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Friday, June 21, 2024

2023 Top Destinations in Southern California for Overlanders

Photo by KiskaMedia via iStock

As overlanding gains in popularity, more and more people are looking for the perfect destinations to explore.

Southern California offers some of the best overlanding opportunities in the country, with a diverse range of terrain and landscapes that you can see by foot, vehicle, UTV, and more.

In this post, we’ll highlight five top locations for Southern California overlanding you need to explore!

Table of Contents

Southern California Overlanding: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Southern California overlanding - Spring desert wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA

Photo by ​​Ron and Patty Thomas via iStock

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a sprawling park that covers nearly 600,000 acres of desert wilderness. The park offers a variety of terrain, from rugged canyons to badlands and cactus-studded hills. There are numerous backcountry roads and off-road trails for you to explore, as well as designated campsites and dispersed camping areas for overnight stays.

One of the most popular overlanding routes in the park is the Borrego Mountain Wash, which offers stunning views of the desert landscape and takes drivers through narrow canyons and over rocky terrain. Other popular trails include the Grapevine Canyon Trail and the Split Mountain Road.

Southern California overlanding - The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Fonts Point) in southern California, United States

Photo by Wirestock via iStock

In addition to off-roading, Anza-Borrego is a great destination for hiking, rock climbing, and stargazing. The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and rare wildflowers.

If you really want to kick up your adventure a notch, check out Ride ‘n Drive Off-Road Rentals. Located in Borrego Springs, Ride ‘n Drive is the ultimate resource for adventure gear to explore the park.

Southern California overlanding - Ride in a UTV

For example, you can rent dirt bikes, ATVs, or UTVs to explore the many trails in the area. The rental includes everything you need, from helmets to maps to a first aid kit. Basic operating instructions are included as well.

Likewise, you can rent an off-road camping trailer to enjoy the fresh air and crystal-clear night skies in the park. If you don’t have a large vehicle, no worries! These compact teardrop trailers can be towed by a 4-cylinder car, or if you want to get off-road, you can rent a UTV and tow the trailer with it! 

Southern California overlanding in the desert

Imagine camping under the stars with a comfortable place to sleep. You can use the included Jackery Solar Generator to charge your devices, turn on the fan in the trailer to get some fresh air in the cabin, and deploy the canopy to have some shade when the sun rises high in the sky.

However you go about it, Ride ‘n Drive has the goods to help you have a truly memorable time exploring the beauty of this Southern California gem.

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Mojave National Preserve

Southern California overlanding - Mojave National Preserve, California.

Photo by Sierralara via iStock

The Mojave National Preserve is a massive park that covers over 1.6 million acres of desert wilderness.

The park offers a variety of landscapes, from sand dunes to volcanic cinder cones and Joshua tree forests. There are numerous primitive campsites and backcountry roads for overlanders to explore, as well as opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing.

Southern California overlanding - A man hikes along the trail near Banshee Canyon in the Mojave National Preserve.

Photo by Lisay via iStock

One of the most popular overlanding routes in the park is the Mojave Road, a historic wagon trail that takes drivers through some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the park. The route includes water crossings, rocky terrain, and stunning desert vistas.

Other popular trails in the park include the Black Canyon Road, the Aiken Mine Road, and the Kelbaker Road. You should be prepared for extreme temperatures, as the park can get extremely hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Southern California Overlanding: Joshua Tree National Park

Southern California overlanding - Joshua Tree National Monument. California. Scenic landscape image taken in winter.

Photo by ImagineGolf via iStock

Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for overlanders and rock climbers alike. The park is home to unique rock formations and a diverse range of desert flora and fauna. 

There are several established campgrounds within the park, but you can also find dispersed camping areas throughout the park to stay overnight.

Southern California overlanding - Joshua Tree National Park, California. The wonderland of rocks and reservoir above the Barker Dam

Photo by Nature, food, landscape, travel via iStock

One of the most popular overlanding routes in the park is the Geology Tour Road, a scenic drive that takes you through some of the park’s most impressive rock formations. The route is well-marked and easy to navigate, making it a great option if you’re a first-time overlander.

Other popular trails in the park include the Berdoo Canyon Road, the Pinkham Canyon Road, and the Old Dale Road. You should be prepared for extreme temperatures, as the park can get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Big Bear Lake

Southern California overlanding - Boulder Bay in fall, Big Bear Lake in fall, fall in the mountains, fall color, fall in San Bernardino Mountains

Photo by Ron and Patty Thomas via iStock

Big Bear Lake is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities for off-road adventures. The area offers a range of terrain, from steep mountain passes to rocky desert terrain.

There are several campgrounds in the area, too. You can also find dispersed camping areas in the surrounding national forest.

One of the most popular overlanding routes in the area is the John Bull Trail, a challenging route that takes you through steep hills, rocky terrain, and narrow canyons. Other popular trails in the area include the Gold Mountain Trail, the Holcomb Valley Trail, and the Dishpan Springs Trail.

Big Bear Lake Southern California overlanding

Photo by Ron and Patty Thomas via iStock

In addition to off-roading, Big Bear Lake is a great destination for other outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. The area is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and mountain lions.

You should be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the area can experience high levels of snowfall in the winter and hot temperatures in the summer. It’s also important to be aware of fire restrictions in the area, as wildfires are a common concern in Southern California.

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MARBERO 88Wh Portable Power Station 24000mAh Camping Solar Generator 

Southern California Overlanding: Death Valley National Park

Southern California overlanding - The gnarled and twisted branches of a dead mesquite tree in the sand of the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley National Park, lit by moonlight at night with stars emerging from a semi-cloudy sky.

Photo by GaryKavanagh via iStock

Death Valley National Park is a popular destination if you’re looking for a unique desert experience. With its expansive sand dunes, colorful badlands, and rugged mountain ranges, Death Valley offers a diverse range of terrain to explore.

Several backcountry roads and trails throughout the park are suitable for overlanding, from the challenging Titus Canyon Road to the more moderate Saline Valley Road.

One of the highlights of overlanding in Death Valley is the opportunity to camp in remote and scenic locations. There are several designated backcountry campsites throughout the park, as well as opportunities for dispersed camping. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and desert tortoises.

Southern California overlanding - Badlands view from Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park at Sunset, California

Photo by roman_slavik via iStock

When overlanding in Death Valley, it’s important to be prepared for extreme temperatures and changing weather conditions. The park can experience snow and freezing temperatures in the winter, and scorching heat in the summer.

By following responsible camping practices and respecting the environment, you can enjoy a safe and unforgettable experience in this unique national park.

Overlanding Tips for Southern California

Southern California overlanding - Joshua Tree Lane

Photo by trekandshoot via iStock

No matter which destination you choose for your Southern California overlanding adventure, there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:

  • Check weather and road conditions before heading out, as conditions can change quickly, whether you’re in the desert, mountains, or somewhere in between.
  • Bring plenty of food and water for the duration of your trip. Extra food and water is a must in case you get lost or stuck.
  • Be aware of fire restrictions and regulations, and always practice responsible fire safety practices.
  • Respect the environment and leave no trace of your visit.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Carry a first aid kit, extra clothing, and a means of communication.

Which Destination is for You?

Southern California overlanding - Sunrise From the Summit of Granite Mountain Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Photo by Sierralara via iStock 

Southern California offers a wealth of opportunities for overlanding, with a diverse range of terrain and landscapes to explore. Whether you’re looking for steep mountain passes, rugged canyons, or unique rock formations, there’s a destination in Southern California that’s perfect for your overlanding adventure.

Better still, there are varied adventures you can take. With hiking, biking, and off-roading available at each of these Southern California destinations, you can explore the beauty around you in many different ways. Add to the list photography, stargazing, birdwatching, and a host of other activities, too.

All that’s left is to decide which of these locations you want to explore first!

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