Los Angeles is surrounded by beautiful large parks that provide great locations for camping. One of my favorite is Big Horn Campground near the base of Mount San Antonio. It provides a cool spot among the pine forest in summer and a snow experience in winter.
To get there first you need to get to Lytle Creek, a few miles west of the 15 Fwy near Glen Helen. And then you go all the way to end of the asphalt, where your adventure starts. Today you no longer need a full fledge 4x4 to enjoy camping. I recently tested the new Ford Bronco Sport and was surprised on how capable this family vehicle is on the rocky trails. Ford has embarked on capturing the souls of those that like the outdoors and this compact SUV has been built as the car that you use during the week to commute to work and then take it to the trails to get you to your favorite campground on the week end.
At first, when I was just looking at the Bronco Sport and it's well done interior, I had my doubts about going off road. Several manufacturers claim their SUV's are ready to take on a bit of a beating, but my experience has been quite disappointing since they lack the mechanical grip, sturdy build, and/or ground clearance. The engineers of the Bronco Sport knew what they wanted to achieve and this Bronco Sport is one of the most capable small SUV I have driven. There are two versions , in terms of power, and a total of four models that are differentiated by their off road capabilities. The base model has a 1.5 L Turbo motor that we also find in the Ford Escape and Ford Focus. Good for city commuting. But the 2.O L Ecoboost motor has 245 HP and 275 ft/lbs of torque. That is as much power as a decade old full size pick up truck. The automatic transmission has 8 gears and with the bigger motor you get a dual clutch rear drive system that includes a differential lock. Off roaders will know the importance of this. But for you and me the switch in the center console allows to select the correct traction mode by just rotating it without having to guess. Ford has preselected the best combination for Sand, Mud and Ruts, and even a selection for when you need to crawl to climb or descend rougher terrain. A system named GOAT gives you seven settings to chose from. So you can go from saving fuel to tackling a 23 inch deep creek crossing. There is a trail control system and a front camera to let you see the road ahead. This is very handy when you encounter a steep uphill or a tight corner. The suspension incorporates one of the largest shock absorbers (46 mm) to help minimizing rebound and roughness off- road.
In addition to the capable power train package, the interior offers lots of space and practical accessories that facilitate the outdoor experience. The back of the seats incorporate MOLLE straps to be able to hang things from them. The roof is higher in the back to allow for more cargo (you can actually put a couple of bicycles in the trunk) and there is a roof rack built in. The floor in the trunk is lower than most competitors so makes loading easier too. There is a cargo management system, along with other 100 factory accessories, that has a sliding table. The designers thought of every situation they encountered themselves when camping and provide smarts solutions built into the this car.
The base model, which is an AWD SUV, starts around $26,000. The Big Bend , Outer Banks, and Badlands models can get to the $32,000 range. These latter models offer the best packages in terms of taking the Bronco Sport on the trails. If you are planning on doing that I suggest you choose the steel wheels that are much stronger going over rocks than the standard mag wheels.
There is a lot more to talk about in terms of the technology and accessories as well as how you can customize it. But my first impression after driving it in the sand, rocks, and on the highway is that this is a strong contender in a growing segment. A vehicle that can really take your family to enjoy our national parks without much trouble.