Trail ratings from “Overland Journal”

This is something I’ve been thinking about for years. I wanted to be able to rate the trails in the Rubicon area to give those new to the area an idea of what they will encounter before they get there.

I looked in to different scales from different groups: 0-10, 0-5, 1-10, etc. Each had something the other didn’t, I didn’t want to be that guy that says “This is how it will be!”

Luckily, I recently came across a scale from a group I greatly respect. The Overland Journal. I was there getting lined up to give a subscription as a Christmas present. Poking around the website, I came across their trail rating schedule:

http://store.overlandjournal.com/trail-rating-guide/

TRAIL RATINGS

(Copied directly from the Overland Journal website)

1

Improved/Graded Dirt Road

Passable by most standard vehicles, excluding those with low hanging body panels or that are designed for on-road sport driving with ultra low ride and tire section height.

trail-rating2.jpg

1.5

Graded Dirt Road

Still passable by most 2WD vehicles. However, caution is required and lower speeds may be necessary for vehicles with less clearance. Small rocks (less than 5″) may be embedded in road surface. Sufficient room for passing on most of the road. Some steep grades possible. AWD required if road is wet or icy.

 trail-rating3.jpg

2

Formed Track

Not passable by standard passenger vehicles. High clearance preferred, AWD preferred. Steep grades present, larger rocks embedded in trail (less than 7″). Some loose trail surfaces and shallow water crossings possible. A spotter may be required on the most challenging portions to prevent body damage on vehicles with less clearance. Sand and dry washes may challenge available traction requiring lower air pressure on some vehicles. Trail may be narrow and require backing to allow other vehicles to pass.

trail-rating4.jpg

 2.5

Rugged Track

Not suitable for 2WD vehicles, or low clearance cross over vehicles. AWD required, low range gearing preferred. Rutted, crossed axle terrain possible, with loose, steep climbs required. Deep sand possible. Some rock crawling possible on loose rocks up to 8″ in diameter. Some larger rocks may be present, possibly requiring a spotter to negotiate. Small ledges possible, with larger embedded rocks present. Water crossing to 12″ possible. Loose surfaces will be present, with tight clearance, smaller margin for error, and the possibility of body damage. Within the capability of any high clearance stock SUV or truck. AWD cross-over vehicles will struggle and may suffer damage due to lack of low range gearing.

 trail-rating5.jpg

3

Formed Trail

High Clearance SUV or Truck required with low range gearing. Trail will be very rough and heavily eroded, with large, loose rocks present and steep, loose climbs requiring good traction and driver skill to negotiate. Wheel placement critical. Skid plates required, along with larger tires (31″+) necessary to prevent damage. Deeper water and mud crossings possible. Parts of the trail may be entirely in a wash, with loose sand and large rocks present. Possibility of rock ledges, and severe crossed axle obstacles. Good suspension articulation required to maintain traction. Rear limited slip differential or traction control system recommended to limit trail and vehicle damage.

 trail-rating6.jpg

3.5

Rugged Trail

High clearance SUV or truck required, taller suspension and tires recommended. Few stock vehicles capable of completing the trail without damage. Very large rocks exceeding 12″ present throughout trail requiring a spotter or heavily modified vehicle to traverse. Very loose and cambered climbs present, also heavily rutted requiring good suspension travel. Tall ledges present requiring good clearance or rocker panel protection. Little margin for error, and possibility of body damage. Tires must be 31″+ with aggressive tread and strong sidewalls. Lower tire pressure, skid plates, and limited slip or traction control required to prevent vehicle or trail damage. Rear locking differential and 32″+ tires recommended.

 trail-rating7.jpg

4

Challenging Trail

High clearance modified vehicle required. Not within the capability of a stock vehicle without damage. Trail likely in river or wash bottom with very large rocks present. Deep mud possible requiring aggressive tires and higher speeds. Water crossings in excess of 24″ possible. Heavily rutted and crossed axle terrain present, with large ledges and very steep hills with embedded and loose rocks. Body protection required to prevent damage, with good skid plates and stronger (or spare) steering components necessary. Winching and extraction possible. 32″ tires, rear locking differential and flexible suspension required. 33″ tires and front locking differential recommended.

 trail-rating8.jpg
outside the scope of this website

 4.5

Extreme Trail

Heavily modified vehicle required. Extreme rock crawling, with very large ledges present requiring winching for shorter wheelbase (SWB) vehicles. Body and drivetrain damage likely. Very cambered terrain may cause rollovers. Water crossings may be hood high, and mud will be very deep and heavily rutted. Vehicles will require heavy modifications. 33″+ tires required, along with front and rear locking differentials in upgraded axles. 35-37″ tires recommended. Winch required on SWB vehicles. Roll cages or full metal roof required. Driver must be experienced.

 5

 No Trail!

Custom vehicle, very experienced driver required. Competition-level vehicles on insane terrain with frequent rollovers and drivetrain damage. Full custom vehicles with massive axles, 37″+ tires, cutting brakes, very low gears, 1-ton drivetrain, and custom chassis.

 

So, applying this to trails around the Rubicon:

Trail rating of 1:

-Forest Road 03: It’s paved from the lake (Tahoe) to the summit. After that it is an improved dirt road due to the gravel put down, at least to the kiosk and bathroom area.

Trail rating of 1.5:

-Forest Road 03 past the kiosk area. Graded by not improved.

-03-04: This is the road from Barker Pass to the Rubicon Trail. It starts as a 1.5, well graded, large rolling dips. BUT, it finishes as a 2.5!

Trail rating of 2.0:

I’m going to put most of the Rubicon Trail from the Tahoe staging area to the turn at Forest Road 03-04. There are a few 2.5 sections as you climb out of the basin, but doable in 2wd by a skilled driver.

-14N39 Richardson Lake Trail: this has been worked on by the Forest Service over the last few years in order to meet S&G100 issues and to reroute an erosion prone climb near the summit.

-16E79 Upper Barker Meadow OHV Trail: this is a rolling trail that doesn’t offer much challenge

Trail rating 2.5:

The Rubicon Trail from the turn at Forest Road 03-04 to Observation Point.

-16E76 Barker Meadow OHV Trail

Trail rating 3.0:

The Rubicon Trail from Observation down to Morris Rock (or The Steps)

Trail rating 3.5:

The Rubicon from Morris Rock to the Springs

Trail rating 4.0:

One could argue that a few of the obstacles on Cadillac are 4.0 but I’ve seen less build rigs maneuver through without issues. It takes a very skilled driver but it can be done.

Trail rating 4.5:

I’m putting the Fordyce Trail in this category. Now not the entire trail but it has MANY sections or obstacles that rate a 4.5.

Trail rating 5.0:

It’s my website, so I would put trail such as those in Johnson Valley in this category. Competition level stuff.

Remember that weather can change a trail rating in a heart beat. Just a little rain on a slab of granite, turns that fine dust in to micro ball bearings. And if that water freezes on that slab, look out. Always travel prepared to spend the night: food, water shelter, etc.

Over the winter, I’ll try and update each trail page with a better description and a trail rating.

Happy Holidays,

 

Rubicon Ronin

 

 



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