Taylor Kempkes

Trail Reviews: 5700 points
Questions Answered: 0 points
Off-Road Experience:
2-3 years
Off-Road Style:
Overlanding
My Garage:
  • 1995 Jeep Wrangler (2 door) (Stock lift, 31" tires)
  • 1999 Toyota 4Runner (3" lift, 33" tires)
Find me on Instagram @jtkempkes The beginnings of my time off-roading goes back to 2015 when I borrowed my dad's old 1985 Ford E-150 van and took it down to to the Mud Caves in Anza Borrego for a fun weekend with friends. Over the next years or two, I spent many weekends getting my 2004 Ford Focus hatchback to camping spots and down dirt roads it had no business being. Then I sold the Focus in favor of a crappy old 1990 Vovlo 240 wagon which took my wife and I on many adventures to places like Big Sur, Anza Borrego and Thomas Mountain in our first year of marriage. We were enjoying camping and off-roading so much, we decided to upgrade our means of transportation to something a little more capable: a 1999 Toyota 4Runner Limited. With a 3-inch lift, 33-inch all-terrain tires and the factory rear e-locker, the 3rd gen 4Runner felt unstoppable. My idea of simply having a more capable vehicle to take us camping quickly snowballed into an four-wheeling addiction. In the first year with the 4Runner I hit every type of off-roading possible from desert to rocks and even snow. The Toyota made it all so easy. As such, I decided I wanted to go back to my roots and get something a whole lot more basic and way more stock. This brings us to summer 2019 and my newly acquired 1995 Jeep Wrangler. With a set of 31-inch Falken Wildpeak M/Ts (and a winch as backup) I've been having fun pushing the limits of the little Jeep on trails all over Southern California, Las Vegas, and Sedona.

My Garage (2)

1995 Jeep Wrangler (2 door)

Lift Size: Stock
Tire Size: 31"
Stock 1995 Wrangle YJ 2.5L manual transmission. The only suspension "modifications" I've made are removing the front sway bar and both front and rear track bars along with replacing the stock socks with Bilstein 4600s. I'm also running 31x10.5R15 Falken Wildpeak MT01 tires on the stock steel wheels. Although I've yet to need it, I also bolted on a Smittybuilt XRC winch.

1999 Toyota 4Runner

Lift Size: 3"
Tire Size: 33"
***Previous Vehicle***

My Trail Reviews (30)

(within last 6 months)
1N34 San Sevaine Road (01/04/2020)
Somewhere between waypoint 6 and 7 the trail became impassable for my Jeep Wrangler YJ because of the heavy snowfall from December 26th. There was still about a foot of thick, icy snow on the trail and without using my winch, I wasn’t able to make it past the off camber uphill corner where the other tracks stopped and it was apparent no one else had made it further either.
Mojave Road (12/28/2019)
I’ll try to keep this review short and to the point. When they say don’t cross the Soda Lake after rain, they aren’t joking. While our group of 6 rigs made it across without getting stuck (barely) the aftermath of the corrosive mud was not worth it. Leaving the mud on for less than 12 hours still did plenty of damage to our vehicles and took hours upon hours to clean off completely. And that was three days since the last rain. Other than that, the trail was absolutely amazing and made for an exhausting yet fulfilling adventure.
3N10 – John Bull (12/21/2019)
We were planning to attempt the trail today but too much ice to make it up the hill past the gatekeeper.
3N12 - Delamar Mountain Road (12/21/2019)
The trail had more snow and ice than other trails in the area this weekend but still wasn’t difficult for a 4wd vehicle.
3N69 – Gold Mountain (12/21/2019)
My brother and I ran this trail backwards on our way out of the Big Bear area and it was a lot of fun. We certainly had to take our time coming down the couple waterfall/ledges and could see it being even more difficult going up them. Overall it was a challenging trail that keeps you on your toes and delivers some great views too.
3N10 - John Bull East aka Little John Bull (12/21/2019)
Ran this trail both ways today and the v-notch was an especially fun challenge coming back up. Otherwise the trail seemed to be in similar condition as usual.
3N16 - Holcomb Valley (12/20/2019)
Trail was in decent shape with no obstacles of note other than a little bit of snow, ice, and icy puddles throughout.
Sandstone Canyon (11/23/2019)
The first obstacle (waypoint 4) seems to have been run down or washed out because we made it to the main gatekeeper without realizing we’d gone through it. The V-notch is completely filled in with sand, so it not even an obstacle now. But, the waterfall is much gnarlier as the rains seem to have washed out a lot of the sand leading up to the ledge, exposing more rocks just before it. There is still an easy bypass to the right side. The last thing of note is we were told by a group of 9 vehicles who were running the trail ahead of us that there is now a large boulder blocking the trail not too far past the waterfall. We weren’t able to confirm this as we were forced to turn around because of the big group.
Sandstone Canyon (11/23/2019)
The “new” gatekeeper at waypoint 4 seems to have been washed out or worn down because we made it to the main gatekeeper without having to traverse it. Then the waterfall is much more challenging now because the rains have washed away the sand at the foot of the ledge, exposing more rocks and making it a taller climb. Finally, the group of 9 vehicles that were in front if us turned around not far past the waterfall because there was a large boulder blocking the trail now. We were unable to confirm this as we were forced to turn around at the top of the waterfall before the other large group.
Arroyo Seco Del Diablo Trail (11/23/2019)
After the rain last week, the mud hole tuned into a very large water crossing that was unavoidable and as of Saturday was around 3-4 feet at its deepest point.
Fish Creek Trail - Anza Borrego (11/23/2019)
This was the first time I’d traversed the whole length of Fish Creek all the way to the northeast end. The section between Sandstone Canyon and the end is a very fun winding road that was pretty smooth except for a few mild rocky sections we had to slow down for. Heading back out the other end toward the wind caves, the washboard wasn’t nearly as bad as it’s been in the past and the only things to keep an eye out for are a few small step-downs that can sneak up on you if you’re driving quickly.
Canyon Sin Nombre (11/22/2019)
Neat trail and the campsite at waypoint 3 was very cool. After we showed up Friday evening, another group came by looking to camp at the same spot. The trail was pretty washed out from recent rain, but no major obstacles.
Diablos Tail (Arroyo Seco Del Diablo) - Anza Borrego (11/22/2019)
After the rain there were a couple large boulders blocking the trail part-way in. Luckily they were hardened mud and we were able to break apart/move the smaller ones to make the trail passable again. Until the large boulder in the middle erodes, making the pass is tight and off-camber. Also the trail extends a tad bit further now but there’s no new turn-around area so you just have to reverse back.
Diablo Drop Off (11/22/2019)
The “One Way” sign has apparently been removed. whether that was done by an official or an off-roader who didn’t like the sign, I’m not sure. Otherwise the trail is in similar condition as usual.
3N06B Paiute Spur (11/15/2019)
I was curious to see how challenging this 5-5 rated trail would really be. My non-lifted Jeep YJ and my brother-in-law’s non-lifted TJ both made plenty of contact with rocks on the trail, although nothing actually proved too much for the little Jeeps on 31” tires. Our friend’s lifted TJ on 33”s rolled through with no problems whatsoever. This trail would probably be way more challenging for most stock mid or full-size 4x4s due to the trail’s tight and rocky nature toward the end. Overall it was lots of fun and was a beautiful area to wheel.
FR552 Lockett Meadow (11/09/2019)
The trail was open and in good condition, making for a quick ascent up to the beautiful meadow.
Cinder Hills OHV (11/09/2019)
Wow, what a unique place. I only drove the loop road because I was alone and just wanted to see the sights and get a feel for cinder hills. I if you plan to make the full loop, half of which involves driving through the cinder, I would definitely recommend 4wd. If you stick to the first portion of the loop, its just a graded gravel road that any vehicle could handle. Also, as soon as you hit the cinder going around the loop road, it is constant whoops almost the entire time which was a bit annoying to me personally. Still worth checking out for sure.
Oak Creek Homestead (11/08/2019)
This trail was surprisingly fun and decently challenging. The rocky hill climb at waypoint 13 was probably the most difficult but a fun section of trail that required you to climb some small steps while going up the steep hill. It was also nice to get out and take the short hike down the the creek halfway though the drive.
Greasy Spoon (11/08/2019)
Going down and back out of the deep canyon of waypoint 8 was a highlight of the trail. Nothing too difficult for a modified 4x4 or even some stockers with decent ground clearance. A guy with a stock 4-door JK Wrangler Sport decided to turn around and not attempt the decent and climb at waypoint 8 due to his long wheelbase, minimal ground clearance and stock tires.
Behind the Peaks (11/07/2019)
This was a fun, smooth trail with cool views of the mountains. No obstacles to speak of.
Hart Prairie (11/07/2019)
Ran this trail to complete the loop around the mountains and it was a joy. The road was pretty smooth most of the way and there was even a light dusting of snow/ice in a couple of places. It also gave a good view of Snowbowl.
9129D to Alto Spring (11/07/2019)
Decided to run this trail while making the whole loop around the mountains and was glad I did! The trail lived up to its 3-3 rating with plenty of rocks and ruts to keep you on your feet but nothing that posed a serious issue for my non-lifted Jeep Wrangler YJ on 31s. Also, wasn't able to find said spring at the top...
FR420 Schultz Pass (11/07/2019)
Easy fun trail that takes you around the west side of the mountains and through a lot of the old burn area. The trail is nice and smooth save for a couple of the washes that require you to slow down briefly. I ran this trail as part of the whole "Behind the Peaks" trail system.
Schnebly Hill Road (11/06/2019)
Made a run down this trail with a couple other rigs at sunset and, not to beat a dead horse but, the views were outstanding. As other reviewers noted, the trail certainly is a rocky roller coaster from end to end, although not too challenging. For vehicles with little ground clearance, there were a couple rocky ledges that might have posed a problem, but there were usually ways around most of the obstacles.
Burro Wash Road (11/05/2019)
Holy cow, this trail was slow moving. I planned to go camp down by the river but after an hour and a half of bouncing through rocks, I gave up and camped only 5 or 6 miles into the trail. There weren't any real obstacles it was just so rocky that, even aired down to 15 psi, I rarely got out of second gear in low range. I'm sure that with larger tires than my 31-inch mud terrains, you would be able to roll through most of the trail much quicker. On a more positive note, the scenery was pretty neat with lots of volcanic rock.
Rocky Gap/Potato Ridge Road (11/02/2019)
What a great trail with spectacular views. The mandatory rock garden made for quite the challenge in my 1995 Jeep Wrangler YJ but I somehow managed to creep through unscathed. The trail lived up to its rocky name and I rarely got the Jeep past second gear in low range the whole time so it was pretty slow moving.
Vallecito Wash Trail (10/19/2019)
Trail is open and in good condition with no significant washouts or obstacles to speak of.
Arroyo Seco Del Diablo Trail (10/19/2019)
Since the last review from a couple weeks ago, there is now a bypass for the mud pit. As you come over the landslide and see the mud pit, there is a section of trail that hugs the right hand side of the canyon. It is quite off-camber, so taking it very slow will be crucial to making it through without sliding down into the mud. With that said, the mud pit is not as difficult to traverse as it looks, one member of our group made it through the mud and back in his stock Subaru Forester with normal road tires.
Arroyo Tapiado (10/18/2019)
The trail is in great condition with no obstacles to get between you and your quest to explore some awesome mud caves and slot canyons. With the fall comes shorter days and more shade on the trail throughout the day which was especially nice this past weekend as temperatures hovered in the upper 80s and low 90s.
Diablos Tail (Arroyo Seco Del Diablo) - Anza Borrego (10/18/2019)
This is such a neat little trail! I happened upon this trail six months ago when I was in the area last but didn't have time to drive it. This time I was back in my 1995 Wrangler YJ and it was the perfect little canyon to putt through slowly with the top off. I can see how anything much longer might have a heck of a time simply turning around at the end, so I would agree with the trail description's recommendation of no four-door/long wheelbase vehicles. Other than that, the short trail offered no real challenges and I was able to make it through and back in 2wd.