Trek Trails in Arizona for SUVs
Heading off on one of Arizona’s backroads is one of the most scenic ways to experience the best of the state’s varied landscape. While trucks and jeeps can take on almost any road suited for their wheel base, SUVs vary dramatically in construction, wheel base and off-road capabilities.
No matter what kind of SUV you have, you’ll find roads suited to a trek along some of the state’s most scenic trails.
Challenging Trail for the Off-Road SUV
Built to handle the roughest conditions, off-road SUVs come equipped with four-wheel drive, high clearance and body-on-frame construction that allow them to take on rough trail conditions that would destroy a traditional vehicle.
Trek the back way from Lake Pleasant to Crown King, where you’ll spend a full day climbing the rock-strewn 34 miles from the hot desert to the cool pines of the Bradshaw Mountains. Although most of the route ranges from easy to moderate trail, the steepest grades in the last four miles can require stacking rocks or a little help from a tow strap.
Trekking with a Traditional SUV
Traditional SUVs are designed on the same frame as full-sized pickups and have the same capabilities. While high clearance will get you across rough terrain, vehicles with two-wheel drive will need to avoid rock-crawling, sandy washes and other trails where four-wheel drive is a must.
One of the state’s most scenic drives descends from the Mogollon Rim near Flagstaff to Sedona’s red rock country along Schnebly Hill Road. The rugged road has manhole covers and jagged fragments of ancient pavement rising as high as a foot above the eroded dirt road beneath. Drive the road from top to bottom to enjoy panoramic views of the red rocks along most of the trail’s 12 miles.
Crossing Paths with Crossovers
Crossover SUVs are more closely related to cars, with unibody construction that combines a car’s ride and handling with increased cargo space. Crossover SUVs have no problem trekking on maintained forest roads such as the Apache Trail running from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake. The trail begins as a narrow, winding paved road that becomes dirt once you reach Tortilla Flat, a historic stagecoach stop near Canyon Lake.
Stop at the flat for some oversized burgers or other Old West grub then wave goodbye to civilization and head along the 48-mile narrow road snaking between sheer cliffs to the right and sheer dropoffs to your left. The trail is a good place for viewing desert wildflowers in February and March.
Safety While SUV Trekking
Know your vehicle’s capabilities and keep to trails designed for its particular use. Because the steep climbs cause some vehicles to overheat, you should carry more water with you than you think you’ll need. If you break down in remote areas, towing expenses can exceed $1,000, so bring extra belts, hose and fuel in addition to your spare tire.
Beware of crossing swollen stream beds after a storm; waters coursing through the usually dry arroyos are swifter than they appear. The state’s dry climate and areas of high altitude dehydrate you quickly, so for a day trip, carry a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person and half a gallon per dog.
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