Story and photos by Ali Mansour
The east coast of the United States all too often gets left out when it comes to bucket list places to wheel. Sure, Moab, Utah, is hard to measure up against, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end-all, be-all place to explore off-road. The biggest difference between east coast and west coast wheeling (aside from a little mud) is the abundance of government land. Out west, you’ll find tens of thousands of government protected acreage for you to explore.
Moving further east, it’s more limited. This is one of the reasons that privately owned off-road parks make up the majority of great wheeling for states near the Atlantic Ocean. Just like you’ll find out west, the off-road parks in the east can vary significantly in difficulty. Add in a good rain shower and the mud element will make things exponentially more challenging. With that being the case, we’ve put together a list of five of our favorite wheeling destinations that offer everything from basic overlanding backroads to hardcore rock crawling.
While this article focuses on the east coast, keep your eyes peeled for future articles for different regions of the country.
Located an hour’s drive outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the most diverse outdoor recreation areas in the entire state. From camping, hiking, watersports, and of course, off-roading, Uwharrie National Forest has plenty to keep you busy. The trail system there ranges from easy to difficult, but most can be conquered on dry day with a mildly equipped Jeep Wrangler. The majority of the terrain is mix of rocky hillclimbs and the occasional steep ledge.
Add in a good rain shower however, and even your most basic trail can be challenging thanks to the clay surface layer. Be sure to stop by the Eldorado Outpost and pick up your pass and grab a map before you hit the park. The off-road trail portion of the park does close from December 15th to April 1st, so plan accordingly. Info: fs.usda.gov
While Nashville may be Tennessee’s biggest draw, for outdoor enthusiasts, Windrock Park is the place to be. With 73,000 acres of usable land, Windrock Park has become a magnet for Jeepers, ATVs, and mountain bikers across the U.S. The 300 miles of trails include everything from a basic gravel road to extremely difficult boulder-filled path that will leave your 4x4 with some serious battle scars. As is the case with many of the places on our list, rain will elevate the difficulty significantly. We highly recommend the on-site cabins for a great place to stay and close proximity to the trails. Windrock also plays host to a variety of off-road events throughout the year, which is a great way for first timers to get a proper guided tour of the trails. While the park is open year-round, book early as camping spots can fill up fast. Info: windrockpark.com
For those located in South Carolina, wheeling doesn’t get any better than the Gulches ORV Park. Set just off the winding backroads of Waterloo, South Carolina, the 80 acre park is jam packed with trails. With over 40 trails on the property intermixing, it’s easy to bounce around from trail and obstacle quickly. There’s a good mix of large climbs and rock obstacles to mix your technical skills and throttle finesse. Give the location of the trails, it makes for a great place to spectate and wheel. Due to the soil type and location, the park can be closed during heavy rains. So, be sure to check the weather and give them a ring before you head that way. Info: gulchesorvpark.com
Sitting conveniently right off of Interstate 40 in Marion, North Carolina, is one of the wildest and most enjoyable privately owned off-road parks in the east. It’s called the Flats Offroad Park and they have 70 acres of steep and challenging trails. From rock bouncers to bone stock Wranglers, you can find enough terrain to keep you entertained, no problem. Though you need to be a member to have year-round access, every few months the park opens its gates to all wheelers for an open ride. These four-day stretches are a great way to get acclimated to the park and look into what it takes to become a member. Info: Facebook.com/TheFlatsOffRoadPark/
You can’t mention east coast wheeling without acknowledging one of the most notable wheeling destinations- Rausch Creek Off-Road Park. With over 3,000 acres of land in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, Rausch offers little something for all skill types and 4x4 levels. There’s free on-site camping and a host of events to help those new to the park (and wheeling) get their bearings. Rockcrawling is the primary draw, but there’s much more to the park then just basic boulder driving. No matter what skill level, Rausch Creek has something to offer. Info: rc4x4.org
If you align more with the overland crowd, then we highly recommend you check out the trails around Northern Georgia. Places such as Beasley Knob offer a great mix of scenic trail wheeling and off-road challenges along the way. This region of the state is also very popular with adventure bike enthusiasts, so you’ll see plenty along the way. Most of the trails will take you through the Chattahoochee National Forest. With the heavy tree coverage during a summer, it’s a great place to fold back the top and leave the doors at home. Info: fs.usda.gov