plus acres. Most of the forest service roads in the district are open year-round, but not all of them are maintained—which can make for plenty of 4x4 fun, if you come prepared. You’ll be treated to scenic vistas across frozen lakes and rushing rivers as you wind your way through the great Northwoods of America’s Dairyland. Before you go, download the motor vehicle use map for the district so you know which roads permits year-round travel. Considering staying in Eagle River, which is a hub for the forest and the jumping off point for the ranger district. The Eagle River Inn and Resort is open throughout the winter and would make a comfortable and convenient headquarters for snowy adventures.

Hell Canyon Ranger District, Black Hills National Forest, SD

Head for the hills—the Black Hills, that is—for another awesome winter 4x4 challenge. The Hell Canyon Ranger District in the Black Hills National Forest is webbed with forest roads that are open to traffic throughout the winter, even though many are not maintained. The district contains some of the most scenic parts of the region and surrounds Jewel Cave National Monument. As you traverse the wintry byways, keep your eyes peeled for mountain lions and bighorn sheep. Stay in one of the lodges inside adjacent Custer State Park, which has its own bison heard and many scenic areas to enjoy.

Drummond Island, MI

If you’re looking for a place that caters to off-road enthusiasts, hop into your 4x4 and head to Drummond Island, Michigan. The 100-plus miles of roads and trails on the island are open year-round and range in difficulty from beginner to extremely challenging—even more so when you add several inches of snow to the mix. The trails offer gorgeous drives through the island’s deep woods and beautiful views out across Lake Huron. The Drummond Island Hotel is perfectly situated for access to the island’s trail network.

Due to the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, local destinations for outdoor recreation may be closed. Please visit official websites for more information.

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