Parashant is a scenic wonder but it also is one of the last truly remote places in the United States. A visit here means leaving the safety net of the modern world behind.
The information that follows is not designed to scare potential visitors out of visiting the monument but remind everyone that traveling into Parashant isn't to be taken lightly. Rangers want to be sure motorists understand that travel here requires specialized vehicles, equipment, and planning to avoid or recover from a mishap. The fact that you are reading this means you are the right track as you prepare for a safer visit to the monument. Thank you! Please contact us at the number on the bottom of the page if you would like to discuss with a ranger your particular equipment, skill level, and trip plans.
You are responsible for your own safety and you must be able to self-rescue. Appropriate vehicles and equipment in good working order and adequate supplies are critical. Roads are narrow and winding. Travelers need to be prepared for their trip and understand the guidance below. All roads are unpaved and of varying difficulty. While not prohibited, cars, minivans, crossover SUVs, and RVs are not the right vehicles for travel in this monument.
A high clearance 4x4 with tires designed for off-pavement use is the most important safety item you need. Most rescues involve vehicles with multiple flats where rocks ripped up tires only rated for street use. Other reasons include vehicles getting stuck in mud or high-centered on uneven road beds, or vehicles suffering some kind of mechanical breakdown.
Scroll to the bottom of the page for definitions of terms like "All-Terrain" tires, "high-clearance vehicle," or what a "short wheelbase" is.
Recommended Equipment and Supplies:
4x4 Vehicle Terminology:
All-Terrain/Mud Terrain Tires: For full size vehicles the ideal tire is a good condition E-Range All-Terrain tire. Examples of All-Terrain tires include BF Goodrich AT/KOs, Cooper ST-Maxx tires, Firestone Destination ATs, etc.This is a tire that has a very thick rubber tread, more flexible rubber, and much stronger belts inside the rubber to handle the abuse of rocks that impinge on the tire. Load range E is equivalent to a 10-ply tire, where there are 10 layers of reinforcement in the tire. Load Range D tires are equivalent to 8-ply tread, and C is equivalent to 6-ply tread. You also want 3-ply sidewalls on your tires as the rougher roads have rocks along them that will rip open thinner sidewalls.
Mud-terrain tires are not effective at handling mud on the Arizona Strip. The local clay packs into the spaces between the knobby treads like peanut butter. It isn't flung out by the revolution of the wheel like watery mud in other regions. Even mud-terrain tires turn into slick, smooth donuts that have no traction.
Rugged Spare Tires: If you plan to spend a lot of time on unpaved roads, your vehicle needs at least one All-Terrain spare tire. Most stock spare tires are thin and will blow out after only a few miles on a rocky road. Do you need 2 spare tires? Motorists occassionally scrape and rupture the sidewall of a front tire against a rock along the road. Then before they realize what happened also rip open the sidewall on the rear tire on the same rock. This has caused many double flats.
Street Tires: These are normal automobile tires. They are designed for pavement only. Their rubber is thin, more stiff, and equivalent to 4-ply tread with 1-ply sidewalls.
Rental 4x4 Warning: Rental 4x4 trucks and SUVs often come with street tires not designed for off-pavement use. Just because the vehicle is a 4x4 doesn't mean it has the right tire. Check the sidewall to see if it says "All-Terrain." Street tires ride more comfortably on pavement as they are thinner and absorb bumps better than an All-Terrain tire. However, because they are thin, they are far more likely to rupture off-pavement.
Tire Pressure: Many new vehicles including pickups come with tire pressures up to 75 pounds per square inch. This is very high pressure. Many off-road motorists lower their tire pressure to well under 40psi when traveling on rough roads, then fill the tire back to recommended pressure when they return to pavement. The risk with highly pressurized tires on unpaved roads are blowouts. As tires go over rocks they are so rigid from the high pressure they can't flex and absorb rocky surfaces, so instead they rupture.
What is the difference between a 4x4 and All Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle? True 4x4 vehicles have a 'transfer case' in the drivetrain that puts full engine power to the front wheels. All Wheel Drive, common on vehicles like crossover SUVs, relies on a 'differential' to send variable power to each wheel. AWD is good on level road beds in low traction conditions like snow. It is not designed to fully power the front tires in off-pavement rugged situations. For example, if the road goes up a steep hill and there is a lot of loose rock in the road, fully powered front wheels are needed to rotate strongly and pull the vehicle up the slope. AWD cannot do that very well and may fail.
High Clearance: Any factory stock full or mid-size 4x4 pickup or SUV. Lifted 4x4s have extra high clearance to accomodate taller tires. Running boards, step bars, and plastic bumpers can get ripped off when going over rough sections. Vehicles like a Subaru Forester can be considered Medium Clearance and is acceptable on main Parashant roads so long as they have off-pavement tires.
Low Clearance: Any car, minivan, RV, or SUV Crossover. None of these are designed for Parashant's roads, even with off-pavement tires as they sit low to the ground and can scrape off engine components like the oil pan.
Short Wheelbase: These are vehicles where the front and rear axles are closer together. This includes SUVs like a Jeep Rubicon, Toyota FJ Cruiser, or Chevy Tahoe, as well as 4x4 pickup trucks with a short bed (less than 6' long) and a regular cab. Short wheelbase vehicles create a situation where the rear tires start to climb a hump in the road or obstacle before the front tires go down the other side very far. This lifts the center of the vehicle up and over the hump preventing scraping.
Long Wheelbase: These are vehicles where the front and rear axles are further apart. This includes Chevy Suburbans or 4x4 pickups with a crew cab and/or long bed (see image of red truck below). The risk with long wheelbase vehicles on the roughest roads is that when going over the top of a hill that drops steeply on the other side, the center of the vehicle may high center and get stuck before the rear tires have a chance to climb the obstacle and lift the back of the vehicle.
Entry/Departure Angle: Short wheelbase vehicles simply are less long, making getting through a wash easy. Long wheelbase vehicles may be too long and hang up on the front or rear bumper.
Bumpers: If you have a stock front bumper look at how close the bumper is to the ground. On rough 4x4 roads, hazards like boulders, deep ruts, or hard centerline ridges in the road can rip off the bumper. Vehicles designed for rugged off-pavement use have had the lowest parts of the front bumper's air dam removed, or a custom bumper installed that is much higher off the ground. If you drive into a wash at a steep down angle down that suddenly pitches up to leave the wash, this presses the bumper into the roadbed, which will scrape and damage the bumper.
Running Bars/Step Bars: Like low bumpers, these bars along the vehicle are used to step easily into a truck or SUV. They reduce clearance and can be damaged or ripped off on rough roads.
Last updated: March 10, 2020