I Went Off-roading Through the Utah Desert in a Ford Bronco — and Now You Can, Too

You can now book an epic off-roading excursion with Ford — and car expert Alexandra Cheney hopped behind the wheel of a Bronco to give the whole experience a test drive.

<p>Brandon Mauk/Ford Motor Company/Jackson Dawson</p>

Brandon Mauk/Ford Motor Company/Jackson Dawson

With names like Hell’s Revenge and Poison Spider Mesa, Moab, Utah’s off-road trails don’t exactly sound inviting. But imagine, walls of Wingate Sandstone climbing out of canyons, reaching for a blue sky dotted with cumulus clouds. No sound but the echo of your own breath, and the opportunity to feel petite in a canyon significantly older than the neighborhood dinosaur tracks. There’s an undeniable, palpable sense of adventure in this American Southwest region; the towering mesas (and Ford Motor Company) beckoned me to come.

For the last two years, Ford offered qualifying Bronco and Bronco Sport owners and their guests a complimentary 10-hour adventure called Off-Roadeo. Designed to teach drivers of all skill levels how to off-road in a Bronco, the program featured rugged expeditions led by expert trail guides. Beginning in November, Off-Roadeo is now available to the general public. The Half-Day Adventure program, a four-hour experience, starts at $795 per vehicle and can accommodate up to four guests.

My morning began watching the light and shadows from the rising sun play against the ruddy Dome Plateau and in the snaking Colorado River. Sitting on my front porch swing at Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa, about 20-minutes outside of Moab in the shadow of Castleton Tower, little did I know that I would soon be “embracing the wild spirit of the Bronco,” as Ford puts it, gaining altitude while losing pavement on the geologic feature that was in my eyeline.

<p>Brandon Mauk/Ford Motor Company/Jackson Dawson</p>

Brandon Mauk/Ford Motor Company/Jackson Dawson

Although this was not my first time off-roading in Utah, nor my first time behind the wheel of a Bronco, it was my debut combining the two. “There’s just so much versatility,” said Brian Harris, lead trail guide for Bronco Off-Roadeo and my personal guide for the morning outing. “You can have some serious behind-the-wheel, off-roading time or never even driven on a dirt road and this program is guaranteed to teach you something about the car and yourself as a driver,” he said with an indubitable Southern accent.

My Azure Gray steed boasted stickers across the rear windscreen from all four of the Off-Roadeo locations across America; Las Vegas; Moab; Horseshoe Bay, Texas; and Gilford, New Hampshire. “We’ve seen so much interest from our customers and now, to have the general public able to experience this program, it’s exciting,” Harris said. After spending 15 minutes on pavement, it was into the dirt and loose rocks.

Going from 2H, or two-wheel drive, to 4L, or four-wheel drive low, provided increased torque and crawling power. I navigated the uneven, rutted trail which eventually turned to sand and then slick rock. Many people don’t realize that off-roading is slow; single digits when encountering an obstacle, ledge, or rock-crawl.

“Tread lightly” Harris said, pointing to a turn in the road that previous vehicles took too wide, having freshly moved over some desert bushes. “I’m certified with them, too.” A non-profit organization, Tread Lightly! leads a national initiative to promote the responsible use of motorized vehicles when recreating outdoors. Thanks to the vast amount of public land in Utah, off-roading is insanely popular. Tread Lightly! aims to keep it that way while also preserving trails and restoring areas that have been overused.

“It’s time for the gloves,” Harris said a few minutes later as I came to a complete stop. My favorite off-road moments require gloves. Ahead of me, a series of ledges. Think of them as a waterfall of rocks without the liquid, descending down into a series of sand filled bank turns. I recalled the first time I traversed a waterfall with a singular thought kept repeating in my head: “this cannot possibly be done.” (It could.)

Harris, bright orange gloves on, began directing me the way an aircraft marshaller guides a plane into the gate. A touch forward, wheel to the passenger side. Trust the car, wait for the brakes, and slide four feet down the face of a boulder half the size of the Bronco.

When I encountered the next rock I was one wheel in the air, trunk toward the sky. It’s time to engage the available electronic-locking rear differential which locks the wheels on the rear axle allowing them to move separately from the front. Roll forward, wait for the weight of the car, gently disengage the brake and release, silently sliding down, and landing with aplomb.

It’s rather easy to understand how to spend a full-day navigating these roads, alternating between the seven driving modes. As we headed back to basecamp, a space filled with vintage Bronco doors and plenty of bucking horse emblazoned gear, the sun was high in the sky, signaling the end of my time in the dirt. 

You can book the Bronco Off-Roadeo excursions at, from $795.

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