Jeep® Off-Roading 101 – Rocks and Rock Crawling

In previous blogs, we talked about all types of terrain and obstacles like snow, mud, water, and sand.  Today, we’re going to give you some tips on what most people consider their favorite off-roading obstacle:  rocks, and especially….rock crawling.  Knowing how to get around, or sometimes over, rock obstacles is a valuable off-roading skill that, if done right, can really show what your Jeep® 4×4 can do.  Rock crawling is similar to driving over rocks on the trail, but on a much larger scale.  Although modifications to your vehicle can help with rock obstacles, it is usually the skill and ability of the driver that is the key to successfully running that part of the trail.


Rocks on the trail can be fun, but can also cause damage to your Jeep 4×4 if not negotiated correctly. Any rock taller than the vehicle’s clearance can wreak havoc with the undercarriage of your Jeep vehicle.  So if negotiating a rock obstacle is unavoidable, the correct technique is to drive on top of rather than to straddle the rocks.  High centering can be the result of trying to incorrectly straddle large rocks.  Before starting, air your tires down to about 15-20 PSI.  This puts more rubber on the rock, allowing for greater gripping ability of the tires.  Next, always survey the obstacle ahead, especially with larger rocks or boulders.  If possible, stop your vehicle, get out, and take a close look at the obstacle to decide the best course to take.  If necessary, use a spotter to help with tire direction.  Use 4-wheel drive in low gear, then approach and negotiate the rock slowly.



Rock crawling can be one of the great pleasures off-roading, and there is nothing more exciting than negotiating a steep slab of rock and watching your Jeep 4×4 do things you never thought it could do.  Places like the Moab, Utah Jamboree or the Texas Spur Jamboree are considered rock crawling heaven, and thousands of people a year converge on these places to test their vehicles on some of the most difficult rock terrain in the United States.  As said, rock crawling is similar to negotiating rocks on the trail but on a much bigger scale.  Sometimes, the entire route is nothing but solid rock and knowing how to drive on a rock trail is a valuable (and fun) skill to acquire.  Again, remember to air down your tires to about 15 pounds or so.  Crawling slowly up or down the rock is not only safe but can help prevent vehicle damage or roll-overs.  Although rock crawling is fun, it is also the easiest way to get dings and scrapes on the lower sections of the vehicle.  Fenders, undercarriages, and bumpers are the usual victims.  Luckily, some Jeep brand vehicles have skid plating and rock rails to help minimize damage.    Check out for a great selection of rock crawling accessories for your vehicle.


Naturally, we want to rock crawl in 4-wheel drive low gear.  This allows the engine power to control the vehicle ascent and descent rather than using the brakes or clutch.  A helpful modification to your Jeep brand vehicle is the Sway Bar Disconnect.  Sway bars keep your vehicle stable at normal highway speeds, but on the rocks they can prevent your Jeep 4×4 from properly articulating the rock obstacle.  Articulation is the ability of the vehicle’s suspension and tires to stay on the ground.  Without disconnecting the sway bars, one side of the vehicle could possible lift off of the ground causing an unsafe condition or loss of traction.  Luckily, the all-new 2011 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes standard with an electronic sway bar disconnect.  Just push a button on the dash and your sway bars are disconnected!  Do you have a different model than a Rubicon?  You can get manual sway bar disconnects on most Jeep brand vehicles for about $150.



Rock crawling is just about our favorite type of off-roading and it takes patience, skill, and some nail biting.  But there is nothing is more exciting than negotiating a section of difficult rock obstacles, then thinking, “Wow! Did my Jeep 4×4 really do that?”


Tell us your favorite place to rock crawl.  How have you modified your Jeep brand vehicle to better negotiate rocks?


13 Responses to “Jeep® Off-Roading 101 – Rocks and Rock Crawling”

  1. Chris Johnson

    Agree with Matson. Also nice to see industry insiders following the blog. Bonus points for MC!

  2. wienerderhund

    Great blog! My favorite place to crawl are the rocky vulcanos around the place were I live in Mexico. As well I went to Moab and, what a great playground, Johnson Valley. Modifications to my TJ: Longer to make it like LJ for travelling, 4.5″ Rubicon long arm tri link, 9inch Ford (thanks Mark for the Front brake set up) with ARB (thanksTR) high steering (thanks to myself) Chevy 4.7 Vortech (thanks Matthew) tremec 3550 with Rubicon Transfer, 35’s on 10″ Good to go anywhere,able of long distace travelling to the Rocky places.
    (Thanks to my wife tolerating long hours in my workshop)

    Keep up the good writing work JFM

  3. The first photo looks like Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo, Texas. Did a Jeep Jamboree there in our 2005 Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Loved it. Is the second photo on Inks Ranch, the location for the Texas Spur? The terrain looks very similar. We’ve been to the Texas Spur several times (always the March one, when it’s not quite stinkin’ hot). That Jambo is less than 2 hours from our house. Gotta love the Texas Hill Country and all that wonderful Texas granite.
    I enjoy your blog. k’

  4. roberson100

    Great article! I’ve been trying to get some Crawlers to my Mom’s Mountain in SE Oklahoma. 173 acres of untamed mountain. Now she has passed and they are trying to foreclose and take more than just the land. Boo. Anyone interested in buying a mountain at 60 cents on the dollar?

  5. You actually make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually one thing that I think I might never understand. It seems too complex and extremely vast for me. I’m having a look ahead in your subsequent post, I will try to get the cling of it!

  6. Mohd firuz ali

    I love to watch rock crawling!! It’s fun and very challenging too!! I hope to see Malaysia people doing rock crawling in Malaysia!!


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