4 "Must-See" Western Destinations to See From Behind the Wheel of Your 2021 Bronco
Anticipating that very moment when you’ll be able to pull your new 2021 Ford Bronco into your garage? We totally understand. The excitement over the pending arrival of both the 2-door and 4-door Broncos has hit a fever pitch and the sizable legion of motorists already opting for the new Bronco Sport proves Ford has hit a home run with their new line.
For the majority of Bronco enthusiasts, veering off the road more travelled and onto rougher terrain is a big part of the model’s appeal — and since we’re all about adventure here at Bronco Bastards, we figured we’d come up with enticing new frontiers to explore when you get that chance.
Admittedly, there are far too many worthwhile, “must-see” locations to list in one place, so we’re parceling them out based on geography. This time around we’re focusing on the West and even that distinction includes no fewer than 12 states, so there’ll be more destinations added to the list. It’s worth noting that for variety’s sake, we’ve included a cross-section that ranges from pretty easily accessible to “next level” on the adventure scale.
By all indications, the Bronco’s substantial payload capacity and other abilities will make it an off-road force to be reckoned with. And while the Sport was always geared more toward daily commuters seeking a more spacious and versatile ride — with some weekend excursions thrown into the mix — it turns out the off-roading ability of the Bronco Sport exceeds expectations.
So, without further ado. . .
"The Racetrack", Death Valley, via National Park Service
Death Valley, CA
Sure, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more ominously named destination, but Death Valley has an awful lot going for it. It’s about as tailor-made for memorable, yet convenient off-roading as it gets — in total, it covers more than 5,000 square miles and features hundreds and hundreds of acres of wilderness to explore, accessed by a mix of more than 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads.
From the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes down to Badwater Basin Salt flats, it’s also pretty hard to beat as far as the sheer variety of sights you’ll encounter. As it’s equipped with the Bronco’s 4-wheel drive surefootedness, you’ll be able to take full advantage of one of the most mysterious of these, known as The Racetrack. This is topography like no other — an enormous, dried mud bed, textured by what must be literally millions of stones that look as if they’ve been dragged through the mud, creating trails behind them.
You won’t have to navigate many miles before you happen upon lasting evidence of the mining industry that was a staple of this area until WWII and, on the more macabre side, you can even get as close as a stone’s throw to the notorious Manson Ranch, where the property’s namesake hid out from the law.
One caveat, though: Death Valley gets VERY hot during the summer – often posting some of the highest temperatures anywhere in the world, so it’s best to go in spring, or even winter, if you’re feeling bold. Once you arrive, you can opt for a campground, such as Stovepipe Wells, or take a more civilized route and check into a variety of hotels.
Rainbow Basin Natural Area, adjacent to Calico
For many who reside in Southern California, Calico is known only by the highway signage directing motorists to pull off the 15 Freeway on their way to Calico Ranch, once a bona fide frontier town that featured saloons, houses of ill repute and the works — think lower-key “Deadwood.” As was the case with many towns in this part of the country, things eventually dried up here, until the town was authentically revitalized into a tourist destination.
While Calico Ranch is geared more toward children and families, within a short distance is a veritable treasure trove of sights for off-roaders, including abandoned mine shafts, an expanse of accessible land that varies from easily navigated to downright challenging and much more, bracketed by mountains that feature an array of distinctive colors.
Dare to venture farther into those mountains and you might arrive at Odessa Canyon. The Odessa-Doran Trail just beyond it is so foreboding that it would exclude even the most enthusiastic off-roaders among us — only high clearance 4-wheelers with the necessary modifications should even consider it —but there are also plenty of rugged, yet more broad access roads in the same vicinity.
Not far away is the Rainbow Basin Natural Area, where you can motor over miles and miles of memorable desert topography or pull your Bronco into one of several parking areas and see plenty of great scenery via hiking trails.
Mojave Desert, photo via Bureau of Land Management
The Mojave Road
This 140-mile stretch, running from Bullhead City, Arizona all the way to Newberry Springs, CA, has seen more than its fair share of history. It was an essential thoroughfare for westward-bound settlers and over the centuries it’s been traversed by Spanish explorers, European colonizers and even the United States Army.
Most of the road is situated on the Mojave National Preserve and, despite its protected status, the road itself doesn’t see regular maintenance, so most of it is pretty rough and is made all the more so by the surrounding sand that tends to blow onto it. This makes it a fine landing place for off-roaders not necessarily seeking an adrenaline rush, but still anxious to take advantage of the Ford Bronco’s agility.
There’s no shortage of sights along this route. Joshua Tree Forest, Rock Spring and Soda Lake are all accessible from here, as is the Colorado River (from the Road’s origin point). This is a destination geared more toward campers than those seeking creature comforts — there are campgrounds along the Mojave Road, but not much in the way of hotels.
A couple of cautionary points: Should you embark on this road, make sure to bring plenty of water, as there aren’t many watering holes along this stretch. Also, if snakes are an issue for you like they were for Indiana Jones, this might not be the trip for you, as there’s no shortage of them here. This guide is generally revered for providing some history on the area, as well as welcome navigation help.
Care to venture farther north? Here’s a destination worth experiencing.
Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Washington Backcountry Discovery Route
This is one LONG stretch. At about 600 miles, it offers a variety of diverse terrain that’ll likely make you relish every one of them. The route extends from Washington (as you’d expect) to as far north as the Canadian border at Nighthawk, and ranges in elevation from sea level to nearly 7,000 feet.
It’s not really a pulse-pounder of a journey in terms of potential dangers, although a combination of some seriously steep inclines and a sporadic lack of guardrails will definitely keep you on your toes. Along the way, the scenery is unbeatable, and the off-road capabilities of your Bronco will often come in handy.
Like some of our other destinations, there are several ways to experience this one — you‘ll probably want to take advantage of all it has to offer, from witnessing the Cascade Mountains and their level of greenery that almost makes them photographically altered, to some unexpected high desert terrain in the eastern portion of the State. For those with a more restricted time frame, you could comfortably traverse the entire route in around five days, opting to stop at a variety of campsites the Route offers, or even some nearby hotels.
It’s best to experience the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route any time from June until mid-September. While late spring should also be fine, snow comes early in this part of the Country and should that happen, closed mountain roads could end your excursion earlier than you might want.
Stay tuned for more destination ideas in the future!