Behind The Wheel of A Can-Am UTV at International Off-Road Day

Can-Am UTV Adventures at Trail Hero event’s First Annual International Off-Road Day

Deep in Sand Hollow’s Maze trail near Hurricane, Utah, I’m covered in red sand, soaking wet, and staring at the sky through fogged up goggles. I push my Can-Am UTV’s skinny pedal to the floor as the rock face in front of me gets even steeper, the tires struggling to keep traction on the smooth wet rocks.

The reason I’m tackling one of the hardest trails, rated an 8 of 10, in Sand Hollow State Park on a wet, windy, and chilly day is to be part of the First Annual International Off-Road Day with the top athletes and influencers working with Can-Am. This special trail run was held during the Trail Hero event, one of the largest off-road vehicle gatherings on the planet.

I’m behind the wheel of a 195hp 2021 Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC Turbo RR—a mouthful of a vehicle name. What it means is that I’m driving one of the most powerful factory-built Can-Am UTVs and off-road fun machines on offer. Can-Am set this one up specifically for rock crawling. It’s fully tricked out with a winch, roll cage upgrades, aluminum roof, 4-point harness, beadlock wheels, lots of underbody armor, and a Smart-Lok front differential.

Up close shot through the windshield of the author's UTV.
A Can-Am drops into the steep stuff in the Maze at Sand Hollow.

International Off-Road Day

Can-Am started an annual day of off-road community and adventure on October 8, 2021. The company is trying hard to get “International Off-Road Day” global recognition and acceptance by everyone and every company in the off-road space. It’s not just about UTVs or Can-Am, it’s about getting outside with family and friends to explore off-road opportunities and appreciate the places and machines that make it all possible.

Several competitors in helmets coach a UTV through a red rock obstacle.

As Can-Am explains, “For all of you off-roaders out there around the world, this is a day to celebrate the places we go, the fun we have, the work we get done, the memories we make, and the incredible vehicles that make all of it possible. This isn’t about one machine or one trail, this is about everyone in the global off-road community coming together and celebrating all that is Off-Road Livin’.”

It’s not just about UTVs or Can-Am, it’s about getting outside with family and friends to explore off-road opportunities and appreciate the places and machines that make it all possible.

Before 2021, there wasn’t an official Off-Road Day. Can-Am started it this year because it saw an opportunity to bring community together and celebrate the massive explosion of growth in the off-road space during the pandemic. It also presented a huge opportunity to bring new entrants into the community and build a stronger industry where everyone is being respectful of the land so riding areas can remain open, even with more users.

The Can-Am UTVs line up before starting the event.
Drivers and passengers stage for the day’s trail run.

BRP, Can-Am’s parent company, saw that a more diverse customer base has been entering the world of powersports lately; they are younger, have families, and more are women. New riders represented 43% of purchasers across the BRP portfolio in a recent quarter, which is more than double historical numbers. A 54% uptick in revenues from year-round products, including off-road, in the same quarter also hints at just how massive the growth is in the off-road category right now.

Choosing The Day

Because it is generally a day around the globe that has good weather for off-road adventurers, October 8th was the date for International Off-Road Day. It is also a date that coincides with the annual Trail Hero event in Sand Hollow, Utah, which has become one of the largest off-road events in North America. A big part of that is the inclusive nature of the Trail Hero event, with everything from UTVs to stock 4×4 SUVs to purpose-built rock buggies all hitting the trails during the event.

The author waits to climb a steep vertical in his red UTV.

The extremely steep obstacles around every corner were made even more challenging because of the pouring rain.

Can-Am dealers on at least three continents held events celebrating the day. (That’s a good sign that International Off-Road Day is here to stay.) More importantly, competitors like Polaris UK helped promote the day on social media. Add in that Trail Hero has vested interest to see the day help drive participants to its already booming event, from across the off-road user spectrum, and you have a winning formula for bigger and better International Off-Road Days to come.

A blue Jeep and black Tacoma follow the red rock trail upward.
The Maze trail offered some epic views, when the clouds parted.

Can-Am UTV Maze Adventure

From the Trail Hero vendor area on the shores of the Sand Hollow Reservoir we headed off as a big group, around 16 vehicles, in the pouring rain. I had no clue where we were going, but I was stoked. Behind the wheel of the latest Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC Turbo, I was ready for a day of challenging off-road adventures with an excited group of experienced off-road enthusiasts and racers.

To celebrate the inaugural International Off-Road Day, Can-Am assembled a big group of its ambassadors for the trail run. They were nice enough to invite me along to experience life behind the wheel and report on the action. Some of the top names in the UTV space were in attendance. They included Dustin Jones, Corry Weller, Cowboy Cerrone, Chad Hughes, Rodrigo Ampudia, Jason Murray, and many more. There isn’t really a more all-star list in the UTV world than this lineup. The best part, the whole group acted like family. Everyone was super inclusive and full of stoke.

A red, gray, and black UTV rolls downhill.

[International Off-Road Day] also presented a huge opportunity to bring new entrants into the community and build a stronger industry where everyone is being respectful of the land so riding areas can remain open, even with more users.

A Glimpse Behind the Wheel

After a mile or so of whooped out fence-line transit trail, we picked up the pace on a trail called Bobsled. It is exactly as you’d expect from the name: fast, flowy, and full of banked turns. There is little terrain that is more fun when in a lightweight, powerful vehicle with high-end amazing suspension.

Two blue Jeeps follow a black Tacoma down a steep slope.
The tight, wet, muddy, and difficult trail took some time with lots of rigs.

After regrouping a few times, we entered a tight trail made entirely of rock. The pouring rain made the extremely steep obstacles around every corner even more challenging. Progress was slow, as we had a huge group and conditions were less than ideal. We also had a few Jeep Wranglers and a Tacoma in the group. They moved considerably slower than the little Can-Ams and other UTVs. It was extremely impressive to see the long wheel base, manual-transmission Tacoma make its way through such challenging terrain, but it did take time.

The UTVs line up at the start.

Trail Hero is a non-denominational event, as they call it, where anything that goes off road and has four wheels is encouraged to attend.

Caught in the Rain in a Can-Am UTV

About halfway through the trail, our group split in two. Half took an exit trail to head back to the Trail Hero vendor area to get lunch at the scheduled time, as well as dry off and warm up. Many hadn’t quite dressed appropriately for the weather and were shivering. The other half of the group, including myself, pressed on to complete the Maze trail.

The rain got harder for the most part, with brief glimpses of sky throughout the day. The second half of the Maze trail has some of the hardest and most technical obstacles on the trail. Even though our group was smaller, it was still slow going.

The Jeeps and Tacoma watch as another Jeep drives up an obstacle.

Everyone was alright with the pace though, as everyone was being safe and taking care of the equipment. We had one flop, over on an obstacle that the locals call the ‘Snake Pit.” I landed the Can-Am UTV in a soft sandy puddle, and it didn’t even get a scratch. Then, we quickly winched it back onto its wheels and I drove away without issue.

After popping out of the rocky Maze trail, we hopped onto some super fast flowy sandy trails to make our way back to the Trail Hero vendor area. It was impressive to see the pace of built race UTVs with experienced racers behind the wheel. While I can’t say I was on pace, I can say I held my own. Personally, I unlocked another level of performance out of these impressive off-road machines. In the end, we ended up on trails for about 6 hours of wet, chilly fun.

Trail Hero

You might be asking what the Trail Hero event is all about. I know I was when I got the invite to the event. Trail Hero has been around for six years now. It has quickly earned a marque place on the off-road event calendar. Since its inception, it has become one of the largest off-road vehicle gatherings in North America. The five-day event centers around guided off-road trail runs in Sand Hollow State Park. Also, it consists of a wide variety of off-road competitions. On top of that, it’s got a big vendor area and evening parties and bonfires on the beach.

Trail Hero is a non-denominational event, as they call it, where anything that goes off road and has four wheels is encouraged to attend. There is a Jeep gathering and a UTV rally. Plenty of really difficult trails are a competition for fully built rock buggies. The event is free for spectators, aside from the state park entry fee. Guided trail runs cost just minimally for competitors. Trail Hero also builds awareness for how people with special needs and veterans access our public lands. It includes special trail runs and donates to related non-profits.

From the driver's perspective, another UTV climbs through tight trails.
From wide open and flat to tight and steep, Sand Hollow has it all.

There is lots of camping available on site at the Sand Hollow State Park. Nearby, there’s spots  both in organized campgrounds and remote BLM land locations. There are also plenty of hotel options in the surrounding towns of  Hurricane and St. George. And added bonus is the ability to take side trips. Zion National Park or mountain bike trails on Gooseberry Mesa are also close by.

The Future of International Off-Road Day

I am already looking forward to International Off-Road Day 2022. Truly, I can think of no better place to enjoy this day with the off-road community than at Trail Hero in Sand Hollow. The off-road opportunities are plentiful and diverse, and the area is extremely beautiful. Even in the pouring cold rain, we had fun all day off road. It’s easy when surrounded by good people, and when driving an extremely fun and capable machine like my Can-Am UTV.

A selfie of the author sporting an off-roading helmet and rain gear.
International Off-Road Day is worth the effort, no matter the weather. The author had a huge smile inside that wet and muddy helmet.

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