With so much beautiful scenery in California, it’s not a surprise that off-roading is such an extremely popular hobby.
“Off-roading lets you drive somewhere you’ve never seen, meet people, make memories and overall have great experiences that you’ll never forget,” avid off-roader Christian Ibarra said.
Although it may seem like you should be allowed to ride up any hill or dirt road, in Santa Clarita, there aren’t many places to legally off-road.
Why can’t you just ride anywhere?
“The goal of the off-highway community is to develop a sustainable community where they can recreate,” said Mark Hada, superintendent and visitor services manager of the California State Park’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division. “But certain areas aren’t very sustainable to off-roading.”
If the area has endangered species, mineral issues or land use issues for example, then you can’t ride there.
“If conditions and weather don’t meet certain criteria, then they can’t open these trails to the public either,” Hada said.
Then there are also areas they are not able to maintain for financial reasons, according to Hada.
According to the Angeles National Forest website, the Angeles National Forest is located within one of the driest, most fire-prone areas in the United States.
Santa Clarita is in a “Zone 4 fire area,” which, according to Sgt. Mike Konecny of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station’s Off-Road Enforcement Team, means that you’re not even allowed to legally ride on your own private property.
Not all areas that are impacted by these fires will recover naturally, so the Angeles National Forest is required by law to attempt restorations intended to reproduce the ecosystems that had previously been damaged.
So where can you ride?
Rowher Flat OHV – From Highway 14, take Sierra Highway off-ramp north and turn left on Rush Canyon Road.
Rowher Flat is an all-year OHV area with approximately 47 miles of marked trails spread across 10,000 acres. The area is mainly hard pack with some free play areas.
There are a variety of trails requiring anywhere from beginner to advanced riding skills, according to the Angeles National Forest Off Highway Vehicle brochure. Designated OHV routes are marked with signs for the type of use and level of difficulty. Beginners are advised to stay on the flat areas.
With recent upgrades to staging areas including loading ramps, bathrooms, shaded picnic tables and firepits, this area can also be great for camping.
The main staging area also has an 80cc mini track and four-wheel drive training course.
An Adventure Pass is not required for green or red sticker vehicles, but is needed for any other vehicle parked in the OHV areas, according to forest officials. Adventure Passes cost $5 daily or $30 annually and must be purchased beforehand.
Drinkwater Flat – Take San Francisquito Canyon Road and travel north for approximately 5 miles.
Near Rowher Flat, Drinkwater Flat is comprised of only a few marked and rated trails, but there is both smooth-groomed easy stuff and rougher hills for those looking for tougher trails.
OHVs are still required to be registered and stickered accordingly.
Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) — 5301 Ralphs Ranch Road (previously known as Peace Valley Road) in Gorman.
Hungry Valley SVRA is the third largest California State Park’s OHMVR area with over 130 miles of trails on 19,000 acres.
With elevation ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 feet and a wide variety of trails and terrain, off-roaders of all skill level will be challenged, according to the OHMVR.
Experienced riders can tackle the hills and sand washes in the back-country while beginners can enjoy the scenery and easier trails in the Native Grasslands Management Area, the OHMVR website states.
The Quail Canyon Motocross Track to the southeast is open to the public six days a week and includes a main track, 90cc mini track and 65cc peewee track.
The SVRA also recently added two new ATV tracks and a nearby campground with shaded picnic tables, firepits and bathrooms.
Day-use parking costs $5 or $50 annually, and camping costs $10 per night. Red sticker riding season is enforced.
The rest of the Angeles National Forest has a system of OHV-designated routes that are open to four-wheel drive vehicles, ATVs and motorcycles and are identified by “designated route” signs, according to the forest’s off-highway vehicles brochure.
These marked fire trails are not always open, so Konecny suggests getting maps from forest services and calling to check which are accessible.
To see California State Park’s off-highway adventures guide, visitohv.parks.ca.gov/.
Before you ride…
To ensure a safe and fun off-roading experience, make sure to always wear the proper protective gear including helmets, boots, gloves and eye protection when appropriate.
Forest-approved spark arrestors or mufflers are required on all OHVs, according to the OHMVR.
Each OHV must be registered and will receive either a green or red sticker per its emissions standards. Green sticker vehicles are able to be ridden year-round while red sticker vehicles can only be ridden in California October 1 through April 30, according to the OHMVR.
California State Parks offer free safety seminars for kids ages 6 to 18, according to Amy Granat, California Off-Road Vehicle Association managing director.
For more information, email [email protected].
In case of emergency, dial 911 or contact the Angeles National Forest Service Emergency Operations Center at 661-723-7619.