A Philadelphian’s Guide to Off-Roading
The country life doesn’t have to mean a slower pace. Rev through the outdoors on an epic ATV excursion.
The demand for off-road vehicles is booming, with electric vehicles gaining traction and the $14 billion market anticipated to reach $18 billion by 2026. Whether you want to ride with your family, in a larger group or solo, off-roading may be the perfect outing for outdoorsy types with a taste for acceleration. From the Pine Barrens to the Poconos, the area surrounding Philly has plenty of natural splendor to take in — there are actually 908 miles of designated ATV trails in Pennsylvania. So whether you’re a novice looking to one-up your next hike or you’ve already got a mud-splattered dirt bike in your garage, get your licenses in order and get ready to hit the (off-) road.
How to Get Started
Different trails will rent out or require different vehicles — usually all-terrain (ATVs) and caged utility-terrain (UTVs), but some can also accommodate four-wheel-drive trucks or SUVs. There are some trails where you can just bring your own wheels and start riding — provided you have the proper registration — and others that offer rentals and tours for newbies. If you’re just getting into off-roading, Alvin’s Offroad Playground and Pocono ATVs in the Poconos and Lost Trails ATV Park in Dunmore, near Scranton, will teach you how to ride an ATV, and their tour guides will make sure nobody veers off course.
If you catch the off-roading bug bad, Crossroad Power-sports sells new and used ATVs. They recommend the Honda FourTrax Foreman 4×4 as the most versatile for experienced riders and the Kawasaki KFX 50 if you’re a bit greener. At that point, the world’s your oyster, from those 900-plus miles of Keystone State trails to 500 more in the Pine Barrens alone. Just be sure to stay on the specified paths and follow the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources guidelines, to minimize your environmental impact.
Where to Go
There aren’t many off-roading sites in or near Philly, so prepare for some more standard driving before you can officially hit the dirt. Families should check out the above spots, plus Camelback Resort in the Poconos for a chiller UTV excursion and some gorgeous mountain views. Multi-car groups should visit Rausch Creek Off Road Park in Pine Grove and bring their trucks and SUVs to explore 3,000 acres crisscrossed by trails with difficulty levels from beginner to “extreme.” And some of the more out-of-the-way off-roading locales are also some of the coolest. Lost Trails has an underground tunnel (although that seems a little terrifying to this writer). Many of the trails at Famous Reading Outdoors are actually old coal-mining roads. Darkwater OHV Trail in Pottsville will elevate you more than half a mile, to the top of a breathtaking rock formation.
When to Go
Professional season starts in early spring and ends in late fall, but most of the ATV parks included here are open year-round, albeit some with modified hours during the winter. With off-roading, it’s more a weather consideration than a seasonal one, so try to plan your outing for a day when there isn’t any rain or snow in the forecast. If Mother Nature intervenes, you’ll have a rough go of it.
Gear Guide: The Best Helmet
To keep your cranium safe, a good DOT-approved helmet isn’t only required; it’s commonsense. Xtreme Helmets’ most cost-effective recommendation is the sleek Fly Racing Kinetic helmet ($130 at Amazon). Don’t worry about the options pushing $500-plus unless you’re planning to pursue a professional motocross career.
Assuming you won’t be shelling out for your own ATV right off the bat, most one-hour guided rental tours run in the range of $100 to $150 per person.
Published as “Call of the Wild: Off-Roading” in the November 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.