A while back, we broke down some can’t-miss 4×4 fun hitting the Northern California region this year. Well, as promised, we’re back to unpack the juicy center of the insanely large and varied state we call California. From the breathtaking sights of Big Sur and Yosemite to the agricultural delights of the Salinas Valley and the 62-mile Blossom Trail outside Fresno, there’s plenty to see, smell, and take delight in. There are also loads of hills, rocks, and muddy passes to keep the wheelin’ entertaining. And thanks to enthusiastic 4×4 clubs, hard at work to keep the state four-wheel-friendly, you can enjoy all that and more on any of these must-do trail runs in Central California.
Molina Ghost Run Trail
Organized by the nonprofit Cal4Wheel off-road enthusiast group, this 10-mile trail ride through the BLM Clear Creek Management Area is named for the New Idria/Molina Mercury Mine in San Benito county that was abandoned in the 1970s, leaving a ghost town in its wake.
Traditionally, the annual run would visit the eerie, empty town of New Idria after its pass through the strange landscape of the Molina Trail, much of it carved by serpentine rock formations. However, in 2008, the Bureau of Land Management closed the sprawling 63,000-acre area after a research foundation claimed its study found naturally-occurring airborne asbestos particles to be a risk to OHV users.
While fighting for the land to be reopened for public use, Cal4Wheel has been hosting the event at the Hollister Hills SVRA, about 50 miles from the original site. While the level of trail difficulty and fun are kept similarly high, the less-impressive views and heavy regulation definitely put a slight damper on things. Luckily, those fighting the good fight are seeing some results.
In 2014, the BLM reopened the Serpentine Area of Critical Environmental Concern, a 31,000-acre section of the Clear Creek Management Area. And the bill to reopen the entire Recreation Area unanimously passed the House of Representatives in July 2018. Unfortunately, these swiftly-made federal actions often take years to undo, so it may be a while still before full land access is restored. In the meantime, show your support and join Cal4Wheel this spring, May 10-11, for a Molina Ghost Run Trail—even if it’s only in name.
8th Annual Turf-N-Surf
Next up on our list of must-do trail runs in Central California is the 8th annual Turf-n-Surf. A unique party along Pismo Beach, this event offers plenty of wheeling for Land Cruiser enthusiasts. 1,500 acres of sand dunes, a poker run, Lighted Cruiser parade, and scenic inland trails leading to the historic Pozo Saloon are all on the docket—with camping and bonfires thrown in as an added bonus.
Dates haven’t been announced yet for 2019, but last year’s party kicked off Veteran’s Day weekend in November. Click here and join the club’s mailing list to stay up-to-date on this family-friendly Toyota beach bonanza.
Eastern Sierra ATV and UTV Jamboree
Sticking with the theme of exclusivity… quad lovers looking for some organized 4×4 action will be happy to hear that the Eastern Sierra Jamboree will be kicking off September 24-28 in Northern Mono County. Participants will enjoy four days of guided trail rides through a picturesque combination of public lands, Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest, and BLM areas.
The event is very family-friendly, even allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to join as riders (as long as a parent accompanies them.) Registration ends about a month before the event but space is limited to 250 riders, so it’s recommended that you make those plans early. If you’ve been looking for a unique getaway with the family, this might be just what you need!
“Last One Standing” 4×4 Challenge
Hosted by the Santa Cruz 4 Wheel Drive Club, this annual event helps fund money for off-road advocacy in California. Last year’s event—the 10th annual—resulted in a big donation to the Cal4Wheel Legal Fund, which works to preserve OHV-access.
Held at the Hollister Hills SVRA, the “Last One Standing” Challenge is a family-friendly event that puts stock and modified 4x4s (and their drivers) to the test in a man-made obstacle course. The course is divided into five scored sections including a hill of tires, a playground of concrete pipes and rocks, a section of drops and logs, and a man-made wall and rock wash. Perhaps the most interesting is the Blind Driver’s Challenge that operates exactly as you think it does. A driver is blind-folded and must rely on their passenger/scout to lead them through a tire and mud pit. (Sounds more like the ultimate test of friendship to us…)
Dates for 2019 haven’t been announced yet, but last year’s event took place the first weekend in November. Bookmark the webpage so you can stay informed on club events. Space is limited in the “Last One Standing” Challenge to club members and 25 guests, so you don’t want to miss registration!
Jot these dates down and make some travel plans if you need to. You don’t want to miss these must-do trail runs in Central California!