Taylor Kempkes

Trail Reviews: 7600 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 (19)

(within last 6 months)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Bismarks 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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.