Know the weather The number one cause of death from natural phenomena in Arizona is flash floods, and you can find yourself in a torrent of water even if it is not raining where you are. This happens regularly in the Grand Canyon. Do not travel these trails when heavy rains are predicted in the area. A dry wash that was a perfect area to set up your tent can turn into a river overnight, sweeping you and all your equipment downstream. Necessary Equipment We offer a list of suggested items to bring with you in Appendix A.
Bring only what you think you will need. Spare axles and transfer cases, even if off-road magazines suggest them, are generally not necessary and their weight will change your spry Jeep into an unwieldy tank. Driving in the desert All the trails around Phoenix are in the desert and are heavily traveled, especially on weekends and holidays. As a result the sand is well packed and will present few challenges, however the cacti, trees and bushes that line these trails may. If your vehicle breaks down, or if you get a flat from a spine and do not have a spare or puncture repair kit (we once met a driver who left his spare tire at home because he said he got better mileage without it.
An unrepairable sidewall tear from sliding off a rock and a subsequent 150 mile round-trip with a co-traveler to buy a replacement, changed his habits), stay near your vehicle unless you know how far you are from the nearest source of aid. Your supplies are in your vehicle, and rescuers can more easily spot a large vehicle in the middle of a known trail than a dehydrated body under a bush. Make shade from whatever you have available to protect you from the sun. Keep your clothes on, wear a head covering, and do not sit on the ground. It will be much hotter than the air. Driving on sand Fine sand, as you will find in the summer when it is extremely dry, is difficult to drive on and is best tackled in a 4-wheel drive vehicle in low gear with its tires aired down to 20 psi or less. Narrow tires will dig into the sand, but flotation tires with their wide footprint, will be less likely to do so. If your tires start spinning, get off the gas immediately so you do not dig into the sand. If you do need to dig yourself out, put wood, rocks, or even your floor mats under your wheels for traction. Avoid rocks in the sand. Like icebergs, they could be larger than you think and may damage your tires. Drive as straight as possible since the front tires will pack down the sand making travel easier for the rear tires. Steering and breaking will take longer than usual, so plan for them in advance. If you need to park, do so on a downhill slope if you can. Driving on gravel Traction is less on gravel than on a paved road. Slow down when changing from one surface to another and leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle you are following to avoid having your windshield cracked by flying rocks. Driving over rocks There are no large boulders on the trail, but there are small ones as well as ledges to climb: use low gear, 4-wheel drive, and keep your speed at 1-3 mph. Cross ditches at an angle, one wheel at a time. Also lower your tire pressure and drive over the obstacles, placing your wheels directly on them. Do not straddle rocks since you risk “high-centering” your vehicle, which means getting stuck with both the front and rear wheels off the ground and not being able to move forward or backward. Driving over hills If you cannot see over them, walk them first to see what is on the other side. Blasting over the top of a hill only to see the road curve sharply to the right as your vehicle careens off a cliff will ruin your trip. Always drive straight up and down a hill, as turning on it may cause your vehicle to slide or to roll over. Increase power during the climb, but ease off the accelerator as you near the top of the hill.
If your wheels spin, turning your steering wheel back and forth rapidly may help you regain traction. If you stall on the way up, back straight down in reverse gear and use engine compression, not your brakes, to slow your vehicle. 4-wheel drive and low gear is best in this situation. Driving in mud This usually is not a major problem on the GWT since there are bypasses around known trouble spots. Avoid it when you can, since unless you probe it, you have no idea how deep it is. If you cannot avoid it, air down and switch into 4-WD low, third or fourth gear. Pick a line that looks shallow and dry before entering it. Drive fast enough to maintain