“If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” Most of us have heard this at one time or another in our lives. Well, we’ve got another one for you: “If you’re not driving it fast, you’re doing it wrong.”
From the perspective of some drivers, the best type of terrain is the one in front of you. For others, the right terrain is the one that causes the least chance of harm for that rig you spent time and money modifying.
For Ford Raptor owners, like the ones present at our recent adventure, there is a particular discussion that has taken place ever since this awesome machine made its first appearance on showroom floors. As some would suggest, the Raptor’s only true purpose is to go fast in the desert, but is it capable in other terrains? We wanted to find out.
Finding A Raptor’s Purpose
Windrock Park, located in Oliver Springs, Tennessee, was our destination for this trip. We were interested in taking the first-generation and all-new second-generation Ford Raptor to a place where we could not only test their capabilities, but also do it in a way that many would consider being out of the Raptor’s element.
The first stop at Windrock Park is the general store, where you’ll see a sign pointing the way to other great off-road destinations.
The park boasts over 300 miles of trails on over 72,000 acres of family-friendly wheeling. A full-service campground is also available on-site, as are some pretty comfortable-looking cabins.
Can a Ford Raptor handle mountain terrain? We were about to find out.
There is no doubt that the Ford Raptor is a capable off-road machine. Features such as aggressive 35-inch all-terrain BF Goodrich tires, 4.10:1 differential gears, a selectable electronic locking rear differential, optional Torsen limited-slip front differential, and powerplants producing over 400 horsepower, lend themselves to a truck capable of conquering multiple types of terrain. Yet there are those that frown on taking these awesome machines on any terrain not specific to high-speed off-road action.
Can a Ford Raptor rock crawl? Nate Shirley (front) and Billy Weaver (rear) attempted to prove that they can.
This particular weekend, we found ourselves at an off-road park that simply did not have high speed whoops as an option. In fact, with vehicles the size of the Raptor, there were not many options for high-speed antics at all in the areas we explored.
This circumstance is typical of East Coast wheeling locations, and with a truck designed to run on the West Coast, the quest to find areas is eternal. Instead, we got to test the capabilities of three first-generation and two second-generation Ford Raptors.
For some, the community aspect of being off-road is the best part. For others, it's making it to the top of the mountain. Driving up to the Windmill Farm is a must for most Windrock visitors.
One of the only issues our group encountered was stopping at the trailhead to remove a hitch.
We got to see how Raptors handled low-speed technical rock crawling, rocky hill climbing, and mud sluicing. While there were some in our group that would have felt much more at home in the desert, the terrain at Windrock offered just the right blend of challenges and fun for our groups’ experience level and an amount of daring.
Windrock Parks hosts all types of off-road vehicles, from Jeeps to Razors and everything in between. Also, it has one of the many waterfalls that you'll see throughout the park.
Trails ranged from easy to extreme. Sights such as a windmill farm, beautiful mountain views, and waterfalls were common in the park. In addition, the area is well known for its ability to get sloppy and a little wild, based on weather conditions. Luckily or unluckily, depending on your perspective, the area had some recent rains. The trails had plenty of mud and slippery rocks for our enjoyment.
First-time off-roader William Weaver, in a brand new 2017 Raptor, followed behind a few other trucks while he learned the capabilities of his own vehicle.
While four out of our five drivers had extensive experience off-road, one member of our group had never driven off-road a day in his life. Participating in the first off-road adventure can be daunting for anyone. However, when you choose to do it in a fresh-off-the-showroom-floor 2017 Ford Raptor, you really have taken it to a new level.
Such was the case for James Woodruff. He noted, “My biggest challenge was knowing what my limits were, not what the truck’s limits were. The truck is more capable than me right now!” In addition to having a blast meeting new people and really testing out his limits, James left the park without any damage to his new truck.
Jason and Lynn Kokoska (top row) in a black 2012 Raptor expertly maneuvered their truck through mud, water, rocks, and anything else the mountain threw at us. Getting muddy was par for the course on our trip to Windrock due to recent storms in the area. That didn't stop anyone, even this brand new 2017 Raptor.
Jason Kokoska showed up in his 2012 black Raptor and admits that, “I’m more of a rocks or sand guy. I definitely love riding trails, but I don’t like the mud portion that usually accompanies them.”
“My vehicular training was ‘slow as possible, fast as necessary’ and I’ve always kept to that,” Kokoska continued. “There were sections of Windrock Park that needed more speed to get through or over, and sections where slow and steady was the best choice.”
From his perspective, the Raptor was just at home on the rocks and hill climbs as it was in the desert. He also left the park with no damage to his truck (unless you counted a little mud on the interior).
Billy Weaver's 2017 Ford Raptor proved that Raptors can climb a mountain. His dog, Wilbur, enjoyed the mud most of all.
Another participant, Billy Weaver, grew up in the mountains of central Washington State on a 1,000-acre ranch. He showed up in his 2017 Avalanche 802A Raptor. It was stock, other than window tinting and a custom dent in the bed. This was from a tree that fell on his property during the same storm that got our trails sloppy.
Experienced off-roader Matt Materni is not afraid to hit the mud hard and kick up as much as possible for a good photo.
“You don’t need to be driving fast, the slow obstacles are a different fun,” Weaver noted. “You’re trying to see what you can do before you high center.” William had no trouble flexing out his truck and never shied away from an obstacle all the while doing no new damage to his new rig. William also brought along his trail dog Wilbur who liked it all and wants to go back soon.
Matt Materni drove a stock 2010 Raptor on the mountain and made mention that, “everyone and every driving style is different. Every vehicle is different. I grew up in Ohio, so going fast off-road was never really a big thing. It was always about getting together for the social aspect of it and doing more technical slow speed stuff. The best type of off roading is the one you are doing right now! I don’t need to go fast to have fun but I do need to be out with good people.”
Getting more comfortable on one of the “high speed” hill climbs in the park, Billy gunned it to the top.
What Can’t A Raptor Do
So, what’s the conclusion? Well, if you are someone who loves to go fast and has to have the fastest lap time, then that is the best wheeling for you. If you’re a person more concerned with the social aspect of things, then slow stuff will do. Lastly, if you are a person that likes to be the muddiest one at the party, then Windrock Park in the spring may be the place for you.
In the end, the some of best parts of being off-road are that you get to test the capabilities of your rig, spend time with like-minded individuals, and have a blast exploring places, regardless of the location and speed you prefer.
Mountain trails can be slow going. They require the occasional stop to discuss the best way for the group to proceed.
As we headed to the power washer to return some of our borrowed mountain land, we couldn’t help but be reminded that those that put themselves in a box will always be limited by their own doing. Those that continue to push the capabilities of their rig outside of its original design will blaze new trails – and most likely have a ton of fun doing it.
Our group of five Ford Raptors, drivers, passengers, and a dog, as we prepare to head out onto the mountain trails at Windrock Park.