Off-Roading in a New Land Rover Defender Was a Highlight of 2020

I'd never gotten the nod from so many "f'roaders" before.

Off-roading is still very much a new thing for me. I think it’s really cool, and super easy to enjoy in mountainous and desert-filled southern California, though I’ve barely taken advantage of these surroundings. But one opportunity where I did was behind the wheel of the new Defender.

Picture Details

  • Car(s): 2020 Land Rover Defender 110
  • Location: Hungry Valley OHV Park, Southern California
  • Photog: Peter Nelson (IG + Twitter: @16vpete)
  • Camera: Canon 6D, Canon EF 50mm 1.8 AF

I had read a ton about the new Defender’s capability prior to this day, but nothing prepared me for how easy it was to experience. There are off-road-designated trails all over the greater southwest, as well as thousands of square miles of BLM land. You know, that portion of our fine country that’s the closest thing we have to the wild west.

I grabbed a couple of pals one Sunday morning in Los Angeles, and we made our way up the 5 freeway to Hungry Valley OHV Park near Frazier Park.

We paid our fee and set out into the wide expanse, looking for a less-populated trail where we wouldn’t get in anyone’s way. We kept an eye on the trail signs to ensure we wouldn’t bite off more than we could chew, so to speak. With some care and quick-toggling of the Defender’s off-road settings, as well as raising its air suspension up nice and high, we were unstoppable.

The thing just crawled over stuff and never made a fuss. We even got a bit fast and loose with the settings, and played Baja racer through some pretty deep sand. The plucky British beast scaled some brutally-steep inclines, up and down. Even as my cold sweats of terror set in mid-climb, the Defender just kept going.

At one point we traversed a trail that was adorned on the map with a solid black diamond sign. Normally this would’ve probably been a death wish for a noob like me. But to the Defender it was as easy as a grocery store run.

Man, what an awesome day that was. I even got a thumbs-up, nod, and a positive remark from other off-roaders. One comment was something to the effect of “it’s cool to see one of these out here actually getting used!” Damn right, fellow off-road rascality enthusiast.

Combined with playing around in a 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser, this really gave me the itch to do more off-road things. Off I go to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace in search of cheap options I could scale some gnarly hills with.

Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson

Peter Nelson has been wrenching on and playing with cars since he started driving them quickly between the cones at Chicagoland autocross events in his late teens. Nowadays, he can be found wringing out his Mazda2 at tracks all over California. His writing background includes Winding Road, Donut Media, and Autolist.com. He's also an avid cyclist and '80s/'90s action film connoisseur. Contact the author here.