TRAIL RATINGS GUIDE
Rating 1 The trail is graded dirt but suitable for a normal passenger vehicle. It has gentle grades, has no width problems, two vehicles wide, and has very shallow water crossings (if any). There are no obstacles and you should not need to engage 4 wheel drive unless there is snow. Any street car or truck can traverse this trail.
Rating 2 High-clearance vehicles are preferred but not necessary. These trails are dirt roads, but they may have rocks, grades, water crossings, or ruts that could make clearance a concern in a normal passenger vehicle. The trails are fairly wide, making passing possible at almost any point along the trail. Mud is not a concern under normal weather conditions. Sometimes a washboarded dirt road may be described as a 2 rating. Stock Jeeps will have no issue here, however it may be a bit bumpy for a car.
Rating 3 High-clearance 4WDs are preferred, but any high-clearance vehicle is acceptable. Dirt road, rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6″ depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide. You may encounter rocks up to 6 inches in diameter, a loose road surface, and shelf roads, though these will be wide enough for passing or will have adequate pull-offs.
Rating 4 High-clearance is required, 4WD is preferred, though some stock SUVs are acceptable. Expect rough road surface with rocks larger than 6 inches, but there will be a reasonable driving line available. Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves but rocks to 9″. Water crossings usually less than hub deep. Passable mud. Grades moderate, up to 15 degrees. Side hill moderate up to 15 degrees. 4WD under most conditions. No width problems, vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide. Stock Jeeps should be able to handle a 4 rated trail, however inexperienced drivers may want to have a little help.
Rating 5 High-clearance 4WDs are required. Rough, rutted surface, rocks up to 9 inches, mud and deep sand requiring experienced driver, 18 inch stream crossings are expected. There may be traction problems on steep sections, and shelf roads with steep drop-offs or tight clearance (for an SUV width vehicle) between rocks or trees. Taking a stock Jeep on a 5 rated trail should be challenging, but not impossible. 4 wheel low is required and inexperienced drivers will benefit from good spotting. Minor bottom scraping may occur with Jeep without lifts or larger tires.
Rating 6 4WD necessary. These trails are for experienced four-wheel drivers only. They are potentially dangerous, with large rocks, ruts, or terraces that may need to be negotiated. Quite rocky or deep ruts. Rocks to 12″ and frequent. They may also have stream crossings at least 18 inches deep, involve rapid currents, unstable stream bottoms, or difficult access; steep slopes, loose surfaces, and narrow clearances; or very narrow sections of shelf road with steep drop-offs and possibly challenging road surfaces. Shelves to 6″. Mud may require checking before proceeding. Moderate grades to 20 degrees. Sidehill may approach 30 degrees. Caution may be required with wider vehicles. Off-camber sections will likely exist. Spotting should be used on the tougher obstacles. Lifts and larger tires are likely required. Lowering air pressure in tires and disconnecting sway bars should be considered a must for trails rated 6 and higher.
Rating 7 Skilled, experienced 4-wheel drivers only. 4WD required. Very difficult trails with steep grades, loose surfaces, large rocks, deep ruts, and/or tight clearances. Winching over mud, sand or ruts is not unexpected. Rocks frequent and large, 12″ and may exceed hub height. Holes frequent or deep (12″). Shelves to 9″. Mud 8″ deep and may be present on uphill sections. Grades to 25 degrees and sidehill to 30 degrees. Water crossings to 18″ and may have strong currents. 1-1/2 vehicles wide. Stock Jeeps should not attempt a 7 rated trail. Excellent spotting is required. Some bottom scraping is likely, even for lifted Jeeps.
Rating 8 Heavy rock and/or severe ruts. Rocks exceeding hub height frequent. Shelves to 12″. Deep mud or uphill mud sections. Steep grades to 25 degrees and can be loose or rocky. Water crossings may exceed 30″ in depth. Side hill to 30 degrees. One vehicle wide. Vehicle body damage possible. Experience needed. High lift, large tires (35″ or better), and lockers are required. Extreme off-camber sections may result in roll-overs.
Rating 9 – 10 Extreme caution recommended. There is likely damage to vehicles at this level and the trail may be impassable. Highly-skilled, experienced driver is required. Severe rock over 15″. Frequent deep holes over 15″. Shelves over 15″. Mud bog conditions (long, deep, no form bottom). Over 30″ water crossings with strong currents. Steep grades over 30 degrees. Sidehill over 30 degrees. These are largely beyond the scope of this website.