Taylor Kempkes

Trail Reviews: 10800 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)
  • 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Stock lift, 30" 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 year 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 a 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. Enter the 1995 Jeep Wrangler I bought in summer 2019. With a set of 31-inch Falken Wildpeak M/Ts, homemade rocksliders, a lunchbox locker in the front, (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 upgrading to Bilstein 4600 series shocks. I'm also running 31x10.5R15 Falken Wildpeak MT01 tires on the stock steel wheels. Other modifications include a Smittybuilt XRC winch, homemade rocksliders and a PowerTrax No-Slip locker up front.

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Lift Size: Stock
Tire Size: 30"
This is my wife's Jeep that we bought for mild off-road duties, snow, and longer road trips. It's stock with the 4.7L V8 and Quadradrive with slightly oversized Falken Wildpeak AT3 tires and upgraded Bilstein shocks.

My Trail Reviews (51)

(within last 6 months)
Kofa Queen Canyon (01/31/2021)
Beautiful views and the trail was easy for any stock 4WD but it was a bit rocky once you got in the canyon.
Kofa Cabin - Jasper Springs (01/31/2021)
Good views and the trail was not challenging. Like other trails in the area, it’s much more comfortable to be aired down. We also took some time to explore Two Valve road that goes up through Burro Canyon which was neat.
Arlington Clanton Well Road (01/30/2021)
Nice easy trail with beautiful views of Eagle Mountain Wilderness.
Norton Road (01/30/2021)
Lots of wash crossings to slow down for, but otherwise an easy and pretty smooth trail we used when traveling from Kofa Wilderness over to Eagle Mountain Wilderness.
Hovatter Road (01/30/2021)
Neat trail, we did the beginning and end of the trail in conjunction with other trails in the area. It was perfect since it started so close to the gas stations off I-10.
Red Raven Road (01/30/2021)
Nice easy road we used to connect to other trails in the area
YE06 Eastern (01/30/2021)
Good trail used to connect to other more notable trails in the area
El Paso Pipeline Road (01/30/2021)
We drove most of this trail while exploring Kofa Wilderness and Eagle Mountain Wilderness. It was nice and smooth but had to watch out for the wash crossings that could be jarring if taken too fast. It was also worth the short detour to get up close to Courthouse Rock near the beginning of the trail.
Wilbanks Road (01/29/2021)
This was a fun trail that wound up through the desert mountains. It was generally pretty easy but we did need to put it in 4WD a few times.
Hoodoo Wash (01/28/2021)
The washboard got old real quick but the cabins made it worthwhile. The second cabin was in great condition so if you plan to stay there, please do your part to keep it that way!
Mortero Palms - Anza Borrego (01/03/2021)
If you’ve made it this far, this trail is nice and easy. Didn’t have time to make the hike to the palms so I’ll have to be back!
Blair Valley (01/03/2021)
I can never pass up the chance to drive the trails in Blair Valley. Great views and fun winding 2-tracks.
Olla Mud Palisades - Anza Borrego (01/03/2021)
Cool place to go see if you’re in the area. The end of the trail gets more technical but no need to go that far to get up close to the huge walls.
Olla Wash - Anza Borrego (01/03/2021)
Fun wash to explore and offered lots of good places to camp.
Hapaha Flat Road (01/03/2021)
I hadn’t done this section of trail before but I’m glad I checked it out this time. It was challenging enough that you really had to be intentional about your line though a couple steep sections, but still do-able in a stock 4X4. First time seeing Heart Attack hill too. Not sure I’ll be trying that anytime soon.
Little Blair Valley (01/03/2021)
Made this a loop along with Blair Valley. It’s a fun winding 2-track I always enjoy driving.
Carrizo Creek / Canyon / Gorge - Anza Borrego (01/02/2021)
This was a nice quite canyon since there aren’t really any “tourist attractions” of note. The last mile was mostly rock gardens, but not the fun and challenging kind, more the annoying bumpy kind. Also, the sand was very deep if you go off the tail at all. I had to help pull a 2wd crossover out of the sand that got stuck when the couple pulled off the trail to camp.
Indian Canyon North (01/02/2021)
Not much to see here other than the usual desert environment and a few palm trees at the end of the trail. But the smooth sandy 2-track was fun to drive.
Dolomite Mine - Anza Borrego (01/02/2021)
The ruins were fun to check out and the trail offered just enough challenge to make it interesting.
Indian Canyon South (01/02/2021)
Like the northern trail, this was a fun and smooth trail to nowhere.
Mortero Mine Loop - Anza Borrego (01/02/2021)
The description is a but misleading because you definitely don’t need lockers and articulation to make the loop. Unless there is an alternate hill climb I missed, the loop marked on the GPX was not challenging and could be done in 2wd.
Arroyo Tapiado (01/02/2021)
Always a great area to stop by and explore!
South Carrizo Creek - Anza Borrego (01/02/2021)
I used this trail to get to the mud caves area. It’s pretty easy but watch out for overgrown bushes and some substantial woops that will jump out at you
Arroyo Seco Del Diablo Trail (01/02/2021)
As noted in the last review, there were plenty of new landslides. By now, all the landslides has been driven over and broken down enough that none of them posed a real challenge.
Diablo Drop Off (01/02/2021)
This was as fun as always. The ruts in the first downhill section were as deep as ever and fully flexed out my little Jeep. The second downhill section on the other hand was very smooth this time and was not a challenge at all.
Fish Creek Trail - Anza Borrego (01/02/2021)
Nothing new here, but boy did I forget how bad the washboard is on this trail! Otherwise it was fun and seemed to have a few more rocky sections than I remember.
Mortero Wash - Anza Borrego (01/02/2021)
With the track crossing and rock section, this is certainly of of the more difficult trails I’ve done with a 2-3 rating. But still, a 3 rating feels right and the trail was pretty smooth going otherwise.
Indian Gorge (01/02/2021)
This was a fun sandy trail but there were plenty of decent-sized rocks that you need to be aware of.
Mortero Wash North - Anza Borrego (01/01/2021)
Nothing too special here, but still better than driving on pavement. Drove this route to check out the mine and ruins.
2N02 - Burns Canyon (01/01/2021)
Very cool trail. It was fun going from desert all the way into snowy mountains. Even with recent snow, the trail wasn't too challenging, just a few rocky sections that required us to slow down a bit. We also saw four wild Burros just hanging out on the side of the trail.
3N31 - Lower Lytle Creek Divide (12/28/2020)
We drove this trail at the tail-end of a 24-hour snow storm so the trail was covered in snow, an unusual event given its low elevation. It was 6-8 inches deep in sections which kept it interesting. Driving North to South from Applewhite road, we were forced to turn around just past Penstock Ridge because we just didn't have the traction to climb some of the steeper sections. It made for quite the adventure though!
2N53 - Applewhite Road (12/27/2020)
We ran this trail at the tail end of the snow storm which kept it very interesting. It was amazing that the trail had snow considering it's low elevation. Lucky for us, it was only a few inches deep so we were able to get traction coming up the steep hills. We drove the trail East to West.
Old Culp Valley Road (11/14/2020)
Not a whole lot to see at the home site (as the trail guide said) but it was interesting finding a ground spring nearby with many animal trails leading up to it. Trail was pretty easy but did seem like it was a little washed out from recent rains.
Grapevine Canyon Road (11/14/2020)
For its rating of "3" this trail actually offered more challenge than other trails of similar ratings. Almost half-way between waypoint 2 and 3 is where it started to get fun. Short rocky hill climbs and baby rock gardens. Our stock 2004 Grand Cherokee with 30" Falken Widlpeak AT3s had no problem other than the transfer case skid plate making contact with a rock (as it always does). I'd say the rating is still accurate, it's just on the more challenging end where picking your line becomes important in a stock 4x4.
Jasper Trail (11/13/2020)
I ran this trail from top to bottom and it really wasn't difficult at all. If you were coming back up, it would probably warrant using low-range, but going down was nice and easy. The optional rocky section that gives the trail the possible "5" rating was only 20 yards long and easily bypassed. There was also couple options for testing your flex (pictured) but those were avoidable also. I actually found the second half of Grapevine Canyon significantly more challenging for both trails being rated the same.
1N64 - Seven Pines (11/07/2020)
We attempted to run this trail in reverse after driving most of 1N09 City Creek. The muddy conditions made it a fun challenge for the two-door Wranglers in our group, but proved too much for our friend in his heavier 4th Gen 4Runner. Luckily the challenge was an off-camber uphill corner that, at its worst, pulls you into the inside corner and up against a muddy hillside. After a couple attempts, he simply reversed down the hill until a turnout was available.
1N09 - City Creek (11/07/2020)
This is a fun, casual trail that becomes quite a bit more exciting with the addition of weather. Although none of our group actually got stuck in the mud, it did get pretty slippery at times.
Middle Control Road - Big Bear (11/07/2020)
What is normally an easy graded road was a lot of fun this weekend thanks to snow. We drove this from the end of 1N09 City Creek to get back to the highway and had a blast doing it thanks to the slippery conditions.
Odessa Doran Scenic Loop Lower (10/31/2020)
This is a short easy trail but it's a good way to access the Mud Hills and other more exciting trails
Wall Street West Connector (10/31/2020)
After a morning of running trails, we used this route to get out of the Calico area and back to the main road. The trail is easy as described.
Wall Street (10/31/2020)
After running Phillips Canyon West and Vodkaberry, I didn’t expect this trail to be all that challenging. Compared to Bismarks Hairpiece, which has the same rating, this trail seemed much more difficult. Even aside from the waterfall section, there were lots of larger rocks to climb over or weave around to get through the trail. Don’t get me wrong, it was a ton of fun, but there just must be more rocks or a washout since the original trail review was written.
Wall Street East Connector (10/31/2020)
We used this trail for just what it's described: to get over to the top of Wall Street.
Vodkaberry (10/31/2020)
What a blast! There were three different lines to get to the base of the big waterfall. I was able to make it on the harder line to the left/center in my YJ with no lift and a locker in the front but I certainly made use of my homemade rocksliders. The actual waterfall climb was a little intimidating but as long as you keep it straight and maintain constant throttle, it's doable!
Bismarcks Hairpiece (10/31/2020)
This was a fun cut through to get over to the Wall Street area. Compared to other trails in the area it was not very difficult but still offered some fun rocky sections.
Phillips Canyon West (10/31/2020)
This trail offered the perfect amount of challenge. The first waterfall section looked pretty intimidating but with the right line, we made it up. The rest of the trail was equally fun if not a little less challenging.
Kramer Arch (10/31/2020)
Driving through the arch was more of a challenge than expected but very fun. Even with a short wheelbase and a front locker, I had to try a couple different lines. I’m sure my minimal articulation from leaf springs didn’t help either.
Phillips Canyon West Wash (10/31/2020)
Used this trail to get from the Mud Hills to Kramer Arch and Phillips Canyon West. It's nice and easy as described.
Mud Hills Center Route (10/31/2020)
This was a great little warm up trail for the day. It was fun to wind through the hills in our Wranglers but I can see how this would be really tight for anything longer than a two-door Jeep. If you don’t have great articulation or a locker, you might find yourself needing to choose your line more carefully.
3S04 - Main Divide Middle Northern Section (10/25/2020)
This is a fun and scenic trail that follows the ridgeline. I used it to get from Bedford over to Maple Springs.
Maple Spring Road - Silverado Canyon - 5S04 (10/25/2020)
Drove this in conjunction with Bedford and Main Divide. It was as crowded as you'd expect on a Sunday afternoon.
Bedford Road (aka Bedford Motorway) (10/25/2020)
I used this trail to get from the Corona side of the mountains to Orange County. There is one optional route half-way up that offers a good test of your articulation.