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advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

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advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby peaksandpotatoes » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:09 pm

Hi Everyone,
I've read plenty of articles on the internet about the differences between AWD and 4WD. However, I am realizing that what I really want to know is - when a Tom Harrison map says "Rough dirt road - 4WD usually needed," an AWD car is fine right?

I have been driving my 2002 Toyota Corolla all over California for many years, and I will soon have saved enough to buy a nice used car. I definitely want to feel more confident driving in the mountains, especially because I am on my own for most of my exploring.

Please advise. Thanks!



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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby afahrland » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:49 pm

You can get to 99% of the trailheads in the Sierra in a Corolla. Been there, done that...
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby maverick » Fri Dec 05, 2014 2:05 pm

Hi PSP,

Moved this thread into the Transportation section, you'll find some answers in this
section, here is a previous thread that may you: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=8953
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby dave54 » Fri Dec 05, 2014 8:15 pm

In my experience, when a road is labeled '4wd' it is usually because more ground clearance is needed, not additional traction. Of course, I have seen roads labeled 4wd that were in better shape than some paved city streets.

As a general rule a 4wd vehicle has more ground clearance than a AWD, but there are many variations on that theme.
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sat Dec 06, 2014 8:25 am

I have a 4WD truck with a lift and while the extra clearance is nice now and then, I've ever had to turn on the 4WD to get to a recognized trail head in California. I think that the USFS is erring on the side of caution, much like the US State Department does with their travel advisories, so that if someone does something foolish with their vehicle and they get stuck, they can at least say "well we did warn you NOT to!" I would wager that a vehicle with a bit more clearance and AWD (if you want) would be just fine.
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby paul » Sat Dec 06, 2014 2:39 pm

Clearance is almost always more critical than traction on dirt roads/jeep trails. Very few AWD cars have good clearance ; Subaru outbacks have a little more than the average car, Foresters maybe a little more than the Outback. A small pickup usually has more clearance than and will do better than a car, IF you have enough weight in the back for traction - an empty bed on a small pickup means not enough weight over the driving wheels for good traction.
Some SUV's have decent clearance but not all do.
I used to have a Volkswagen Vanagon, and that thing was great on the back roads. Good traction since the engine is over the driving wheels; and good clearance. Plus you could sleep comfortably in the back and haul plenty of gear.
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby iHartMK » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:50 pm

The Onion Springs trailhead near Lake Edison is pretty hardcore. We went to Big Margaret Lake last year, I'm glad we had 4WD and a little extra clearance for that road!
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby Big Ed » Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:53 pm

A road labeled 4WD on the map can be anything from a nice dirt road with a few small rocks and bumps here and there, to a full on 4WD trail with ice chest size boulders, and bigger. I was coming out of the Coyote Lake 4WD trail several years ago, and there was a woman driving a full size 4WD van coming in. I told her to turn around because it was too rough for her van. She wouldn't listen, saying "it has four wheel drive". Others in my group had already told her the same thing. We didn't stick around to see what happened, we wanted to get home. The point of the story is, don't rely on the map to tell you.
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jan 25, 2015 4:25 pm

Big Ed wrote:A road labeled 4WD on the map can be anything from a nice dirt road with a few small rocks and bumps here and there, to a full on 4WD trail with ice chest size boulders, and bigger. I was coming out of the Coyote Lake 4WD trail several years ago, and there was a woman driving a full size 4WD van coming in. I told her to turn around because it was too rough for her van. She wouldn't listen, saying "it has four wheel drive". Others in my group had already told her the same thing. We didn't stick around to see what happened, we wanted to get home. The point of the story is, don't rely on the map to tell you.


:retard:

Geeze.

After listening to how many times the lifted/fully armored 4WD hit things on the way out of Coyote (we'd hiked in from Dinkey), I am going to guess some kind 4WDer had to pull her out of a bad spot and possibly give her a ride back to Shaver.

RE: driving on dirt roads - if you are already experienced in driving rough roads with a car, there are a lot of places you can easily go with patience, low gears and good sense. If you are not accustomed to driving rough roads in a car, it may be best to err on the side of caution.

Definitely read some of the trip reports here - particular places to search on include: Bear Diversion Dam, Dinkey Lakes, Edison...

A friend of mine ruined the axle on her tiny travel trailer on the way to Edison - it was so light it kept bouncing around. The paved road has many, many granite rocks sticking out of the asphalt and there are narrow slots through the granite in some places. It takes care and patience to drive it - although, when responding to a SAR one Sunday night, I was able to fly out there double time since at night I could see any headlamps coming for a good distance and slow down in response. (Not recommending that you go very fast unless you have driven it enough to know the road!) Some people hate that road. I appreciate it, but, I'm a local....
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby Big Ed » Sun Jan 25, 2015 9:48 pm

We "are" kind 4 wheelers, and go out of our way to help a lot of people. There have been two different trips that I've hauled a motorcycle out of Dusy Ershim. We got the people out of there each time too. There's an old saying, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink". We helped her by telling her to turn around.
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:18 am

Didn't mean to imply that you weren't - sorry. In fact, the 4WD clubbers clear all the FS roads (such as the ones into Dinkey) of fallen trees, and some of them belong to the Fresno SAR, using their very high clearance to transport teams into the wilderness. On the aforementioned trip we met some who were so impressed that we had backpacked all the way from the Brewer OHV trailhead (about six easy miles... but then they weren't hikers) that they gave us beer.

Most folks in the backcountry are that way. The problem is the ones who don't listen - then again, there are so many self professed experts in the world, it's hard to know which ones are worth listening to. I've had many an old timer inform me loudly that I'd get cold in my hammock... you'd think if that were true I'd have stopped sleeping in it after a few months, instead of using it for the past seven years.
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Re: advice needed: driving on dirt roads in the mountains

Postby Big Ed » Mon Jan 26, 2015 1:29 pm

Yeah, I thought later that you didn't mean it that way. It's all good, I'm not easily offended, just try to respond to what I think is being said. I'm in the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno, and help every year on trail projects. I helped move 4 toilets last year, at Swamp, Grouse, and Coyote. When they get near full, we have to dig a new hole and drag them over it. Also built 4 new toilets in my back yard, they are now installed at Dusy Creek (Courtright), Thompson Lake, East Lake, and Mallard Lake. We don't usually clear the roads accessing the trailheads, the Forest Service and The Stewards of the Sierra do that.

My fellow four wheelers are amazed at the hikes I do, I walk through Dusy Ershim every year before we are allowed to drive in, and come out with a conditions report. There are other 4 wheelers that hike, but not many. I also know what you mean by the self professed experts, I've had to run off other 4 wheelers that try to make me do things their way. If I'm going on a hiking trip, I don't take my trail rig, so then I'm in the same boat as other hikers.
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