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Old 12-13-2011, 10:36 PM   #1
JDT
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Off Roading in Something Besides a Real Jeep

Does anyone know if some easier Jeep type trails be taken in something like a Jeep Liberty 4x4? Specifically, we spend several weeks each summer in the Colorado Rockies and would like to take some of the old, less difficult mining trails that are available for 4 wheel drive type vehicles. Don't want to spend a bunch of money as we already have 2 fairly new vehicles, one of which is our normal toad, and this would be a 3rd one that would not get a whole lot of use. Probably will look for something in the 03-06 range but probably not a Wrangler as they seem to be quite a bit pricier, even for much older ones. Of course, it has to be towable.

Any other suggestions?
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Old 12-14-2011, 08:53 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDT View Post
Does anyone know if some easier Jeep type trails be taken in something like a Jeep Liberty 4x4? Specifically, we spend several weeks each summer in the Colorado Rockies and would like to take some of the old, less difficult mining trails that are available for 4 wheel drive type vehicles. Don't want to spend a bunch of money as we already have 2 fairly new vehicles, one of which is our normal toad, and this would be a 3rd one that would not get a whole lot of use. Probably will look for something in the 03-06 range but probably not a Wrangler as they seem to be quite a bit pricier, even for much older ones. Of course, it has to be towable.

Any other suggestions?
I think your question could be best answered here.
JeepForum.com - Jeep & Off-Road Discussion Community
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Old 12-14-2011, 09:51 AM   #3
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I think if you truly want to explore some of the neat trails in Colorado, you really do want a REAL Jeep. The TJ Jeeps were made from 1997 to 2006 and can vary widely in price, depending on upgrades, condition and year. All of them with a transfer case are easily towable. The trails out of Silverton are some of the most scenic in the world, in my opinion. They are not "hard", but the weather can change and make them "interesting".
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Old 12-14-2011, 10:19 AM   #4
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Yes a Liberty/Commander etc will do most trails in our mountains. A couple of years ago I came upon a couple who had gotten onto Black Bear in a stock Grand Cherokee, other than permanent impressions on the steering wheel and creases in the seats the Jeep was fine.

If you want a dedicated trail beater I'd say look for a standard Cherokee, not the Grand. Those old things are very capable right out of the box, cheap, super easy to maintain/work on, and it's a simple and it's a fairly inexpensive matter to build them for 30-31" tires which will take you just about anywhere you want to go. But it sounds like for what you want to do it would be fine stock.

EDIT: The Cherokee was made from '84-'01 my personal preferences is for the '97-'01 with '98/'99 at the top of the list. It got a stronger rear axle in '97, and had some issues with head cracking in '00 and '01 if overheated. That inline 6 and AW-4 transmission both will go well over 250k miles with moderate maintenance.

I took mine over Black Bear near Silverton both forwards and backwards with open axles on 31" tires with no issues at all.

If you like taking the top off in nice weather find a TJ with the 30" wheel package and be sure you get a D-44 rear axle, the D-35 is not the strongest by a long shot.

Either will do the job, the Cherokee will hold more people/gear, the TJ is arguably more fun. And both can be had reasonably with an edge to the Cherokee due to lower demand in most areas of the country. Both are very easy to setup for towing.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:51 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. In 2008 we went to Ouray and rented a 4 door Jeep for 7 days and did Imogene, Engineer, Cinnamon, Ophir and Yankee Boy Basin. What a blast and what beautiful scenery. The rental place would not allow us to take Poughkeepsie.

Renting a Jeep might be the cheaper thing to do but in 08 the cost for the week was over a grand. We usually travel with another couple and I will check out the older Cherokees.
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Old 12-15-2011, 08:54 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by daveshan View Post
Yes a Liberty/Commander etc will do most trails in our mountains. A couple of years ago I came upon a couple who had gotten onto Black Bear in a stock Grand Cherokee, other than permanent impressions on the steering wheel and creases in the seats the Jeep was fine.

If you want a dedicated trail beater I'd say look for a standard Cherokee, not the Grand. Those old things are very capable right out of the box, cheap, super easy to maintain/work on, and it's a simple and it's a fairly inexpensive matter to build them for 30-31" tires which will take you just about anywhere you want to go. But it sounds like for what you want to do it would be fine stock.

EDIT: The Cherokee was made from '84-'01 my personal preferences is for the '97-'01 with '98/'99 at the top of the list. It got a stronger rear axle in '97, and had some issues with head cracking in '00 and '01 if overheated. That inline 6 and AW-4 transmission both will go well over 250k miles with moderate maintenance.

I took mine over Black Bear near Silverton both forwards and backwards with open axles on 31" tires with no issues at all.

If you like taking the top off in nice weather find a TJ with the 30" wheel package and be sure you get a D-44 rear axle, the D-35 is not the strongest by a long shot.

Either will do the job, the Cherokee will hold more people/gear, the TJ is arguably more fun. And both can be had reasonably with an edge to the Cherokee due to lower demand in most areas of the country. Both are very easy to setup for towing.
I agree with your assessment of the Jeep TJ. We have an 04 that's been on quite a few of the trails in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. It's more than adequate in the stock version for the easy and moderate trails.

Like the OP we originally rented whenever we wanted to do some off roading. After a couple years it seemed pointless to drag our Buick half way across the country just to leave it in the campground while we rented a Jeep.

Late in 04 we found a Wrangler Sport with enough options to make it a fun off road vehicle. It rides a little rough for an every day comuter car, but it's in its glory off the pavement. We'll probably keep it until it wears out or I can't hold out any longer for a Rubicon.
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Old 12-15-2011, 11:41 AM   #7
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Here's a thread with beautiful pictures and a post where someone went down Black Bear in a stock Jeep Liberty and another post in the same thread where a couple who were in a Rubicon died, because they went down the switchbacks in a thunderstorm:

Black Bear Pass - Colorado4x4.org Forums

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Old 12-15-2011, 12:25 PM   #8
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Sue: Awesome photos of the trail!
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Old 12-15-2011, 01:33 PM   #9
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Black Bear is one of our (Creeper Jeepers) adopted trails, you can see the remediation work we've been doing over the last 8-9 years on the first half going up in one of the links on our home page. One of the good things about adopting the trail is we get a chance to run it backwards (up the switchbacks out of Telluride) once a year with the Western Slope 4 Wheelers who have the "downhill" part.

A stock Liberty (with a good driver) can run any trail in the San Juans with the exception of Poughkeepsie, there is one obstacle on it that pretty much requires 31"+ tires and a rear locker. The Forest Service is going to do a bypass around it next year as an ATV driver got seriously hurt on it.

Good hunting, if you have any questions re the trails or your hunt for a Jeep don't hesitate to PM. Just for a starting point I paid $4500 for my '98 early last year, it had 103k miles on it and was well maintained and rust free having spent it's early life in Nevada and San Diego. I've since put 2x that much into it but NONE of my improvements were necessary to run our local trails with the exception noted above. You may well find one cheaper, they are in high demand up here as they are close to the perfect all season vehicle.
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Old 12-15-2011, 02:05 PM   #10
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A few years back a buddy and I were out in Colorado on motorcycles. We were in the southern part of the state and we rented a jeep to do the trails. My buddy had a book that described and rated the off road trails. As I remember it the ratings were from class 1 (sorta a normal dirt road) to class 5 (mountain goat roads). The class 3 roads were a bit challenging but not overwhelming.

There is a website that has the trail books for Colorado and they rate the trails on a 1-10 scale Colorado 4WD Trails.
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveshan
Black Bear is one of our (Creeper Jeepers) adopted trails, you can see the remediation work we've been doing over the last 8-9 years on the first half going up in one of the links on our home page. One of the good things about adopting the trail is we get a chance to run it backwards (up the switchbacks out of Telluride) once a year with the Western Slope 4 Wheelers who have the "downhill" part.

A stock Liberty (with a good driver) can run any trail in the San Juans with the exception of Poughkeepsie, there is one obstacle on it that pretty much requires 31"+ tires and a rear locker. The Forest Service is going to do a bypass around it next year as an ATV driver got seriously hurt on it.

Good hunting, if you have any questions re the trails or your hunt for a Jeep don't hesitate to PM. Just for a starting point I paid $4500 for my '98 early last year, it had 103k miles on it and was well maintained and rust free having spent it's early life in Nevada and San Diego. I've since put 2x that much into it but NONE of my improvements were necessary to run our local trails with the exception noted above. You may well find one cheaper, they are in high demand up here as they are close to the perfect all season vehicle.
Daveshan, don't you think the crest on Black Bear might be a little much for a stock Liberty?

We plan to spend 3 months in the Ouray area this next summer and would love to hook up with some folks to run some trails with. Our toad is an 04 Wrangler 4.0 with 31x10.50 tires, small lift, Dana 44, quick disconnects, and a winch. I have been off-roading for 10 years.
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Old 12-15-2011, 08:20 PM   #12
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Daveshan, don't you think the crest on Black Bear might be a little much for a stock Liberty?
Not with the above mentioned "good driver" behind the wheel. There's nothing on the uphill side or across the saddle to the steps that is rough. The steps have gotten a bit rougher over the past few years but with good tire placement, no problem. The switchbacks just take good spatial awareness and knowing where your tires are.

IMO a Cherokee is still the better overall choice, much easier/cheaper to fit larger tires than a Libby. I've had a TJ since we got up here (now on 35"s locked on both ends) and for our local trails greatly prefer the XJ.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Dude 66 View Post
We plan to spend 3 months in the Ouray area this next summer and would love to hook up with some folks to run some trails with. Our toad is an 04 Wrangler 4.0 with 31x10.50 tires, small lift, Dana 44, quick disconnects, and a winch. I have been off-roading for 10 years.
Give us a holler when you get your schedule, there's also a calendar on the site, visitors are always welcome on our runs.
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Old 12-19-2011, 05:56 PM   #13
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It sort of depends on the "trail". I've been all over Moab in a Chevy Tracker 4WD and also a Acura MDX SUV. Traveled a lot of back country in Alaska and Maine too. If the "trail" is in any sense a road, i.e. previous vehicles have worn a path for you, then you don't need an extreme off-road vehicle and most any 4wd, or maybe even awd, vehicle will do. When I go with a friend to his hunting acreage in South Carolina, we drive in using his pick-up in 2WD, figuring we can always use 4WD to get out of anything we got into with 2wd.
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Old 01-16-2012, 06:15 PM   #14
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Yep, tires can make or break the day. I have an '85 Nissan Kingcab, and can go a whole lotta places with the right tires. I have 2 sets of wheels, one with highway M&S tires for the pavement.

I was in Durango & Silverton for a week last June, and will be back for a for a month next time. I love jeep trails, mines, & caves.

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