Located just outside the sleepy little hamlet of Oliver Springs, Tennessee, about a one-hour drive west of Knoxville, sits a Jeeper’s paradise—Wind Rock OHV Park. This off-highway vehicle recreation area offers something for all Jeep and driver capabilities. With more than 300 miles of trails within its boundaries, this is one of the largest privately owned off-road parks in the country. The scenery is breathtaking, and the trails vary from easy to extreme. With close to 70 easy, 44 moderate, and 25 difficult trails open to Jeeps and fullsize vehicles, it would take several visits to truly appreciate all that Wind Rock has to offer.
On our visit we opted for a moderate-to-difficult run, taking Trail 2 and Trail 16 with members of the Stones River Jeep Club leading the way. We started down an easy dirt road into the dense, dark woods of Tennessee. The easy part was soon forgotten as we climbed in elevation over numerous rocks and ledges. We then descended into a rocky creek bottom on a twisting, rutted road. The final exit on Trail 16 begins with a very steep, rocky climb that rivals some of our western trails, followed by a deeply rutted mud hill, where a good winch is handy to have. It was a route through beautiful country with some challenges, and everyone had a good time. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
We want to return to Wind Rock and explore it further. The small sampling we had was just enough to whet our appetite. The park is open every day and does require a land use permit for every person entering the park. Use permits are available at the Wind Rock General Store and the campground in the park, as well as other locations in the Oliver Springs area. For additional information on camping, rules and regulations, the trail system, and special events, check out windrockpark.com.
Members of the Stones River Jeep Club were our guides for the day. We held the obligatory and essential driver’s meeting at the Wind Rock General Store prior to hitting the trail.
Trail 2 took us deep in to the forests of Tennessee. In the early part of the 20th century, the land that Wind Rock occupies was mined for coal. Today the mines are closed, but there are active oil and gas wells, wind turbines, and timber interests on the property. This mining and timber activity created the spider web of trails and dirt roads stretching over the area.
As we transitioned from Trail 2 to Trail 16 the terrain became more interesting. Rocky sections, water crossings, and steep climbs and descents were ahead of us.
While not needed on all trails, lockers are beneficial for those taking the more difficult lines. Mark Hendrix handled this ledge easily in his 2006 LJ Rubicon.
The exit on Trail 16 is a long, steep, rutted-out, rocky climb. Having spotters stationed at intervals along this section was very helpful, as it was easy to get crossed up and in a bit of a predicament.
When you reach the main exit road, you are treated to some amazing views of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau from elevations nearly 3,000 feet above sea level.
Wind Rock OHV Park does require a land use permit for each person in your group. Single day, multiday, and annual passes are available. We suggest purchasing the park map; it makes exploring the Wind Rock trail system much easier.
This creek crossing is deceiving when you are on the approach. The rocks are a bit slick upon entry and can throw you off the line quickly, making the departure to the hard-right turn almost impossible. Carson Qualls in his Willys CJ-2A navigated it rather smartly.
A nice spur road off Trail 16 provides a great lunch spot in a semi-dry creek bottom. The area is a few degrees cooler than other parts of the park and brings a welcome respite from the heat on the trail. However, mosquitos were out in full force here. We recommend a side of bug spray with your lunch breaks.