Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

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turtleboy133
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Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by turtleboy133 » April 27th, 2015, 1:35 pm

I'm looking into getting a car for weekend trips and would really like to get the Prius. Overall it appears to be a great car. However, I'm concerned about it's ability to handle getting up to various trailheads off of US Forest Roads around Portland and further afield (e.g., Olympics, Mt. Rainier, Wallowas, Bend area, etc.). Has anyone with a Prius experienced difficulty getting up to trails they wanted to hike?

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weathercrazy
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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by weathercrazy » April 27th, 2015, 2:08 pm

I've never had any issues...I've had mine almost 3 years now. Of course, I can't get to the big bad off road ones (like Silver Star from Ed's). But, I've hiked several trails up at Mt. Rainier even on the NW side and never had issues.

It's about tires and how you take the roads too!
turtleboy133 wrote:I'm looking into getting a car for weekend trips and would really like to get the Prius. Overall it appears to be a great car. However, I'm concerned about it's ability to handle getting up to various trailheads off of US Forest Roads around Portland and further afield (e.g., Olympics, Mt. Rainier, Wallowas, Bend area, etc.). Has anyone with a Prius experienced difficulty getting up to trails they wanted to hike?

turtleboy133
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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by turtleboy133 » April 27th, 2015, 2:27 pm

weathercrazy wrote:I've never had any issues...I've had mine almost 3 years now. Of course, I can't get to the big bad off road ones (like Silver Star from Ed's). But, I've hiked several trails up at Mt. Rainier even on the NW side and never had issues.

It's about tires and how you take the roads too!
Thanks for the information. I've heard getting better tires can make a huge difference in handling ability.

I guess if the trail description indicates a high-clearance vehicle is needed, a Prius wouldn't be a good idea. Out of curiosity, does high-clearance imply one needs a Jeep, or would a car like the Outback, CR-V or RAV4 suffice?

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drm
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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by drm » April 27th, 2015, 2:53 pm

turtleboy133 wrote:Out of curiosity, does high-clearance imply one needs a Jeep, or would a car like the Outback, CR-V or RAV4 suffice?
I think it's really hard to generalize. Certainly not a Jeep, but maybe sometimes a Subaru or other decent CSUV, which only has a few inches more than the average car I think. But I've seen regular and sometimes rattletrap cars at trailheads that were listed as high clearance. Part of it is whether you're willing to take a chance and go for it, possibly damaging something on the bottom of your car.

But mostly if you see that kind of description and you have anything with more clearance than a Porsche, you probably need to ask somebody who has seen the road.

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jdemott
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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by jdemott » April 27th, 2015, 4:29 pm

Out of curiosity, does high-clearance imply one needs a Jeep, or would a car like the Outback, CR-V or RAV4 suffice?
To me, high clearance means 8+ inches of ground clearance (which is the definition the National Park Service uses for rating back country roads). Subaru Outback and Forester meet that criterion, as does Mazda CX-5 I think. Some of the other compact SUVs like CRV and RAV4 have a couple inches less ground clearance--a little more clearance than a typical car (and probably enough for most trailheads around here) but not high clearance in my book. Jeep now makes some vehicles that aren't really worthy of the name so you have to look for one that is "trail rated."

I have an older Jeep that I use for the very worst roads (those that aren't really roads), as it has skid plates and straight axles plus high clearance. My second car used to be a Fusion Hybrid (great mileage but ground clearance like a Prius) and I traded it in on an Outback so I have something with much better fuel economy than the Jeep which will also go to almost any trailhead around here.

Prius is a great car but it is designed first and foremost for fuel economy which means they have purposely given it very low ground clearance to reduce wind drag at highway speeds. I would really worry about tearing up something underneath if you hit a rock that is sticking up an inch too far.

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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by Aimless » April 27th, 2015, 4:34 pm

I have always fearlessly driven my passenger cars on FS roads, but my wife and I recently bought a Prius and we intend to leave it home in favor of our old '97 Subaru for trips on any of the more challenging, rutted, poorly maintained roads we have to drive. It just seems prudent.

Edit: For those who might be curious, we've been averaging about 45 mpg through the winter. We haven't yet driven it in summer temps, but our last fill up showed we got 48 mpg. These numbers represent a mix of a lot of city-short-hop driving with a few dollops of highway driving, such as Portland to McMinnville or to the beach and back.

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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by pdxgene » April 28th, 2015, 4:45 am

I have a Honda Civic which would be more or less the same. I find that it can handle most any of the fs roads that don't have those yellow "primitive road" signs and get me most, but not all, places that I want to go. Though if it was 'new' I probably would avoid some of them. Your paint job will almost certainly get scratched, especially as all the trees grow back out.

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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by justpeachy » April 28th, 2015, 2:11 pm

Seems to me that road maintenance in national forests is becoming less and less of a priority. Roads that were once decent are now utter crap (like the road to the Burnt Lake Trailhead). That's why I ditched my Honda Accord four years ago and got a high-clearance Subaru Outback. There will always be trailheads you can get to with a Prius, but the number of such trailheads will continue to diminish along with those USFS road maintenance budgets.
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Charley
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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by Charley » April 28th, 2015, 4:23 pm

In the Eastern Oregon counties I go to, there are a couple kinds of roads: gravel roads, which range from excellent to "slow going," and there are dirt roads. Gravel roads are almost always passable in my Honda Civic. If it's gravel, the bumps are doable. Sometimes there's some washboarding that makes the road unpleasant, but it's just slow.

If the road's dirt, then it's totally impossible to tell from any map whether or not it will be passable. Some are totally fine! If it's flat, and there's not any drainage through the road or across the road (like a stream crossing), then many dirt roads are often fine for a low slung car.

Here's one (near Benjamin Lake, in Lake County) that the map suggested would be fine, but, because it's under a lot of use by a contractor with trucks, it has gotten rutted out. Not doable. I turned around here:
IMG_8421.jpg
Here's another bad one (on the way up to Table Rock in Lake County); it was the scariest road I've ever attempted, but. . . it was all fine! These cars are way more capable than we we imagine.
IMG_9123.jpg
Many trailhead drives are like this: paved road for 90 miles, good gravel road for 5 miles, and then absolute utter crap for a few miles or few hundred yards. When push has come to shove, I've walked up a mile or two on bad roads, or ridden a bike the rest of the way (I take a mountain bike on all of my eastern Oregon trips). When it comes down to it, I'd rather have a car that's perfect for 90 miles, then totally sufficient for 5 miles, and uncomfortable (at best) or impossible (at worst) for the last few miles. I'd rather put my dollars into ski gear or vacation time than into gasoline for a truck that could drive the last two miles, but that would cost twice as much to drive. That's why I've stuck to my Civics instead of investing in a truck or even a Subaru.

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Re: Toyota Prius ok for most trailheads?

Post by pdxgene » April 28th, 2015, 9:14 pm

One other suggestion I'd make...
If you don't already have one, invest in a 'real' spare tire just in case. Or just keep the best one as a spare next time you get new ones. If a forest service road is bad enough to flatten one of your regular tires, do you really want to trust one of those little donut-type tires to get you out?

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