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Where to Go Off-Roading in San Diego

Use Your Professionally-Installed Lift Kit from Stereo Depot in El Cajon

With mild weather for most of the year and miles upon miles of wilderness to explore, San Diego County is considered one of the country’s top spots for off-roading. There are trail options for every kind of off-road vehicle and various skill levels, whether you’re looking for a pleasant jaunt through the hills, or a thrilling, rock crawling adventure.

Stereo Depot, where you’ll find top-of-the-line off-road equipment and truck suspension lift kits in El Cajon and San Diego, gives you everything you need to overcome trail obstacles in your SUV or truck. We’ll get you prepared to head out onto the trails for your next great off-roading adventure.

Not sure where to go? Here’s a list of some of the most popular spots within the county - listed alphabetically, not in order of fun. Of course, once you reach the desert and beyond, a whole new world of off-roading possibilities opens up.

Anderson Truck Trail

Located in Alpine, California, Anderson Truck Trail is one of the best places to go off-roading near San Diego. Drivers and passengers will enjoy a 7.5-mile out-and-back winding path through hills with multiple views of the El Capitan Reservoir. Extend your drive on dozens of side paths to conquer, too.

Buckle up as you drive back to the trailhead, where you’ll enjoy some very fun downhills on your return trip.

Bear Valley Road

Although Bear Valley Road is temporarily closed after being ravaged by wildfires in 2020, when it reopens, we hope you’re ready for great views of Bear Valley and Cottonwood Valley near Sierraville, California.

This 12.6-mile out-and-back trail isn’t very difficult. However, it can become dangerous if it rains. For your safety, we advise that you avoid Bear Valley Road in bad weather and recommend off-roading here between April and September only.

Boulder Creek Road

Cleveland National Forest, just southwest of Julian, California, is home to Boulder Creek Road. The 13-miles of unpaved trail is easy to traverse and is a great trail option for beginners to the off-roading experience.

As you drive or ride along, you’ll be rewarded with scenic views and glimpses of wildlife on this point-to-point trail. Be aware that the trailway is temporarily closed for all use as of September 2020 due to wildfires, but when it reopens, you’ll adore the year-round scenic driving it offers.

Hot Springs Mountain Trail

Head out to Warner Springs for a 9.5-mile out-and-back trail for difficult hikes and off-road driving. Expect a $10 per-person cash-only fee, which you can pay at the station.

The first two miles of your journey will be a steep incline, until the trail finally flattens. Most off-roaders report spotting lots of wildlife. Other hikers and drivers recommend dousing yourself in bug spray should you decide to get out of your vehicle or drive through with the windows down.

Mother Grundy Truck Trail

A 4.9-mile point-to-point trail that is more peaceful than an adrenaline rush, the Mother Grundy Truck Trail near Jamul, California, is ideal for beginners wanting to test the waters of off-roading before committing to upgrading their vehicle with the right lift kit, or for testing out a brand-new kit from Stereo Depot while you’re not too far from civilization.

Mother Grundy Truck Trail has mixed terrain, with inclines and washboards. Beautiful views and potential wildlife sightings make this a can’t-miss drive for newbies or child passengers.

Otay Mountain Minnewawa Truck Trail to Marron Valley Road

Otay Mountain Truck Trail is nestled in the San Ysidro Mountains near the U.S. and Mexico border and is ideal for off-roading beginners or those driving front-wheel drive trucks. During your 13.8-mile off-roading drive, you’ll get spectacular views of Lyons Peak to the northeast, the Jamul Mountains to the north, Tecate Peak to the east, and Mexico to the south. That’s a 360-degree panorama of southern California beauty.

Other off-roaders say to be aware of a large border patrol presence, given the trail’s location. It isn’t the right place to attempt anything wild. Enter and exit through the gate next to Pio Pico RV Campground.

Palomar Divide Road

Getting to Palomar Divide Road near Aguanga, California is an incredible journey in and of itself. You’ll head up to High Point Lookout in Cleveland National Forest and proceed along the longest unpaved trails in the county - a whopping 25.1 miles. Palomar Divide Road is good for all skill levels.

As you drive, it’s important that you keep your eyes on the road, so you might want to pause so you can enjoy the amazing panoramic views of Lake Henshaw and Dodge Valley at an elevation of 4,819 feet. Watch for hikers and mountain bikers on this road.

Proctor Valley Road

An epic dirt trail stretching nine miles delivers mesmerizing views of the Jamul countryside. See Mount Miguel, and, if you’re on the trail in spring, prolific wildflowers that bloom alongside the trail.

The trail is an ideal one for Halloween driving. There are many stories about hauntings along the trail (although you’ll more realistically see lots of hikers, mountain bikers, and leashed dogs). Reported hauntings include:

  • The Proctor Valley Monster, known for leaving 18” footprints behind in the dirt

  • The ghost of a hitchhiker

  • A demon car that follows you in the dark

Smugglers Cave Trail

For a somewhat challenging experience, try Smugglers Cave Trail. It’s a 3.5-mile out-and-back trail located near Jacumba that is best used from November to March. Along the way, you’ll see amazing caves to explore and jaw-dropping views from the road.

A higher-clearance vehicle, like a truck with a lift kit, is necessary to navigate some areas along Smugglers Cave Trail.

Buy Lift Kits in San Diego or El Cajon

The auto pros at Stereo Depot can help you turn your truck into an off-roading machine. If you live in the San Diego area, you can choose from all our lift kit options at different prices to find the perfect one for your car, truck, or SUV.

Visit our stores in San Diego at 6445 El Cajon Boulevard, or in El Cajon at 1149 Broadway, or give us a call to learn how we can help you join the southern California off-roading adventure scene.

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