Trail Ratings
By Ken Womack

From time to time, folks ask, "What are these trails rated?", "Can my vehicle make it?", and "What equipment is needed to run these trails?". Well, there are lots of variables, such as driver's skill and experience, the vehicle's type of suspension, tires, gearing, and whether it has some type of traction aiding differential. The size of the vehicle may matter in some places. Some trails are very tight while others are suitable for larger rigs. Usually we'll let you know if it's a short wheelbase run. Most places can accommodate larger full-size rigs.

We borrowed this rating guide from the organizers of Big Bend Bash. Makes good sense!

  • Level 1: 4-wheel drive only needed occasionally. Relaxing ride with few tough spots.
  • Level 2: 4-wheel drive needed a lot. Stock vehicles and tires OK.
  • Level 3: Aggressive tires needed. Rear locker recommended.
  • Level 4: Rear locker needed. Front locker recommended. Winch recommended. High challenge!
  • Level 5: You didn't bring enough! Nobody gets on these trails without 33"+ tires, locker front and rear, a winch, lots of experience, and a total disregard for the mechanical or cosmetic condition of their vehicle. NO EXCEPTIONS. Bring spare parts. We ain't kidding.

As usual, I like to throw in some translation. Most of my info is from personal experience, magazine articles, trail talk, and 4-wheel drive excursions.

  • Level 1: Any 4-wheel drive Sport Utility or Pickup with a low range and minimum 7.5" ground clearance can do these trails. Obstacles may include some deep sand, shallow water crossings, small to medium rocks, mud, and semi-steep hills and descents.
  • Level 2: An SUV with larger stock tires, limited slip, and a transfer case ratio of 2.5 or above fares better here. Some SUV's will be seriously challenged here. 50/50 locked transfer case needed.
  • Level 3: A rig with independent front suspension will be seriously challenged, maxed out or broken on some of these trails. Rigs with solid front axles articulate better and have better wheel travel. They are also less prone to breakage. Limited slips, sway-bar disconnects, and aggressive tires recommended. Driving skill really starts to matter a great deal here.
  • Level 4: Aggressive tires of at least 31", a rear locker, winch, and 2-4" of lift needed. Your experience should include: steep hill-climbing, traversing ledges and steps, crossing mud holes, winching, log crossings, driving through deep water, large rocks, etc. Good spotters and trail guides can help you get through. Spare parts, tools, and recovery equipment are needed here. Run these trails with club members and experienced folks. Damage and broken parts can definitely happen here.
  • Level 5: Translation not needed. Read as written above. I ain't kiddin'!