Category: Trails

Take Your Dog on the Trail!

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Thinking of taking Fido with you on the Jeep run or backcountry vacation? Many of us consider our dogs as our children and travel everywhere with them. However, there are some special considerations for Jeeping or overlanding with pets.

Aside from the usual concerns about plenty of nature stops, food, and water, having a safe and secure place to ride in the vehicle is of special concern on rough and steep terrain. Many people recognize that all human occupants in the vehicle should be wearing seatbelts, but consider what happens to Fido when you start down a steep descent or bounce over a rocky crossing. We have seen dogs get launched off the back seat and actually crack the front dash components on impact—extremely unpleasant for the dog, I am sure. And since many of us like to take our top and doors off, it adds an extra level of danger to your fur baby. Consider the dynamics, but also consider your dog’s behavior. I had a dog who would launch himself out of the Jeep if he saw a rabbit, whether we were moving at 5 or 50 mph. We learned to travel with the windows on with him. Pet experts recommend that if you don’t travel with your dog in a crate, large dogs should be restrained in a doggy seatbelt harness, while doggy car seats are ideal for small- to medium-sized dogs.

Continue reading “Take Your Dog on the Trail!”

Soldier Pass Jeep Trail Returns!

Popular Sedona 4x4 Trail Reopens to Public Under New Permit System

Following an extensive review process by the US Forest Service, one of Sedona's most popular 4wd roads has reopened to the public once again. Soldier Pass Trail has long been a staff favorite at Barlow Adventures, and we're thrilled to see it back in business! This short and scenic trail has experienced a dramatic increase in use during recent years, resulting in noise and traffic congestion in area neighborhoods, and management challenges for the Red Rock Ranger District and Sedona law enforcement. In consultation with local businesses, recreational users, residents, and other stakeholders, the US Forest Service issued a decision in March of 2017 limiting motorized travel on the trail to 12 permitted users per day.

About the Permit System

Barlow guests who would like to run Soldier Pass while visiting Sedona are required to obtain a permit by visiting the Coconino National Forest website and applying online. Click the button below to apply at fs.usda.gov.

Applications may be submitted between 3 days (72 hours) and 90 days in advance. Applications submitted less than 72 hours prior to the desired use will not be processed. Requests will be processed in the order received, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays, based on the email time stamp.

  • Permits are available to individuals only.  You may obtain no more than one permit per day. Businesses, clubs, and organizations may not apply. Barlow Adventures cannot reserve a permit for you.
  • Permits are free and nontransferable. 
  • Permit holders may hold only one permit at a time and wait until after the permit date before requesting another permit.
  • Permit holders are responsible for knowing and obeying all forest rules, regulations, and closure orders.
  • You must have your valid permit with you at the time of your visit.

A Classic Sedona Jeep Trail

Soldier Pass Trail remains a Barlow's staff favorite because it offers a concentrated mix of spectacular red rock scenery, history, unique natural features, and fun 4x4 obstacles that make for an ideal introduction to Sedona 4-wheeling. Easy to get to in the heart of Sedona, the trail starts behind a residential neighborhood before winding 1.5 miles up and over the red rocks for a 3 mile out and back adventure. The trail is also very popular with hikers and mountain bikers so be sure to drive with care. Allow at least an hour and a half to take in highlights along the trail like the Devil's Kitchen Sink Hole and the Seven Sacred Pools - both worth a stop for pictures and further exploration on foot. The trail earned the name "Soldier Pass" in 1871 as part of a resupply route established by the US Cavalry under General George Crook. It wound down from the Mogollon Rim and over Brin's Mesa to an area known then to the army as Camp Garden. An oasis along Oak Creek we now call Sedona.

How To: Moab For First-Timers

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Moab. You hear the name whispered in reverence throughout the Jeep world. If you are planning a wheeling trip Moab for the first time, there are some things you should know about visiting and driving the trails there.

First, there are some driving techniques that are specific to red rock country. The sandstone offers some amazing traction —we call it “sticky.” This exceptional traction means you will be able to climb surreal inclines and hang off of heart-pounding sidehills, but it also means that horse-powering your way up an obstacle is more likely to snap axles and grenade differentials than other terrain types that allow more wheel spin. It takes a lot more torque to break traction here, so slow and steady is usually the best first approach.

Continue reading “How To: Moab For First-Timers”

Keep Your Guard Up!

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Something we see over and over again in the four-wheeling world are mishaps at the places one would least expect it. We get through a nasty obstacle, breathe a sigh of relief, and then get stuck on a small rock we didn’t even notice. Or we spend all day on a grueling 4×4 trail, get through without a scratch, then on the way home, slide off of the gravel road into tree. Or we just head out without much thought on a trail we have done dozens of times, don’t check the weather, and get stranded on the wrong side of a wash during a flash flood.

The common thread? We let our guard down after the perceived threat is past. The solution? Don’t take anything for granted—keep your guard up until everyone is safely home on the couch. The following are a few things to think about before, during, and after your trip to help keep everyone safe.

Continue reading “Keep Your Guard Up!”

Up Lion’s Back: One Last Climb On An Iconic Obstacle

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

One of the most iconic off-road obstacles on the planet is the famous Lion’s Back in Moab. Located on private property, it has been closed to the public since it was sold in 2004. With special permission from the current owner, Jeep was able to coordinate one more run on this amazing piece of rock.

It started with a passing conversation between the property owner and Scott Brown of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles about how cool it would be to do something really special for the 50th Easter Jeep Safari and the 75th anniversary of Jeep. Out of the blue comes a call from Scott that all the legal paperwork had been done and to ask if I am available to guide the climb in just a couple of days (Thursday, March 24, 2016) for a sunrise photo shoot on Lion’s Back. Yes was the only answer. This was a big secret, as neither the property owner nor Jeep wanted to attract a crowd.

We met in the predawn hours of Thursday morning to prep the Jeeps and their drivers for the endeavor. I was to right-seat for Mark Allen, head of Jeep design, in a 75th Anniversary Edition Wrangler. Tyler Ruby, Jeep Wrangler brand manager, was to follow us in the Wrangler Red Rock Limited Edition. Jim Repp, vehicle development manager, would tail gun in the 75th Anniversary Grand Cherokee, with John Marshall (a friend and guide) as his right-seat. On cameras were Chris Collard, Jay Bernard, Brad Stanley, and a few other social media team members somewhere off in the bushes. After a quick driver briefing and a cue from the photographers that all was ready, we started our ascent in the twilight. We were all very excited, with a keen appreciation for the uniqueness of the circumstances.

Lion’s Back is one of those obstacles that looks much more intimidating than it is diffcult. In fact, if you have driven the gatekeeper ?n on Moab’s Hell’s Revenge, you have survived much narrower rock than Lion’s Back. If you have driven up Kenny’s climb on Moab’s Fins N’ Things, you have driven much steeper than Lion’s Back. However, Lion’s Back is tall. Very tall. Very, very tall. It’s about 350 feet tall.

All went smoothly as our Jeeps slowly crawled up the fin. I was excited to be there, but it didn’t give me an adrenalin rush— yet. The view from the top was breathtaking. We reached the turnaround spot, and I glanced down off the side—now the adrenalin was flowing! The emotional and physical impact of just how high in the air we were struck me. There are parts of your body that clench up and refuse to go anywhere near the edge. I stepped out of the Jeep to help Mark turn around. The physical reality is that the two-door could easily do a three-point turn on top, but the sphincter takes over and it becomes an 11-point turn to avoid looking down into that chasm of certain death.

We took in the sunrise view, posed for photos, congratulated each other, and then took a collective deep breath and started down. It always seems steeper on the descent than it does on the ascent, but we reached the bottom uneventfully. While we were all celebrating the first drive on Lion’s Back in 12 years, Tyler said something that really struck me as significant. “These are the first JKs to ever drive on this!” he remarked. And they are likely the only ones that ever will.

As I drove away from this momentous event, it occurred to me that Jeep is not just selling vehicles. From design to engineering to marketing, the key people at Jeep really do live and breathe the Jeep lifestyle of four-wheeling, outdoors, fun, family, and friends. They too want all the cool gadgets, to run the cool trails, and respect and preserve all of it for future generations to continue to enjoy.

Special thanks to Lionsback Resort, a full-service hotel and conference center soon to open, for allowing this all to happen.

My Favorite 4×4 Trails

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

I am asked all the time which trail is my favorite. Usually, the trail I just did is my favorite trail ever. That’s how I feel after a fun day of wheeling and exploring.

Some might expect me to highlight trails in my own backyard of Sedona, Arizona, but I enjoy a varied diet. I like trails that offer a whole package: views, at least a little challenge, some historical point of interest or natural wonder, and far enough away from town to feel like an adventure, not just a trip to the gym. Here are some trails that consistently bring a smile to my face, in no particular order.

Sevenmile Rim, Moab, Utah

Many people are surprised at this lesser-known red rock trail. I love it because it has a little of everything and so many options that you will never run it the same way twice. There are rocky ledges, views, sandy flats, views, steep slickrock climbs, and yes, views. I regularly take stock Jeeps through here, but even the big rigs will find some fun options. With the stunning Monitor and Merrimac Buttes and the famous Wipeout Hill along the way, it will be the picture you use on your desktop.

Backway To Crown King, Arizona

This trail climbs from the desert floor around Lake Pleasant at 1,700 feet in elevation, tops out over the pine-covered Bradshaw Mountains at about 7,000 feet, and drops you into the historic mining town of Crown King. The tiny town of Crown King offers a couple of tasty restaurants, a historic saloon, lodging and camping options, and other interesting nearby trails. The main route of this trail up from Lake Pleasant is mostly easy 4WD with only a few non-optional high-clearance obstacles but offers some great play areas as well. Though popular and doable in a stock Jeep, it should not be taken lightly. It is remote, it is long, and like many Arizona trails, it can change in an instant and be flooded, snowed under, or on fire with very little notice. Bottom line: Be prepared, don’t go alone, and make good choices.

Alpine Loop, Ouray, Colorado

The high shelf trails are guaranteed to take your breath away, either from the stunning beauty of the high peaks or the fear of certain death should you venture off the edge of the trail. You can pick and choose which parts of the loop you would like to connect, but most trails will pass through the picturesque ghost town of Animas Forks. There are huge vistas on Engineer Pass, surreal rainbow-colored mountains in Corkscrew Gulch, incredible wildflowers along Cinnamon and California Pass, and waterfalls everywhere. Bring a rain jacket and squeeze your trip in between July and early September.

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Glamis, California

Sand dunes are intoxicating and addictive. The wind-rippled crests and lingering gold light will mesmerize you, even if you resist the urge to scream “yee ha!” as you throttle through a rainbow arc across the face of monster dune. Reading the sand and picking a line through a sea of dunes takes a lot of concentration and quick decision-making. It can be overwhelming with choice after choice in any direction, unlike most 4WD trails where you only have a little wiggle room along a narrow trail, but that is part of its unique fun!

The Rubicon, Georgetown, California

With beautiful rivers and lakes, blue skies, green trees, and endless Sierra granite, the Rubicon has been called the toughest trail in the world. What the Rubicon lacks in single pants-wetting obstacles, it makes up for in constant rocks. It will beat you with stamina. It will put beach-ball sized rocks in your path until your brain and body are weary, then it will change to off-camber ledges until you are not sure which way is level any more, then it will squeeze you between rock and tree after rock and tree. It is 20 miles of never-giving-you-a-break. And I love it. Whose bucket list is it not on?

Ask me next month what my favorite trails are and you may get a different answer. My best recommendation? Go find the ones that make your heart soar with joy.

Rubicon Trips FAQ

1. Do I need a lot of 4-wheeling experience to drive the Rubicon?
Even though the Rubicon Trail is one of the most difficult trails in the US - novices will do just fine. Our experienced and knowledgeable guides will show you everything you need to learn to successfully and safely drive the Rubicon Trail.

2. Is it really that difficult?
Yes. Very. Really.

3. How big is the group?
About four vehicles, including the guide Jeep. We keep our groups small to maximize guide time with each guest and minimize trail impact.

4. How far in advance do I need to make reservations?
Rubicon trips are custom designed and priced for the needs of your group. The further ahead reservations are made, the better the trip can be planned and the more likely you will be to get the dates you want. Our guides do a limited number of exclusive trips each year so don't wait too long to contact us.

5. Are there any dangerous wild animals out there?
Not really. Black bears can be a nuisance but are generally not dangerous to humans.

6. How is the weather?
Fantastic! Plenty of sunshine with daytime temperatures in the mid 70s to low 80s (24-29ºC), clear, starry nights in the 40s and 50s (7-13ºC).

7. Will it rain?
Unlikely, but not impossible. At 6,000' above sea level, brief summer thunderstorms can develop quickly. Best to be prepared with a light rain jacket or poncho.

8. What should I bring?
Not much other than clothes and a few personal items. See our What to Bring post for a general list.

9. Who can participate?
Drivers must be 25 or older with a valid driver's licence and proof of full coverage auto insurance. The Rubicon is a county road and all California state driving laws apply. No underage drivers please! Passengers may be of any age unless otherwise restricted by a specific trip.

10. Are there health restrictions?
Participants should be in good health. No one with heart conditions, previous seizures, or high blood pressure or other potentially life threatening illnesses, please! All events are held outdoors with lots of time both in and out of the Jeep. Some walking over broken, uneven terrain is required. This is the backcountry and medical help is far away.

11. What if we break down or get stuck?
You will get stuck! Learning to get un-stuck is one of the skills you'll aquire from our guides on the trail. Breakdowns are another matter. Even well-maintained vehicles sometimes breakdown and AAA does'nt come out this way. Some light repairs can be done at Rubicon Springs but in most cases we are on our own. We carry the tools and expertise to handle most problems but a serious mechanical issue can cut a trip short. This almost never happens, but refunds cannot be provided for trips cut short due to mechanical issues.

12. What if I damage a Barlow's Jeep?
We all make mistakes from time to time, and occasionally, one of our guests has an unplanned encounter with a rock, resulting in a dented bumper, damaged skid plate or mangled fender. This kind of damage comes with the territory and our Jeeps are insured against it.

Acting recklessly or against the guide's instructions is another matter, however, and guests may be held liable for any damage that results. In such a case, most guests choose to submit a claim to their auto insurance company to cover the cost.

Most importantly, we want everyone to be safe and have fun. Jeeps are replaceable, you and your family are not. We build and maintain our Jeeps for the utmost in safety and capability.

13. Is it cool to smoke and drink on the trail?
No. The Rubicon is a county road and drinking while driving comes with severe penalties. The trail is regularly patrolled by Eldorado County Sheriffs. Due to the extreme summer fire hazard in the Sierras, and as a courtesy to our non-smoking guests, there is no smoking allowed in any Barlow's vehicle. Depending on seasonal fire restrictions, smoking may be allowed at camps outside the vehicle. Moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol at camp is acceptable.

14. What about environmental concerns?
We take every step to conduct our trips in an environmentally sound manner. Barlow Adventures is a member of and advocate for the US Forest Service's Tead Lightly! program and works to educate the public on safe and responsible 4 wheel drive practices.

15. Are there bathrooms along the trail?
In remote areas you may expect bathroom stops to consist of thick patches of trees or shrubs. You may wish to carry toilet paper in a ziplock bag in order to pack out used paper products. Please keep our forests and trails clean—pack out your trash!

What Should I Bring on a Rubicon Trip?

Pack Light

Space is limited in a Jeep so we encourage our guests to pack light, fitting all of your personal gear in one sturdy duffle bag if at all possible. Here's an idea of what should be packed:

  • Shorts and long pants (warm days, cool nights)
  • T-shirts (or other comfortable, breathable shirts you don't mind getting dirty)
  • Sweatshirt or fleece
  • Windbreaker or packable rain jacket
  • Sturdy shoes: hiking boots, Teva-style sport sandals
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and bug spray (we can also have these available if you cannot carry them on your flight)
  • Tums, Advil, Imodium--basic things to help keep you comfortable
  • Any medication that you take regularly
  • Towel, flashlight, lighter/matches
  • Sense of humor and a smile!

We've Got You Covered

If you book a custom guided Rubicon trip through Barlow Adventures, we provide meals during your time on the trail. Pack your own favorite snacks, and any beverages you want besides water for after each day on the trail. We can also provide clean, quality tents, pads and sleeping bags for our guests, upon request. Restrooms are porta-potties along the trail. There are no showers, though you may find the lakes and rivers suitable for swimming. 
 
Our guide Jeeps carry tools, first aid, a emergency communication and recovery equipment for unexpected breakdowns and sticky situations along the trail. Every Barlow Jeep is outfitted with a fire extinguisher and other emergency equipment. When you book with us, we'll give you a rundown of any other basic safety equipment you might need to carry in your vehicle.

Aside from all of the gear and equipment, our experienced and knowledgeable guides will provide spotting, recovery, 4x4 instruction, and information about the trail and the spectacular country it traverses.

How to Prepare Your Rig for the Rubicon Trail

Can My Rig Handle the Rubicon?

Rock rash, mechanical failures and body damage can and do happen on this trail and any driver intent on bringing their own rig should be aware of the risks. If you think you can get through the whole Rubicon trail without a scratch of any kind anywhere, you should probably NOT go on this trip—scraping and scratches happen with even the most skilled drivers.

Not only should your rig be in top-form maintenance, but if your vehicle doesn’t have the following MINIMUM requirements, we will not even consider it for a Barlow Adventures guided trip. We have developed these minimums for the general capability and comfort for a long trip to be enjoyable by the majority of clients. Can a lesser vehicle make it through? Yes, but it will take considerably more time, with a much higher risk of damage. Even if your vehicle does have these, we may still decline to accommodate your vehicle based on other factors, like gearing ratios versus driver experience, vehicle condition concerns, or safety worthiness.

Minimum Vehicle Requirements for the Rubicon

33' or taller offroad tires (35" for wheelbases longer than 105")
"Offroad" means three-ply sidewalls with tires in good working order - no dry cracking, sufficient aggressive tread depth and pattern, full size working spare. For most vehicles, this also involves having an adequate suspension lift to accommodate full articulation and turning of larger tires.

Rocker panel protection
Unless you don't mind body damage, you need some side protection, not only for the occasional slip off of a rock, but also for jacking and recovery purposes. The factory Jeep Rubicon rocker guards are barely sufficient, but they are better than some cheap aftermarket tube sliders (ask us for recommendations).

Skid plates
Factory Wrangler plates are okay - protection for your transmission pan, transfer case and gas tank are adequate on factory Wranglers, but we recommend protection beyond the minimum - see more under "Recommendations" in the linked PDF below. Other vehicle makes often have varying protection by trim package.

Traction device
At least one locking axle differential. Both front and rear lockers are better. Limited slip, locking center differential and traction lock are NOT the same as axle lock.

Recovery points
At least one frame-mounted recovery point in each the front and the rear, rated for 5,000 pounds or more. Yes, factory Wrangler hooks are sufficient. No, the 3/8" transport loop is not.

Read and download our PDF guide below for a full rundown on vehicle requirements for the Rubicon.
How-To-Prepare-Your-Jeep-For-The-Rubicon

How To Survive The Rubicon Trail Your First Time

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

“Sure, you can drive a stock Jeep through there—that’s what they’re made for!”

“I crossed the Rubicon on 31-inch tires and no lockers!”

“I did the whole trail in 8 hours!”

Mention the name “Rubicon Trail” in any four-wheeling forum and you are bound to hear some boasting, unsolicited advice, and tales of “back in my day…” However, that doesn’t answer your question: What do you really need to do the Rubicon Trail?

Regardless of your wheeling prowess and tire size, there are a few inarguable facts about the Rubicon Trail that you need to take to heart before you leave home:

It changes every day. Just because your buddy with a similar Jeep cruised through Little Sluice last week does not mean you will do so this week. Rocks move every day. Weather varies widely. Trees fall.

There are much tougher obstacles on other trails than you will encounter on the Rubicon Trail. The Rubicon beats you with stamina. It slowly wears you down one rock at a time, increasing the odds of making a bad decision due to mental and physical fatigue.

It’s narrow, it’s busy, and it’s dirty. Passing is difficult. Popular camping areas are loud on weekends. You will be scrubbing dirt out of yourself and your Jeep for days afterwards. Bottom line: Driving the trail isn’t the only challenge with which you will be dealing.

As for your Jeep, it should be in top-form maintenance. Parts and labor are significantly more difficult to acquire on the trail than at home. Steering component, motor mount, axle, and driveshaft failures are the most common breaks. Starting with good basic equipment is key.

It should have at least one locking axle differential. Both front and rear are better. Limited slip and traction control are not the same as a locker.

At least one frame-mounted recovery point (rated for 5000 pounds or more) should be mounted on each front and rear bumper. Yes, factory Wrangler hooks are sufficient, but while bumpers won’t make or break your ability to run the Rubicon Trail effectively, the odds of factory bumpers surviving the trail are slim to none. We call that an “unplanned upgrade opportunity.” You can choose whether to do it before or after the trip.

Factory skidplate protection for the transmission pan, transfer case, and gas tank are adequate on factory Wranglers, but we recommend protection beyond the minimum, especially on your gas tank and diff covers. If you really want to enjoy the trail and minimize stress, consider these aforementioned upgrades, as well as lower front control arm mount protection, 33 to 35-inch tires, and suspension upgrades to allow for those tires, real rocker guards or “sliders,” and better gearing.

Can a lesser vehicle make it? Yes, but it will take more time, with a higher risk of damage. That can create more stress than fun for you and anyone else on the trail that day (oops, some trail-etiquette preaching almost slipped in there). Do these upgrades now—not two or three weeks before your trip. The worst thing you can do is to install a bunch of new stuff on your rig right before the trip and use the Rubicon trail as the “shakedown” run.

The single most important piece of equipment to bring is your brain. Use it before, during, and after the trip. Degrade its proper functioning as little as possible while on the trip. No drinking and driving, wear your seatbelt, pack out your trash, and check on current fire and sanitation restrictions before you depart. Leave the trail for all to enjoy.

One of the most commonly smashed/broken components of the Jeep Wrangler is the lower front control arm mount. Adding a lower control arm skid is an inexpensive way to eliminate the problem. Parts are less than $50 and pay a professional 4×4 welder an hour’s time to install them.
Your tire sidewalls and wheels will get “scrubbed” throughout the trail. Three-ply sidewalls with healthy tread are a must, as is a full-size working spare. A minimum of 33-inch or taller (35″ tall for wheelbase longer than 105”) will help work around all those differential-grabbing rocks. Taller tires also involve having an adequate suspension lift to accommodate full articulation and steering degree of the larger tires.
Unless you don’t mind body damage, you need some side protection, not only for the occasional slip off of a rock, but also for recovery purposes. The factory Rubicon rocker guards are barely sufficient, but they are better than cheap aftermarket “side armor” aka “mall crawler steps.”
We recommend a minimum crawl ratio of 55:1 for automatics and 65:1 for manual transmissions. You will find the constant slow rock crawling of the Rubicon trail much more enjoyable with a vehicle that is geared properly for it. With an automatic transmission, one can compensate for higher gearing with some good left-foot braking, but this gets tiring after all day (or three or more days) of crawling over rocks. With a manual JK, you and your clutch are going to work extra hard without at least a 65:1 crawl ratio. Many people try to compensate for shallow gearing by overusing the clutch—a burnt up clutch is the last thing you want to have on the Rubicon Trail. You can accomplish low gearing with either the transfer case gears (like the factory 4:1 Rubicon t-case), so that your rig only crawls when in low range; or with axle gears, which give you more torque at the wheels all the time.