Are all-terrain tires good for rocky terrains?

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Yes all-terrains can get pretty effective on rocks, given that they have aggressive enough tread pattern, reinforced sidewalls for protection, and bold stone ejectors (to expel out the debris that would other wise lodge in and cause damage). Let’s check out all these factors one by one. But first, let me tell you which A/T tires are the top ranking ones.

Are all-terrain tires good for rocky terrains?

As a tire engineer, from my perspective, the top ranking all-terrain tires for rocks include Nitto Ridge Grappler and BF Goodrich KO2. The common thing between all of them is that they are pretty durable having 3 ply sides, they have a ton of biting edges, and thick sidewall lugs, and their bold stone ejectors keep the tread clean.

Factors affecting Rocky Terrain Traction

Rocky terrain is divided in to two sections, one has to do with rock climbing and the other deals with gravel, dirt and stone filled roads.

For gravel/dirt filled roads, a “good” all-terrain tire would need bolder/prominent stone ejectors, and a chip/cut resistant rubber. The stone ejectors prevent sharp stones to get lodged in, and even if some of them do (for some time), they don’t get to damage the rubber a lot.

And on the other hand, rock climbing is a more of a challenge and here following factors are considered.


A good all-terrain tire for rocks, needs to be tough. And this durability although comes a little from the chip/cut resistant rubber on top, most of it is measured by looking at the internal construction.

Now usually, all-terrain tires, have 2 ply polyester casing, with 2 steel belts running on top, reinforced by 1 or 2 plies of nylon (coming just under the rubber layer).

But there are some aggressive tougher options out there, which provide as durable of an inner construction, as an average mud-terrain tire (which is considered the most powerful, when it comes to off-road performers).

These tires have up to 3 plies of layers in their polyester casings, with 2 wide steel belts on top covered with 2 layers of polyamide or nylon on the very top (which are also sometimes spirally wound).

For Your Info: Though with heavier construction, these all-terrain tires do get to have limited fuel economy, compared to on-road tires.

Aggressive Tread Pattern

For rocks, you need a mixture of lateral and longitudinal traction, that’s why all-terrain tires with notches/biters facing in all directions do so good. They are able to provide grip from all sides.

Though along with biters you also need larger/widely spaced lugs on the tread, which basically yield bigger groove mouth to bite in to the rocky surface.

The central part of the tread focuses on providing the directional traction, and here the grooves combined with notches provide the needed gripping. Whereas the sideways traction comes form shoulder lugs which have almost exclusively, staggered edges and on sidewalls, thicker lugs/biters.

Sidewalls are very important for rocky terrains, both internally and externally. And I’ve already discussed how A/T tires can provide up to 3 ply sidewalls making them very durable. And towards outside, some of them have quite powerful lugs on top.

These sidewall lugs for one, further protect the most vulnerable part of the tire against sharp encounters, and at the same time provide footprint enhancement with lowered air pressure.

(They are also great for mud, as they act as traction scoops, just FYI).

Air Pressure

Lowering the air pressure in an all-terrain tire can provide better off-road traction because it allows the tire to conform better to the terrain, increasing the surface area that is in contact with the ground. This creates more grip and reduces the chance of the tire slipping or skidding on loose or uneven surfaces.

For rocky terrains it’s recommend that you run the these tires between 18 to 22 PSI, as its the goldilock zone, a sweet spot if you will.

With this, you can actually get away form a lot of probability of rim damage, and it also makes sure the ground clearance is also not compromised by a lot.

All in all, it really makes all-terrain tires worth it.

Top Tires For Rocks

For rocks there are some A/Ts which I consider my go to tires, and let me share them with you.

Nitto Ridge Grappler

Although this tire is not technically an all-terrain, coming in rugged terrain category, I’m going to let it slide, as it’s really the top ones on rocky terrains in off-road tires.

So what makes it so great?

Well, it has all the features you need on rocks, you get a ton of biters, so tire sticks laterally and longitudinally during climb. It’s sidewall lugs comes in dual design, and they both are super thick and flex great with lowered pressure providing ample directional traction and protection.

And speaking of protection, it has 3 ply polyester casing under there, so puncturing these tires is pretty hard.

And yes, the tire has bold stone ejectors to it, keeping away any sharp rocks, and maintaining a clean tread.

Read full review:

BF Goodrich KO2

Sidewalls are the weakest part of the tire, and BF Goodrich KO2 does all things right there to handle it, and that’s because it’s the most robust tire out there. That’s why BFG dropped it from 10k feet proving that.

It has similar 3 ply sides, with spirally wound nylon cap plies, and it’s sidewalls have lugs covering a larger space. So with protection you also getting extra directional support while climbing.

Moreover, with the consistent interlocking design in the middle, the grip from all sides is very sticky.

Read full review:

Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T

Oh yes, Baja Boss A/T. A super durable tire with haphazard placement of central blocks and the most aggressive sidewall lugs that you’d ever find on all all-terrain or rugged terrain tire.

You also get full depth sipes on this thing, which open all the way and chew on the rocky surface.

Definitely a must tire to check out if you want to rock on rocks.

Read full review:

To sum up

All-terrain tires comes in a lot of shapes and features, and there are some which are definitely worth when it comes to rocks no doubt.

So these tires are really good for this type of terrains. Though compared to more aggressive tires like mud-terrain, they are going to lack a little, but the good thing is the margin is pretty low.

And considering they are much better than them on pavements, I think that can be ignored.

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