7 Best Off-Road Trails in North Carolina for Jeeps and 4×4’s

Jeep driving through a river in north carolina

North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful mountain treks, hill climbs, and beach paths in the United States. It’s also home to some of the most adventurous offroad trails in the country.

Whenever I’m in North Carolina, I always make time to take my Jeep out on a quick trail run. For those who love off-roading, the state holds plenty of undiscovered treasures, and many trail systems are being developed further.

If you’re wondering where to take your 4×4 off-roading in North Carolina, here are my 7 favorite places to go!

Best Off-Road Trails to drive your Jeep in North Carolina

  1. Corolla North Beach
  2. Brown Mountain OHV Trail System
  3. Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex
  4. Bent Creek Gap OHV Trail
  5. Nantahala Ranger District
  6. Wayehutta OHV Trail System
  7. Black Swamp OHV Trailhead

Corolla North Beach

Located right on the northeastern coast of North Carolina, Corolla offers sandy beaches for a pleasant, serene riding experience. Take in the sun, the sea, and the sights as you enjoy the 11-mile trek from one end of the beach to the other, and feel free to stop at any point and just hang out for a bit. 

The ride itself isn’t particularly challenging; in fact, more experienced riders will probably treat it like any drive across the beach.

The views are just something else though, and that’s exactly why I recommend Corolla as your next destination for your Jeep, especially during the summer.

Set up camp at the beach as you wait for the low tide and have yourself a pleasant night out.

Click here for directions.

OHV trail in Brown Mountain North CarolinaBrown Mountain OHV Trail System

As the only designated OHV trail system in the Pisgah National Forest Area, Brown Mountain has a lot to offer to seasoned riders.

The system comprises a variety of trails, only two of which are open to Jeeps and other 4x4s; Trail 1 and Trail 8.

Trail 1, however, is open mostly to bikes and ATVs and only a portion of it is accessible by Jeep. This brings us to Trail 8.

The only trail fully intended for Jeep use, trail 8 offers an intermediate challenge for riders and is considered a moderately difficult trail.

Hallmarks include loose, rocky soil as well as a few steep inclines along narrow paths.

The 10-mile trail is well-marked and maintained, and the area offers many other scenic adventures in the form of picnics, camping grounds, and designated hiking trails. 

Click here for directions. 

Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex

The Badin Lake OHV Trails offer the most diverse and exciting challenge in North Carolina for any off-road riding enthusiast.

As the only off-highway trail system in the Piedmont region, Badin Lake is home to eight trails accessible from six trailheads.

The entire system spans 16 miles and contains trails of varying difficulty; truly the holy grail of the NC off-highway scene.

The hardest trails involve steep rocky climbs, some treacherous, narrow segments, seasonal mud patches and more.

Of the six trailheads, the most challenging trail, the Daniel TR 390 begins at the Cotton Place Staging Area and is rated as extremely difficult.

This particular trail is only open for OHV and should only be attempted by experienced riders, and is also not accessible during certain parts of the year.

The rest of the system is open 24/7 from 1st April to 15th December, come rain or fall. 

The Trail is surrounded by several full-service campgrounds, such as the Arrowhead Campground and the Badin Lake Campground, but of these only Art Lilley Campground provides direct access to the trail, doubling as a staging area. The rest allow only for vehicles to be hauled to one of the staging areas.

Wolfs Den, one of the six Badin Lake Trailheads, is located here.

Bent Creek Gap OHV Trail

The Bent Creek Gap is one of the easiest trails to make this list, but also one that features some of the best views. I recommend this trail during the winter, especially if you’re a fan of snow. 

If you prefer going during the sunnier months though, the Gap has just as much to offer. The trail goes through densely forested areas and involves a shallow river crossing.

Because the trail isn’t particularly treacherous, there is ample opportunity to just stop and enjoy the sights and the wildlife.

The trail is littered with potential campsites, so you don’t have to worry about overcrowding or other related issues. 

The trail stretches from the Lake Powhatan Parking Area to the Blue Ridge Parking Area and is open year-round to licensed and non-motorized vehicles. For directions, click here.

Nantahala Ranger District

This district covers over 250,000 acres of land, stretching across counties including Macon, Jackson, and Swain.

For nature lovers who love a bit of thrill, you can find waterfalls, granite walls, and rivers. For off-roaders, this is the perfect place to start your journey.

Not only do you have access to lush green surroundings and mountains everywhere you look but also the opportunity to drive past the Whitewater Falls! 

If you’re still not convinced, the district offers four long-distance trails.

The Appalachian, Mountain-to-Sea, Bartram, and Foothills are definitely worthy of consideration. You won’t be disappointed!

Wayehutta OHV Trail System 

Previously possessed by a private owner, The Roy Taylor Forest is known for its rich soil and fast flourishing hardwood trees.

Located close to the town of Cullowhee, you can access the trail from several different directions. If you plan on taking the Sylva or the Franklin, you can easily find a comprehensive map that will lead you directly to the trailhead parking area. 

Open from April to December, these trails are open from morning to evening.

Do bear in mind, they have certain restrictions. Drivers must comply with all North Carolina state laws in regards to OHV’s.

Also, be sure to carry valid licenses, you might not be able to off-road otherwise. Additionally, having a helmet on is necessary, and drinking alcohol is prohibited on the trails as well as other designated areas. 

Black Swamp OHV Trailhead

For riders who are looking to make the most out of their trip, the Black Swamp OHV Trailhead boasts eight trails. 

OHV riders do need to buy a pass before they can begin but it’s a great value for the money and you won’t regret it.

The trail has been designed for all-terrain vehicles so if you do decide to switch to an ATV or bike, you can.  

As for additional documents, you need to enter the names of each of the occupants riding with you as well as provide a license plate number for towing vehicles.

Moreover, if any observance checks do occur, you will need to present a state driver’s license. If you’ve already prepared these documents, you are ready to get going. 

So that’s the list. I wish you a safe, fun trip across whichever of these locations you choose to visit.

Mark Anders

I love my Jeep and will share my years of knowledge with you here! Stay with me and read on!

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