Dirt, Mud, Fun: Tahuya ORV Park Review
Once summer rolls around, I eagerly await our annual camping and off-roading trip to Tahuya ORV Park in Washington. Located about three and a half hours north from Portland and an hour and forty minutes west of Seattle, Tahuya ORV Park is just a short distance away from Belfair State Park where we camp. Our buddies Tina and Nick drove down from Canada and my husband Andy and I drove up to have a great weekend of off-roading fun. This year’s trip included their Nissan Xterra and my husband’s Mitsubishi Pajero, as well as my own Pajero outfitted with new fifteen52 Turbomac HD Classic wheels and Nitto Ridge Grappler tires.
Tahuya ORV Park
Before you traverse Tahuya ORV Park via your 4x4 you’ll need to get a Discover Pass. Two types of passes are available: a $10 day-use pass or a $30 annual pass (which is transferable between two vehicles). Have it on you when you’re at Tahuya, as they may stop you and ask for it as they spot check off-road adventurers. The penalty for not having one on display will set you back $99. So do yourself a favor and pick one up.
Tahuya ORV Park is located in the working Tahuya State Forest and is home to a plethora of outdoor activities. In addition to off-roading, one can hike, bike, horseback ride or even fish. We choose to stick with off-road fun, as there are lots of trails to conquer.
Be sure to grab a map before you venture into Tahuya’s playground, and allocate extra time to get out of the trail system if you’re not familiar with the area. Even if you’ve driven it many times like us, you may struggle to find our way out successfully. Trail markers have improved this last year, but our running joke is that once you think you found the opening to Elfendahl Pass Road’s staging area, it’s barricaded by jersey barriers. There’s one way out on the east side and another we found on the opposite side of the 4x4 loop. Other exits are closed to access. However, having a GPS system on hand that allows you to drop bread crumbs as you travel Tahuya will help you find your exit.
Each time we visit Tahuya, we experience hard-packed dirt, occasional mud and some rock. But, since the Pacific Northwest received heavy rains recently, there were muddy lakes and thick bogs everywhere! I’ve never seen it so wet before. Some were watery lakes that looked like chocolate milk, whereas others were thick and heavy, indicative of areas you could easily get stuck in.
In addition to mud, tight tree-lined trails lead to off-camber situations and root-filled bumps. It helps if you have a smaller rig among these tall pines (like our two-door Pajeros) but a 4Runner or truck can still get through with careful spotting. A newer trail spur offers up oversized undulating whoops, whereas a few boulder-happy rock gardens invite only those brave enough to tackle them. There’s even a 4x4 play area with tree stumps, jersey barriers and super deep muddy lakes (only after recent rains). It was careful treading through these waters, however, as stumps and large boulders could be concealed under its surfaces.
Nitto Ridge Grapplers
Although it takes me a few hours to reach Tahuya ORV Park, the quietness of my Ridge Grapplers on-road is noticeable, especially at highway speeds. Nitto thoroughly tested this design. They used computer simulation—with advanced sound equipment—to create a variable-pitch tread pattern that enables a hybrid all-terrain/mud-terrain tire to be surprisingly quiet.
I don’t hear a rowdy hum or feel wavering vibrations when catapulting myself down the interstate at 68 mph. The Pajero, with its 4D56 turbo-diesel engine, makes most of its power down in the lower RPM range, so there's not much need to rev the engine high. It’ll do 75 mph if need be, but it’s much happier between 65 and 70. No matter what the speed, the Ridge Grapplers roll along with a near absence of sound.
I was equally as happy with the Ridge Grappler’s off-pavement as I was on. My 285/75R16 tires tackled loose dirt with ease and sliced through deep mud lakes. The alternating tapered tread edges and step block edges help to increase off-road traction. I chose to have the more aggressive sidewall facing out for two reasons: to improve off-tarmac function and for its killer looks. These sidewalls help my Pajero grip medium-sized boulders, sending me on sure-footed paths through them.
Tahuya ORV Park was a great place to break in my Nittos. After approximately 350 miles on the road and 30 miles playing in Washington’s dirt, these tires impressed me. They’re quiet and smooth, as well as mud, dirt and rock capable. You should definitely consider Nitto Ridge Grapplers for your 4x4.
Curious how we lifted my Pajero to fit the Nitto Ridge Grapplers? See how we did it.