Having a week with what many consider one of the last true body-on-frame 4x4 vehicles on the market meant that we needed a destination that would challenge the abilities of the new TRD Pro version of the Toyota 4Runner.
Deanne came up with the perfect spot in the High Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah, taking us to a spot where she spent many summers growing up called Paradise Park.
The Paradise Park Lake and Campground sit at just over 10,000 feet in elevation and are accessed by a mostly-dirt road north of La Point. We also found a great four-wheeling trail that went northeast of the park and had access to other small lakes high in the Uinta Mountains.
We decided this would not only be a great opportunity for a longer day trip in the 4Runner but would also allow us time to use the awesome 4x4 capabilities built into the TRD Pro version of the Toyota.
This year, a new addition to the 4Runner is a huge 8-inch touchscreen mounted front and center on the dashboard that now supports Apple CarPlay. What better way to navigate to the park than to ask Siri to get us there?
After getting Siri’s advice, we started the day by heading through Spanish Fork Canyon toward Price before traveling up and over Indian Canyon and ending up in Duchesne, completing the first leg of our journey.
This proved to be a great, twisty road showing off the nimbleness of the SUV and its ability to stay planted on the road and get through turns with ease.
After that is was a quick jaunt in the 4Runner to Roosevelt where we headed northeast to Tridell and then onto Paradise Park Road that would eventually land us in Paradise Park.
After hitting the Paradise Park Road, we slipped the SUV easily into four-wheel drive for the climb to over 10,000 feet.
The 4Runner comes with an amazingly gusty 4.0-liter V-6 engine with 270 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque that had no problem propelling the Toyota through every condition we saw throughout our adventure — be it on road or off, the SUV was up to any challenge.
The 4Runner has a five-speed transmission, which may have been our only complaint of the day as additional gears may have made driving on paved roads a bit smoother. We did, however, love the option of slipping the transmission quickly into manual mode, which made steep descents much easier to control in four-wheel drive.
After arriving at Paradise Lake Park, we were somewhat dismayed to find the lake almost empty of water. Finding a local in the campground, he explained that this happens every year as the lake is used as a water supply for both Tridell and LaPoint, which are small Utah towns.
We were able to spend some time hiking in and around the dry lake, even having the opportunity to see an Osprey — bird of prey — dive numerous times into what water was left in Paradise Lake before finally getting his reward by capturing a fish. It did not, however, take long for the altitude to have its effects on us, and we opted to take a nice tailgate lunch on the 4Runner.
The pullout cargo deck made a great place to have our lunch, with ample space for the cooler and other items we had brought along. The deck will hold up to 440 pounds and can even be used as a seat when tailgating.
After lunch, we decided to continue on the road northwest of Paradise Park, which quickly turned into a great 4x4 trail with rocks to get over as well as steep inclines and descents.
This was the perfect chance to switch into four-wheel drive low and see how the 4Runner would handle some serious off-roading. We were rewarded with some great climbing and descending slopes of up to 18 degrees that were littered with rocks.
Included in the 4Runner is the KDSS/CRAWL selector that does a couple of things, including automatically adjusting the suspension for better wheel articulation that would be the KDSS part and automatically modulating the brakes and throttle on the five-low speed settings, allowing the driver in essence to “crawl” almost automatically over and through rough terrain.
If that were not enough, there is also a multi-terrain selector, allowing the driver to choose what kind of terrain they are currently encountering, from hard rock to sand.
This awesome system made it easy to navigate through any obstacles we encountered on this trail and performed exactly as advertised.
The 30-mile, round-trip adventure took us about three hours because of the road conditions, but it led to some once-in-a-lifetime vistas. Having a Toyota 4Runner for a week made it all possible.
Inside, the SUV seems more like a sedan, with Softex seating surfaces that had a very nice red TRD stitching accent. They were extremely comfortable, and of course, they were also heated for the cold Utah winters.
The control knobs for the heat and air are taken from a page out of the Tundra’s book in that they were huge, making them very easy to use, even with heavy work gloves on. They actually add to the ambiance of the vehicle, making it seem more ambitious.
This all made our extended adventure even more enjoyable. On the safety side, Toyota has included their Safety Sense System on all models of the 4Runner. Adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning with steering assist and automatic high beam headlamps are all great additions to the vehicle at no additional cost.
Our week with the 4Runner proved to be our best yet with the chance to really get off-road and go anywhere we wanted. We got to go to one of Deanne’s childhood locations filled with memories and see more of the great state of Utah.
If adventure is something that you enjoy, the 4Runner would definitely foot the bill and provide all the space you need to get all your adventure stuff there, as well.
Base price: $49,765
Price as driven: $52,147