Bend, Oregon, is a hotbed for microbreweries, Subarus, and rockcrawling. Rockcrawling?! It’s true. Areas like Cline Butte, Hoodoo, and Rim Butte offer a bevy of scenery and challenges for anything from a stock Jeep to a full rock buggy. On a recent trip to the area we met up with friends to explore the Santiam Pass OHV Area (commonly known as Hoodoo) in the Willamette National Forest.
Santiam Pass is a ski resort and snow park in the winter, but once the snow is gone the trails open up to motorcycles, UTVs, and 4x4s. We explored trails like Zeigler’s Zag, Quack Attack, and Rockaholics Revenge during our visit. Most of these trails were spurs off of the main trail with enough rocks and trees to challenge even the most capable vehicle and driver. The main trail is more easily passable, and leads to incredible vistas of nearby peaks and lakes.
We spent a full day exploring the area and only scratched the surface before we headed back to Bend to enjoy some of the local beverages. When we return we plan on camping at Big Lake, but our schedule didn’t allow it on this trip. Not that we need an excuse to go back to central Oregon for more rockcrawling with friends.
Most of the rigs we wheeled with during our visit had more tube than sheetmetal, and for good reason. The trails at Hoodoo are tight and technical and don’t lend themselves to fullsize vehicles.
This was the first time that Cameron McGillivray had his newly purchased truck out on the trail. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well, and after some fuel issues he parked and hopped in with Will Bradford. You can be certain Cameron will be back soon, though.
Graeme Tydeman’s buggy, P Shoota, makes our Tracker look like a heavyweight. P Shoota uses a tiny three-cylinder Geo Metro engine that inhales propane through a turbocharger and is mated to a Suzuki Samurai transmission and transfer case with 6.5:1 gears.
Boosted four-cylinders seem to be all the rage in central Oregon. This was the first trip out for Will Bradford since totally revamping his Samurai-based buggy with a turbocharged 1.3L engine.
There’s not much Cherokee left of Nate Goodwin’s 1991 XJ. He built his own custom four-link suspension front and rear, combined with Fox coilovers in the front and air shocks in the rear. Fully hydraulic steering with a double-ended ram turns the 40-inch Maxxis Trepadors.
Mark Schultz has been wheeling the dog snot out of this Toyota buggy since he bought it from Cal Andrus of 4Locked Films. It runs a turbocharged 22R Toyota engine on propane in front of the Toyota transmission and dual transfer cases.
Todd Wright works at Warn Industries during the week and puts Warn products to the test on the weekends. His buggy was built by James Treacy with a 5.3L engine, a TH350, and an Atlas II transfer case under the Twisted Customs fiberglass body.
It may still look like a TJ, but Chris Janeck has swapped the drivetrain, modified the frame, and built a completely custom suspension under his Jeep. The 5.3L engine is backed by a TH350 transmission and Atlas II transfer case.
Will Bradford’s lightweight buggy uses Toyota axles suspended by Fox air shocks. Trail-Gear full hydraulic steering to turn the 36-inch Super Swamper Irok tires and a lack of sheetmetal mean that Bradford doesn’t have much to worry about on the trail.
The dust layer found on the rocks at Hoodoo meant that traction was difficult to come by. Nearly everyone we wheeled with had sticky, competition-compound tires like Mark Schultz’s 40-inch Maxxis Trepadors.
We brought our Tracker project up to Oregon to wheel with all of the other pintsized, four-cylinder rockcrawlers. While we were watching out for boulders, a tree snuck up on us and worked its way down the side of the Tracker. Even with a narrow vehicle it is tough to get through some of the trails at Hoodoo unscathed.
We noticed several wheelers wearing helmets at Hoodoo, and this is a trend we would like to see catch on for hardcore rockcrawling. You don’t have to be competing to roll over and knock your noggin on the cage.
We think that Shawn Wiles gets a kick out of embarrassing drivers of much fancier vehicles in his barnyard built buggy. Riding on leaf springs and motivated by a Toyota four-cylinder, this truck works way better than it has any right to.
The views from Hoodoo are breathtaking. There are snowcapped peaks in every direction. In this photo, Three Fingered Jack can be seen in the background.
Hoodoo is a rockcrawlers dream! James Treacy brought out his new buggy equipped with portal axles from Jesse Haines Fabrication. Getting diff hung was a nonissue for Treacy as he went anywhere and everywhere.
We ran into some electrical issues on our Tracker during the trip. Graeme Tydeman jumped right in and helped us troubleshoot the issue; swapping the toggle switch for the ignition fixed the issue and we were back on the trail in no time.
Kaitlyn Tydeman was all smiles after swapping an Aisin automatic transmission into her Samurai buggy. The G-Fab–built rig runs front and rear steering 9-inch axles with a spool in front and an ARB Air Locker in the rear.
Michael Hibbitts started with a Ford Explorer, but Hoodoo trails are not kind to sheetmetal. He added 1-ton axles to handle the 43-inch Super Swamper SX tires and has slowly been replacing the body with tube.
During a normal year the manzanita would bloom long before July, but the long, wet winter resulted in a late spring and summer. Manzanita literally translates to “little apple.” The flowers and berries found on the shrub are bitter, but edible.
Who would have thought that a 4.0L could spin 40-inch Maxxis Trepadors? Nate Goodwin runs the original XJ engine and AW4 transmission backed by an Atlas II transfer case and 1-ton axles with 6.17 gears and ARB Air Lockers.
The OHV trails are marked with Carsonite boundary markers. The local 4x4 community has an excellent relationship with the U.S. Forest Service and has worked together to maintain the existing trails and create new trails for all skill levels.
Graeme Tydeman could not resist attempting this climb in his buggy, P Shoota. Ultimately he was denied after the belly hung on the ledge and halted progress. Tydeman’s buddy Shawn Wiles then proceed to add insult to injury by driving right up to the top.
The wildflowers were in bloom during our visit and added to the immense beauty of the area. Between where we took this photo and Mount Washington, the trails lead all the way to Big Lake, where you can camp as part of your wheeling adventure.