There are some pretty tough drives out there. OK, the school run can be taxing, but usually for very different reasons. What you and your 4WD want above everything is to test yourselves against the trickiest terrain terra firma has to offer.
What is the hardest 4WD track in the world? Difficult to answer that, as the contenders all have their own disciples. In any case, you’ve come to the right place. Below are some of the hardest and just plain meanest tracks out there. Belt up and let’s go.
Track 1: Palmer River, Cape York, Australia
This one’s in good old Australia, so if you’re reading this while on a trip to get your gear from Total 4×4 in Perth, it’s not the other side of the world. OK, it’s not down the road. More like up it. And by road we’re talking The Great Central Road. Alright, it’s about 60 hours (5000 km) drive away. But boy, it’s worth it.
So, once you’ve got yourself over there, you need to head away from the tropical jungle that Cape York’s famed for, and head on up to the Great Dividing Range. That’s where the good driving country is at.
Find The Old Coach Road and settle in for some thrills. The naming folks were playing a bit fast and loose with the term ‘road’, as this track is wild, and will ask serious questions of you and your motor as you navigate sheer climbs and vertiginous drops along the course of the mountain range.
Rollovers are common, so you need to stay focussed throughout, but the views are incredible. Talking of views, it’s worth taking along a spotter to help you scan the road for danger ahead. And for when you both miss the hazard but your car doesn’t, you’ll be needing the right gear, including a decent winch.
There’s plenty of interest along the way in terms of the remnants of the goldmining industry that used to be huge hereabouts. Just don’t take your eye off the road ahead for long. You have been warned.
Track 2: Rubicon Trail, California, USA
When it comes to which country has the best 4WD tracks, Australia’s a hot favourite. But the United States has some real ripsnorters too. Take this west coast belter.
California’s not just about beaches and smog, you know. It’s blessed with some of the finest pieces of landscape on the planet, and what the intrepid driver will encounter here has got to be seen to be believed.
It’s not the longest, but it’s tough as an old prospector’s leathery skin. In just 35km, it has enough twists, turns and terrors to separate the serious driver from the Sunday motorer. As you wind your precarious way through the Sierra Nevada mountains, you’ll come across the hellish challenges of the Devil’s Postpile, experience the broth of God in the Soup Bowl and risk a cardiac on Cadillac Hill.
Throughout this short but thumpingly difficult track you’ll get views of stunning Lake Tahoe, which is where you can stay in one of the luxurious spa resorts. Sounds good to me. No wonder Jeep use this track as an official test site.
Track 3: Transfaragasan Road, Transylvania, Romania
This region should sound familiar. If you’re a Dracula fan you’ll be keen on scares, and this route delivers its fair share. Romania’s mountain roads are infamous for their unfeasibly tight hairpins and unforgiving slopes. This particular route’s a track that the word treacherous could have been invented for. One false move and you’ll be plunging into the valleys, just another victim of Transylvanian terror.
Along the way, there’s plenty of scenery to enjoy, including glacial lakes, mountain vistas and the castle in which used to live Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for a certain lord of the undead. So, plenty to get your teeth into. Make sure you fit the car out for mountains and cold weather. That Dracula country is chilling.
Track 4: Die Trying Trail, Montrose, Colorado, USA
Hands down the best named trail. Brilliant. It’ll put some off, but for the toughest drivers, they’ll rise to the challenge. And rise is what you do, as you do your best to surmount the vicious obstacles that litter this course.
Boulders are what we’re talking about – big ones, small ones, irregular ones, lethal ones. And you need to thread your wary way among them or go clean over them when you can. It’s the bumpiest ride in the business and you’ll see why it thoroughly deserves its 9/10 difficulty rating.
Two words. Big tires. Go big or go home.
Track 5: Namib Naukluft Park Trail, Namibia
The continent of Africa boasts some of the most incredible scenery in the world, and Namibia’s carving a name for itself as one of the top global 4×4 destinations. This track will give your driving skills a serious workout as you attempt to make your way across some seriously barren terrain over the course of its 73 breathtaking kilometres.
Expect narrow mountain paths and remote scrubland where it’s just you and the car (and whoever else you’ve brought along with you, obviously) against the wilderness. On the subject of company, you’ll find some welcoming types at the local campsite, where you can recover your strength, all the better to face the challenges of the next day.
Track 6: Bornholm Beach, Western Australia
So, a more local one to end on. Lots of people figure that beach drives are great for beginners. But Bornholm Beach is rightly considered one of the most fearsome tracks in the world. Why? Well, it’s down to the steepness of the dunes, combined with the fineness of the sand.
This combination makes for a tantalisingly tricky trail, which, if you’re driver enough for it, you’ll need to join the local club to try out. The club members protect the trail and do regular litter picks of the beach, guarding the eco-system of the entire area. So, good on ‘em.
And, just in case you’ve done the dunes and are thinking to yourself ‘well that wasn’t so tough’, be prepared for the biggest challenge of all – getting off the beach.
The exit road is so steep and rutted that many are the cases of those who didn’t quite make it out and tragic are the rusted remains of the cars that were left to the salty fingers of the ocean. For those who can’t make it out but can’t face leaving their trusty motor behind, there’s a local bloke with a tractor.
If you’re going to give this one a go, three things to bear in mind:
- Come in winter, when the sand’s more solid
- Have your tires at the correct pressure
- Make sure your wallet’s full. That tractor bloke will get you out, but for a fat fee. The real question is, can you afford the humiliation?
What are you waiting for?
We’ve just scratched the surface of the world’s toughest trails. The best part is that there’s a whole heap of them right here in Australia, so get onto the experts, get the gear and get motoring. If you’ve got a driving ambition to prove yourself against the best the planet has to offer, there’s no point hanging about. See you out there.