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Old 02-17-2016, 12:37 PM
Location: Denver, CO
1,421 posts, read 1,197,304 times
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Not quite your normal "Do I need AWD" thread as I know plenty of people get by with just FWD in the front range.

I'm more interested in trailhead access in the late fall - early spring. I'm not talking about dead of winter with 2' of fresh snow powder. More like a few inches, possibly melting or on a decently traveled county road, like this:

Would a standard FWD Crossover SUV with snow tires and chains make it through this?
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:39 PM
Location: Aurora, CO
6,528 posts, read 10,197,404 times
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Would a properly-equipped FWD make it? Maybe. Would I wanna risk it? No. If you get stuck a) you could be stranded for a while and b) it could cost an arm and a leg for a towing service to get you out.

Last edited by bluescreen73; 02-17-2016 at 12:51 PM..
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Old 02-17-2016, 05:20 PM
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fwiw, I have used the snow chains on a couple of occasions to get to trailheads. It works, but the mess....

Most of the time I talk a friend with an awd into running with me.
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Old 02-17-2016, 05:27 PM
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
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Oh, pooh. I bet a 2 wheel drive car with a little weight in the back could drive both those roads just fine - if the car had tires with decent tread. A 4wd or all wheel drive (again, so long as the tires aren't nearly bald) would have no prob on either of those two roads. You could bring along chains if it made you feel better. You can tell by the lack of deep ruts on the first road that the dirt surface does not turn into slicker than snot goo every time it rains or gets a wet snow. Some dirt roads in Colorado can become impassable under such conditions, but they always show the evidence of other vehicles which have come before, tried and failed. That first road doesn't.
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Old 02-17-2016, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by caverunner17 View Post
Would a standard FWD Crossover SUV with snow tires and chains make it through this?
Sure. Chains are the bomb - much more effective than just AWD, or even 4X4 with all-season tires.

You do have two issues, though. The first is traction, but the equally important issue is ground clearance. Without sufficient clearance you end up plowing the snow ahead of you until you stop. Or sometimes break something. I'd rather not go into the details of why I know that.
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Old 02-17-2016, 06:26 PM
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It can be a bummer when you travel most of the way to where you want to go and then hit a spot in the shade that is deep snow or rutted higher than your clearance or blocked by tree fall, etc. But thru trial and error, you learn more about what might work at that time and what probably doesn't. Sometimes you can improve conditions with a shovel and effort. But if there is one problem area, there may be more. One strategy is to go a trailhead and then wait till you see a vehicle no better equipped for tough conditions as yours to come down or at least not turn back immediately. Or talk to a driver that look like they have been there before in similar conditions.
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Old 02-17-2016, 07:39 PM
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NW Crow has it nailed ...

on many days, a FWD car may be quite adequate if not ideal for transport into these places.

the problem is when you find that spot enroute to your destination that needs the 4x4 to get through. I've driven 100 miles up into the CO mountains without difficulty only to need AWD for the last 1/2 mile of the trip ... and that includes even such tame circumstances as Main Gore Drive in East Vail up the hill to a house of mine where the VPD had closed the road until conditions improved and the road could be cleared. The drive up I-70 and to the East Vail exit was well within the capabilities of most FWD cars with decent winter tires.

Have had many such mountain trips or even visits to friends in accessed by dirt roads that travel through various soil types, run-off moisture, sun/shade and varying ambient temperatures. We picked up two burros from a BLM adoption center last spring ... the 22 miles in from the last pavement on partially snow-covered dirt roads was sporting but passable until the last mile to the corrals. Without my 4x4 pick-up, we'd have had to have found a way to turn around and miss our contact appointment. Sun/Mud/ice and loose surfaces all contributed to a slick drive in and back out of the place. Even without our 2-horse BP trailer, no FWD vehicle would have made it to the place that day, even with cable or conventional chains. There was no cell phone reception available as we crossed over several ranches to reach our destination, and most of the ranches were unoccupied for the season, so no help available there. Our only help would have been to have hiked into the BLM site to meet up with the caretakers there, a very daunting hike given the slippery conditions.

More than once, I have had no difficulty on one part of the trip, but then, hours later, conditions have changed and the AWD or 4x4 vehicle was worth it's weight in gold.

IMO, best to "be prepared". I'd rather have the capability and not need it then to not have it and need it, especially on a number of those roads where finding a spot to turn around could be problematic.

Last edited by sunsprit; 02-17-2016 at 08:50 PM..
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Old 02-17-2016, 07:58 PM
Location: Back and Beyond
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An AWD with a set of chains is the way to go. You can get through most situations, unless you run into clearance issues. I've made it through some pretty unbelievable stuff with a set of rear chains on my AWD (supposedly on my model some people also chain up the front but the clearance is very tight and makes me nervous and just chaining up the back was more than enough.) I wouldn't venture down unknown roads with a fwd in any sort of inclement weather or road conditions. A good shovel and traction mats also helps to get an AWD out of sticky situations.
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Old 02-17-2016, 08:44 PM
Location: Castle Rock CO
98 posts, read 71,217 times
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Getting in is one thing, getting out is another. I've had some sticky situations where I was able to get in with 2wd, but due to changing weather the trip out was much more difficult. A sudden rainstorm or warm spell can make traction hard to come by.
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Old 02-18-2016, 08:15 AM
Location: Washington Park, Denver
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i agree with previous posters on clearance being the big issue.
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