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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

Respect

Easter Jeep Safari 2014 in Moab was bigger than ever. The weather was beautiful and many of the official trail runs were full to maximum capacity, making all the trails busy with both official and unofficial runs. Considering just how busy the trails were, I was impressed by how well most people cooperated and showed respect for both the trails and other users. MOST people.

There was one particular incident which set a poor example of respectful trail use. This incident involved a group of 4-wheelers whose leader insisted that they had the right to run any trail whenever and however they wished. They were attempting to enter a trail from the backside which was not only closed to the public for the day, but also a one-way only trail all week, regardless of Safari runs. There are eight trails that are closed on days during Safari that there is an official Safari run—ONLY eight, out of the 38 listed official Safari trails. When they were informed by the trail official that they would have to run a different trail that day, they waved him off and said “We’ll just follow behind you.” When the official again informed them that this would be illegal during Safari, they told him “We’re locals” (they’re not), as if that made it okay to be rude, disrespectful, and disobey the law. It actually took a phone call to the Sheriff to convince these guys to go elsewhere.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, the laws and etiquette of the trails are not imposed to inconvenience people, but rather to protect the trails so they do not degrade beyond all continued enjoyment. The eight trails closed during Safari run days are closed because they are one way in and one way out, or far too difficult to have groups safely pass each other without widening the trail. Most people would find trails far less enjoyable if they became giant dust bowls because the soil crust is crushed beyond all ability to support trees and shrubs and hold down the sand from billowing away. And we have all been on trails where there are far too many Jeeps and we spend much of our time parked, waiting to move through an obstacle. The rules are pretty simple to follow, and the Red Rock 4-Wheelers clearly post the information on their website and in the paper available for free all over town. In my opinion, if you are too lazy to research what trails are available, OR you just don't care enough about the trails or other users to follow basic etiquette or law, you are not a responsible trail user and you just shouldn't go.

Here’s the part that really bugs me—the offending party in question was a representative of a well-known 4x4 parts manufacturers. These are people whose livelihood depends on the existence of public trails. These are people who should be setting a glowing example of how to properly use a trail, respecting the laws and ethics, and all other users of the trails. There were MANY aftermarket parts companies in town, and I know that the vast majority of them take the time to acquire any required permits, check Safari schedules to plan their routes, and go out of their way to respect the environment and other users on the land. Fortunately, the incident in question seems to be a somewhat isolated occurrence these days.

Promote and support companies who respect the trails and all other users of the trails. Those are the companies who understand that, in order for our recreation AND their business to continue, we must care for what we have. If a company exhibits shameful conduct on the trails, I will choose to not promote or do business with them. I make a point of promoting the businesses which DO practice good trail ethics and etiquette. I encourage all of you to do the same.

Happy Trails!
NB

Woodchute Trail: Secret Gem!

With temperatures doing what they do in June in AZ, many people are seeking out cooler temps at higher elevations. Many people know about the stunning views and fascinating history of Mingus Mountain and Schnebly Hill Road, but a little-known secret gem of a trail is the Woodchute Jeep Trail just above Jerome AZ.

 

The Woodchute Jeep Trail starts at FR 503A just at the bend at mile marker 339 on Hwy 89A. High clearance 4x4 required, and if you have an aversion to brush scratches, this may not be the trail for you, as its status as being "little-known" also means lower traffic and more overgrowth after the wet season.

The trail is short--only about 5 miles and 1-1.5 hours off-pavement, with stops. It loops back down to Hwy 89A and you come out on the highway only 2 miles uphill from Jerome. For a gorgeous full-day of Jeeping, start with the Mingus Mountain trail, which takes off at the bottom of the mountain near the Cottonwood Airport, then loop back through Woodchute for those spectacular afternoon views.

Check it out for yourself!

More maps and info at JeepTrailInfo.com and Funtreks.com

Speaking up on the Trail

A few years ago, I wrote an article about the social dynamics of groups on the trail--how sometimes in a sticky situation there are too many people shouting opposing opinions at the same time, and how at other times no one speaks up when they should. Recent mishaps with weather calls and recovery snafus have brought this topic back to mind.

Remember that, in most cases, it pays to take an extra few seconds to think things through, discuss circumstances calmly, clearly, and thoroughly. Unless, for example, someone's rig is on fire, or sliding out of control towards a cliff, there is usually no need for urgent action. Step back and explore all the options.

In a spotting situation, there shouldn't be a bunch of people yelling out all at once. Observers should communicate their concerns through the designated spotter.

Finally, and very importantly, a good trail leader should not be offended by someone in the group asking for clarification on a judgement call or recovery staging, BUT it's better to risk offending that person rather than risk personal safety or vehicle damage. As a professional instructor, I expect to be explaining what I see and the judgements I make all day long as a way to help others develop their own on-trail decision-making skills. Ultimately, you, the driver, are responsible for the "go" or "no-go" call for yourself, so, in my book, it is ALWAYS okay to ask for more information.

Happy trails!

Recommended 4-wheeling Equipment

By popular request...from our Jeep School workbook--the Equipment list for 4-wheeling! It is in written form, below the photos, so you can cut and paste, but for a better format, see the attached photo.

 

Recommended Equipment for Four Wheeling

Basic Outdoor Preparedness Gear (stuff for your own self-preservation):

Water & food
Extra Clothing (know the weather forecast)
First Aid Kit
Matches, Lighter, Candles, FIRE
Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Trash Bags, wet wipes, hand sanitizer
Detailed Road Maps, Topo Maps, Compass, Watch, Knife
Tarp, rain gear
Cell phone, CB, HAMM radio, or Personal GPS Locator Beacon
Flares, signal mirror, police whistle
Flashlight (windable, or with extra batteries)

These are the most used recovery items. Invest in quality items.

  1. TIRE CARE: Jack, spare tire, repair kit, tire pressure guage, air compressor. Keep your spare tire inflated and in good condition. Make sure you have the correct lug wrench for your wheels.
  2. VEHICLE PULLING: Tow Strap. A tow strap should be at approximately 10-15 feet long and rated for at least twice your vehicle’s gross weight. Buy good quality strap with loops on the ends, not hooks.
  3. DIGGING OUT: Compact folding shovel/axe/saw. A Forester Tool, Handle-All, or plain old shovel is an invaluable all-purpose tool for getting yourself unstuck in a variety of circumstances, and are also useful for general survival.

These items are an important part of your regular excursion kit:

Heavy duty work gloves
Jumper Cables
Fire Extinguisher
Recovery Strap (20' to 50', with loops, rated at 3-4 times the vehicle weight)
Baling wire, Duct tape, Zip ties, Ratchet Straps, bungee cords, equipment tie-downs
Stop Leak radiator repair, Motor Oil, Transmission Fluid, extra water
Replacement fuses and electrical tape
Basic tools: wrenches, pliers, mallet, ratchet, spark plug socket, vehicle-specific tools
Variety of hoses, clamps, nuts, bolts, washers, parts specific to your vehicle

Additional equipment to consider for more extensive excursions:

Extreme caution is urged for the use of these items. Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with their function and operation. Read owner’s manuals thoroughly and follow all safety precautions:

Hi-Lift Jack
Full-size Shovel (especially for sand, mud, or snow areas)
Full-size Axe, Bow Saw, Chain Saw (in heavily-forested areas)
Winch with accessories: tree strap, clevis, snatch block, chain
Extra gas

 

Job Description

Barlow Adventures Seeking Talented Guest Services People

Call us for up to date Barlow's career information: (928) 282-8700

Short Description

Exceptional customer service, communication and multi-tasking skills to handle contracts, reservations, phones, and Jeep washing & prep. Very active indoor/outdoor on-your-feet job. Strong guest services background and love of outdoors required. 4-day work week, with holidays and weekends required. Get dirty and have fun. Email inquiries or resumes to nena@barlowjeeprentals.com or drop application in person to 3009 W Hwy 89A, Sedona.

PLEASE note: this is NOT a mechanical position—this is a front office guest services position which does NOT require mechanical skills!

Long Description

To many people, working at Barlow’s might seem like a dream job: work with Jeeps, in a fun and casual atmosphere, in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. Yes, it is all that, but first and foremost, it is actually WORK. In a nutshell, the job requires exceptional customer service skills combined with unflagging physical and mental energy.

The main facets of the job are handling rental contracts, instructing guests in trail driving and Jeep operation, managing reservations, and prepping Jeeps for rental. New hires start in the following order, and progress as skill mastery allows: first, Jeep washing; second, phones and reservations; third, rental contracts; fourth, preparing guests for trail and Jeep usage. We will train the right candidate for all of that—you don’t have to come in knowing all about the Axle Lock button, or how to strip the frame off a Jeep soft top, or even how to get to Soldier Pass—what you DO need is to be: highly self-motivated, but with a strong teamwork ethic; smart, without being arrogant; humble without being sheepish; both mentally and physically energetic and capable; all this with the amazing ability to mother the timid customers, tame the rowdy ones, and have them all eating out of your hand.

In the past, we have screened a lot of applicants who had a misconception of what the job is really like. It’s not glamorous most of the time. Let’s expose the “dirt” about working at Barlow’s…

First, we wash Jeeps. We wash Jeeps A LOT. And we wash Jeeps day in and day out in all kinds of weather. It’s like the Karate Kid workout: Your shoulders will be sore from the constant circular motion of washing and drying Jeeps, and your back will be sore from leaning over vacuuming interiors, and wiping out various unidentified sticky things that you really don’t want to know what they are. Your hair will get messed up and your coworkers will spray you with the pressure washer, usually by accident. Your legs will be covered in red dirt, and most likely you will develop calluses on your knees from kneeling down to spray mud out or inspecting the undercarriage. Your feet will get soaked—great when it’s 106 degrees out, but miserable when it’s 41 degrees. Bring a change of shoes and socks. And, sometimes, we even clean Jeeps with toothbrushes. I’m not kidding.

You will be on your feet most of the day. You will be standing, walking and running while answering phones, washing Jeeps, taking reservations, filling out contracts, talking guests through maps, demonstrating the features of the Jeeps, washing Jeeps, directing people to the bathroom, loading a cooler with ice into the Jeep, removing t-tops or soft tops from Jeeps, scraping up your fingers zipping windows into Jeeps, smiling while answering the phone while you are sucking on your sore finger, washing Jeeps, inspecting Jeeps, parking Jeeps, and washing more Jeeps.

You will be talking a lot, and you have to be charming the whole time you are doing it. You have to make people feel loved and warm and fuzzy from the moment they drive onto the property or the moment you answer the phone, even if your cat puked in your shoes and you bent your rear axle (again). You will answer tons of questions about Jeep rentals: what trails can we use, what time can we pick up the Jeep, how much does it cost, why is it so much more than Avis, how many people can we fit in a Jeep, do I have to make a reservation, do you have automatic Jeeps, do I have to be 25, do I have to have insurance, can I use someone else’s credit card, can I take your Jeep to Timbuktu, where are we located because the GPS sent us to the wrong county…You will also be answering tons of questions about Sedona in general: where to stay, where to eat, why aren’t the Hertz guys there, what are vortexes, where to shop, where to park an RV, what the weather will be like in 38 days, where is the nearest major airport, and how do I get to Sedona from there. After a busy day, you are tired of the sound of your own voice.

Then there are the times when we are not busy. That’s when we wash Jeeps—REALLY wash Jeeps—scrub upholstery, wax and polish paint, clean engine compartments, scrub tires and soft tops, and spray mud out of places you never knew Jeeps had. And when that’s done, we clean the shop. There is always dirt. ALWAYS. Shelves, carpet, countertops, bathroom, and all over the garage. There are usually dirty, broken and/or greasy Jeep parts laying around, too.

Some days the time just flies by, and you go home dirty and smelly and collapse on the couch. Other days drag by and you have to take a deep breath, look around and see what needs doing, even though playing Farmville sounds much better.

There are always list of projects that need doing. You will most often be working with one or two other crewmembers, but sometimes it’s just you, so you must be highly self-motivated. Your coworkers are highly self-motivated and expect the same of you. Anyone who is perceived to be slacking or not holding up their end is not tolerated for long. If there are dirty Jeeps sitting outside, a pile of dirty dishes, and dirty towels and coolers spread all over the shop, and you are sitting on the couch reading a magazine, expect some rather direct remarks.

Still reading? Okay, then here’s the good stuff…

Our Jeeps are awesome and you will get to know each one by name and personality. They also want to go out and play with you from time to time. Your coworkers are enthusiastic Jeepers and outdoors-people. They are smart, compassionate, supportive, and watch your back. Even though most of our crew members are college-educated, with business management backgrounds, and could run any of a number of different businesses, they have chosen, as you have, to take a job that allows one to go to work in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops (or jeans and hiking boots, depending on the weather). While washing Jeeps or doing Jeep demos, you are outside, soaking up the gorgeous Sedona climate, which is great 99% of the year. 

You get to meet people from all over the world, with diverse backgrounds, and all looking to you to help them have fun. Just in the course of the job, you will learn more about 4-wheeling and Jeeps than most people can imagine. There is the opportunity to travel to different 4-wheeling destinations and events and meet and work with people throughout the industry. You get to live in the Sedona area, and Jeep, hike, bike, and/or ride whatever to your heart’s content. There are very few days a year that are unpleasant enough to keep you indoors all day, and you are within 1-hour of high-country pines for cooler weather, or 1.5-hours of the lower desert for warmer weather.

Most importantly, you have to be comfortable in your own skin AND have an innate love of people to be able to deal with all of the different personalities that you will encounter at the counter. You must have the attitude that there is always more to learn, you must have the inner strength to wash that one last Jeep at the end of a long day, and you must possess the self-confidence to know when to say “It’s okay—I got this!”

Happy trails!

Trail Ratings

As the Jeep event season looms closer, and winter-bound Jeepers start licking their chops over the trail selections of various 4-wheeling events around the country, I find the ever-sticky trail rating questions frequently crossing my path:
"Can my Jeep make it through the _____ trail?"
"What's a good moderate trail to do at _____?"
"What's the most fun trail at ______?"

As most of you already know, the askee cannot adequately answer any of these questions without acquiring a slew of other information from the asker: "How is your Jeep set up?", "What's your definition of moderate?", and "Is your idea of fun an easy scenic jaunt, or a heart-pounding steel-crushing rock fest?"

But beyond those subjective conversations is a larger befuddlement in the entire 4-wheeling world:
There is NO universal trail rating system!

In Arizona, we have used a 0-5 scale for a long time, with 0 being paved road, and 5 being impassable to any vehicle that ever rolled off a factory line. And we throw around terms like "easy" or "beginner" to "adventurous" or "extreme". Utah (specifically, Moab) has gone to a fairly well-defined 1-10 scale that categorizes anything in the 9 or 10 rating as buggy class only, relegating those of us in originally factory-built rigs, no matter how modified, to the 1-8 trails only. But to confuse matters further, Colorado and California use a 1-10 scale that makes trails like the famous Rubicon an 8-10 on their scale (the same trail might be a 6 or 7 on the Moab scale).

Then factor in that trails like Black Bear Pass near Ouray CO--the trail is actually very easy to drive--would barely rate a 4 or a "moderate" on the scenic Jeepers scale, except for that one little sticky fact about the narrow shelf road and excrutiatingly tight switchbacks with a sheer drop off of hundreds of feet promising certain death if you screw up by just a few inches--how do you calculate that HUGE intimidation factor into a trail rating?

Ask two different wheelers about the rating of a particular trail, and you will get two entirely different replies. For example, take a trail I will call "Bad Deal"--if you ask my friend Rick, whose Jeep has no straight sheet metal, a full roll cage, and carries crash helmets for its passengers, Rick will tell you that Bad Deal is a really easy trail. If you ask a recent client of mine, Jim, with a shiny stock 2011 Grand Cherokee, he would say it was impassable--that it wasn't a "trail" at all. The truth? In the rental and 4x4 instruction business, we would call this trail difficult or extreme, because it does take an aggressive 4wd with a driver who can make some good line choices to be able to make it through without damage beyond a few brush scratches and a little exercise of the skid plates. But, in the rock crawling world, this trail is barely a speed bump, and you have to go out of your way to make it interesting.

With all of this said, how can you properly choose a trail? Read, research, ask...Ask detailed questions of a knowledgable person you trust, or, at the very least, ask a variety of people and hope the truth will reveal itself in the averages (online forums are great for that!). Other good sources of info are local clubs, 4x4 shops in the area of your intended trails (and good people to know ahead of time in case you need some repairs), Jeep or ATV rental shops, and sometimes you get lucky and find a knowledgeable trail person at the local BLM or USFS Ranger Station.

But, what do you ask in order to get a true picture of what you are trying to get yourself into?

As an instructor, I address this with clients, and advise them to ask detailed questions about trails they are considering, such as:
"What size are the biggest rocks I will have to surmount? Labrador-sized? Volkswagon?"
"How tall are the ledges? Are they easy, rounded steps, or 90-degree steps?"
"What is the trail surface like? Sand? Sandstone? Slippery shale?"
"Are there bypasses for the harder obstacles on that particular trail?"

And, if you have particular fears or interests, ask about those too:
"How wide are the shelf roads?"
"How steep are the sidehills or inclines?"
"Is there adequate trail to pass other vehicles or stop for pictures?"
"Are there (ruins, mines, historic sites, etc.?"

And, last, but not least, don't forget to plan to get in and get out comfortably:
"How far to the nearest gas station to the trailhead? Closest air?"
"What about bathroom breaks...facilities at trailhead or just plenty of shrubs near the trail?"
"Closest place to pickup lunch/snacks/drinks on the way?"

Remember--the only dumb question is the one you didn't ask.

Happy trails!

Maps and Route Planning

With warmer weather just around the corner (according to the groundhog), now is a good time to go through all the stuff you need to prepare for a fun and safe 4x4 excursion. The topic today is MAPS.

One of the questions I am asked the most is "What's a good map to buy?" The challenge is that there is no one map source for everything everywhere. I have shelves full of maps, atlases and software for exploring where I may be headed. I recommend that you check with at least three different sources for current information about where you plan to visit. I will share some of my favorites, but they may not have editions available in your area. If nothing else, it may help you to research what you DO need and find something published for your region.

An atlas is a good place to start for trail exploring. They won't give much detail on the condition of the roads, or even represent every tiny side trail out there, but they will give you a general lay of the land and usually better detail on all main access roads than the local land use maps. They will also represent different land status boundaries: Forest Service, BLM, private property, state trust land, reservation, etc. My favorite series is the Delorme Atlas & Gazeteer, available at Amazon and many local retailers. These measure approximately 11"x16", and open up to 2-pages per view, for a good studying size!

I use National Geographic TOPO software to review terrain, load my GPS, and print for reference. The State editions give the best detail. Keep in mind that some of these surveys date back to the 60's, so roads may or may not exist as indicated--use the data for topographical reference and navigation. Available at http://www.natgeomaps.com/topo.html

As you get closer to deciding where you plan to explore, invest in the maps produced by your local land use management, like US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (Coconino National Forest, shown above). All of them will have maps printed with current legal roads, but most of them will only show main access roads, not the more desirable Jeep roads. In more popular recreational areas, more detailed maps may be available from the land management office (aka ranger station or visitor center).

Find the Verde Valley Recreation map and other local information here: http://www.redrockcountry.org/maps/index.shtml

In very well-known recreational areas, there are usually a variety of retail maps produced to meet the demand for trail information. These providers are usually locals who know the lay of the land very well, and ONLY that local area.

In the western US, we are blessed with some very dedicated authors for creating trail books that include not only maps, but driving tips, points of interest, and give a comprehensive overview for driving the particular trails. The most consistent author for the Southwest US is Charles Wells with his Backroads and 4-wheel-drive Trails series, available at: http://www.funtreks.com/

You can always try http://www.jeeptrailinfo.com/trails_maps.html for very detailed individual trail maps that you can download and print instantly, but the site has limited trails of the southwest, and the author seems to be too busy Jeeping, instructing, and writing about maps, than actually producing more of them (wink).

 

 

No matter how much good printed material is available, conditions can and do change, and the burden of responsibility is on YOU as the trail user, not the map printer or the land use management. Always check with local 4x4 clubs or 4wd shops about current conditions. Many of them won't be willing to tell you where the trails are, but if you know where you are going, they will be happy to give you condition updates. Each state has an association of 4-wheel-drive clubs--google it, then find a club in the area you are visiting.

If you are ever in Sedona, stop by or call our shop for local trail conditions: (928) 282-8700

Happy trails!