Even though today we have the luxury of driving on high-quality paved roads, there are still a lot of gravel roads in the countryside. That’s not bad, per se. If you ask me, gravel roads keep nature intact and look like they simply belong there.
That said, driving on a gravel road is not as straightforward as on a paved road. The vehicle is not nearly as stable, you can lose traction more easily, and the tires might get damaged in the process. Suffice to say; if you own a truck or SUV and drive on gravel frequently, you will need a set of tires that are specifically designed to tackle those conditions.
The best tires for gravel roads are designed to mitigate the disadvantages of the terrain. They offer much better traction in those conditions and have a tougher build quality that can fight smaller rocks that are often found on gravel roads, but also larger rocks.
The thing is, the market is not flooded with tires for gravel roads, which is expected given the state of paved roads in the 21st century. That’s why articles like this one are becoming increasingly more important to tire buyers.
In this article, we will talk about tires for gravel roads and everything there is to know about them. You bet I’ll also include a Top 10 list of the best gravel tires after we learn on how to choose the best gravel tires for your needs.
What to look for when buying best tires for gravel roads in 2021?
First of all, let’s take the elephant out of the water – there are almost no specialized gravel tires on the market. What you really want to look for are all-terrain tires. These tires are designed to be driven both on the street and in lighter off-road conditions. Gravel roads belong precisely to the light off-road terrain group, which is why all-terrain tires are recommended. All-terrain tires have sufficient tread pattern to bite into the softer gravel road, and they also have stiffer sidewalls and compound that is both chip and cut resistant. Most of them are also puncture resistant, which is another big advantage when compared to normal tires.
Sure, you might think that specialized off-road tires will be better on gravel, but in reality, they will lack the responsiveness in the corners and the high-speed stability. The worst thing about off-road tires is that they are far from good on the road. The last time I checked, most drivers that use their vehicles on gravel roads also drive on paved roads as well. If you’re one of them, then expect off-road tires to be cumbersome to drive, not responsive at all, and very loud and uncomfortable.
If you drive mostly on paved roads and only use your vehicle on gravel roads a few times per year, then you don’t need all-terrain tires. Standard highway all-season tires will do a good job on gravel, provided you drive them with a slightly lower pressure than you would on a paved road. And of course, use them more carefully. In reality, even with all-season tires designed specifically for the road, you can drive on a gravel road at up to 50mph without any issue – they still have tread that is deep enough to tackle roads with smaller stones. However, if you use them frequently on gravel, expect chips and cuts on the tire. In other words, it won’t last as long.
For those reasons, I will only include all-terrain tires on the list below, as they are best prepared to tackle those conditions.
Top 10 Best Tires for Gravel Roads in 2021
Best overall tires for gravel roads
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The first tire on this list may come as a surprise to some, especially because there are better off-road offerings in the category. But here we are not talking about harsh off-road conditions, but only about gravel roads. Given the fact that even highway all-season tires can be driven on gravel confidently, you really don’t need all-terrain tires with very aggressive tread pattern in order to have good traction and grip.
The slightly less aggressive tread pattern on the Continental TerrainContact when compared to other all-terrain tires, rips benefits when you’re driving on the road. And let’s be honest, pickup and SUV owners that use their vehicles in the countryside, still cover most of the miles on paved roads. And that’s where the TerrainContact excels at.
Thanks to the +Silane enhanced all-season compound molded into a mild all-terrain tread pattern, on-road handling is very responsive, without the softness other all-terrain tires have. Traction and grip levels are also very high, almost on the level of highway tires, while braking power is also comparable to on-road focused tires. Thanks to the full-depth sipes and edge-of-the-block traction grooves, traction in wet conditions is on a very high level as well.
As if the outstanding performance wasn’t enough, the Continental is also very quiet and comfortable for an all-terrain tire, especially on the highway. With a set of TerrainContact tires on your pickup truck, you will forget that you’re driving on all-terrain tires.
But you’re here for the performance on gravel roads, and I have more good news for you. The same responsiveness I mentioned in the handling category translates on gravel roads as well, making your drive more precise and enjoyable. The light all-terrain tread design is perfect for gravel roads as well, giving the grip and traction drivers really need on these roads. Don’t worry, the Continental TerrainContact also works when it gets rainy, and it is even usable in light snow.
In the end, durability is also covered here. The TerrainContact is available in load range E form for those that tow or haul with their vehicles and comes with 60,000-mile tread wear warranty, which is one of the best in the category. Overall you really can’t go wrong with this tire if you use your pickup truck or SUV on a combination of paved and gravel roads.
Goodyear Wrangler TrailRunner AT
Best gravel tires for rainy and wintry conditions
When someone is talking about gravel roads, most think about warm summer days. In reality, though, gravel roads can be covered with a lot of rain and snow, and they are almost never maintained properly. If you live in areas with somewhat harsh weather throughout the year, you’ll want tires that you can rely on all of the time, regardless of the weather. The best tires for rainy and wintry conditions, or colder weather if you want, are the Goodyear Wrangler TrailRunner AT.
Designed specifically for owners of pickup trucks and SUVs who seek outstanding all-terrain traction, the TrailRunner offers excellent drivability on gravel roads. Responsiveness is pretty good for an all-terrain tire, traction is excellent, and braking performance is outstanding. With a set of these tires, your pickup truck will be easier to drive on gravel roads and also safer.
However, the best thing about the Wrangler TrailRunner is that it has the 3PMSF (three-peak mountain snowflake) symbol. This means that it is also usable in freezing weather and light snow, and I can confirm that this is the case in reality. Traction is very good for a tire that’s not specifically designed for winter conditions. Sure, it will not replace a proper winter tire in deep snow, but it is still very capable nonetheless.
On-road performance with the Wrangler TrailRunner is not as good as the Continental TerrainContact though. While traction and grip are sufficient for most drivers, the tires are simply not responsive enough for faster driving. On the positive side, noise is well-suppressed for an all-terrain tire, but on the negative, the ride is choppy on LT models designed for heavier loads. While we’re talking about loads, the Goodyear is available in load range E configurations, which means that it can be used for towing and hauling.
In the end, the 55,000-mile tread warranty is pretty good for an all-terrain tire.
Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 2
Best wet tires for gravel roads
The countryside is very unpredictable when it comes to weather, and it happens often that gravel roads become soaked with water due to heavy raining. If you live in areas with a lot of rainy days, then the best tire for gravel roads is the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 2. Designed specifically for owners of pickup trucks and SUVs, the Dueler offers all-terrain capabilities and year-round traction. This means that it is also an all-season tire that works in warm and cold weather, and it should even provide traction in light snow.
The symmetric tread pattern of the Dueler A/T Revo 2 makes a real difference here. It has open shoulders that improve traction on loose surfaces, such as gravel roads. The same open shoulders also help when it’s raining. In the real world, I think that this is the best tire for wet driving out there – it features Bridgestone’s wet racing tire inspired technology with Semi-Stealth design which simply doesn’t react with water all that much. Don’t worry, handling in dry conditions is almost intact, with good responsiveness and grip levels.
The same can be said for driving on the road, where the Dueler A/T Revo 2 is not only good in the performance department, but it also offers surprisingly comfortable ride quality. It is not the quietest all-terrain tire out there though, and the 50,000-mile tread wear warranty is not on the level of the best tires in its category.
Best tough tires for gravel roads
Most tires on this list are designed to tackle both demanding conditions and a lot of weight on their shoulders. However, not all of them are designed for commercial driving like frequent towing and hauling heavy stuff. The Toyo M-55 is just that. Designed specifically as commercial grade tire for workhorse trucks, the Toyo offers incomparable toughness in every off-road condition imaginable and with a bed full of cargo.
That said, you should know that the Toyo M-55 is also designed to tackle more demanding conditions – it is capable of driving through mud, over big rocks and both dry and wet gravel roads. Due to its toughness it is not as responsive as other tires on this list in the corners, but it provides the best handling when the truck is full of cargo. The open shoulder design helps in wet conditions, while the aggressive siping helps for traction in light snow. Unlike most all-terrain tires, the M-55 accepts studs for even better snow traction, which is another advantage. The 3PMSF symbol only confirms that.
With all that said, if you don’t need the extra toughness the Toyo provides, you should really go for other tires on this list. The M-55 doesn’t offer enough traction and grip on the road for spirited driving and isn’t a good bet for owners of V8 trucks. It is also not the most comfortable tire out there – you will feel the bumps, and it can be loud on the highway.
Firestone Transforce AT2
Best towing tires for gravel roads
If the commercial Toyo M-55 is too tough for your needs and you want a set of tires that can still be used for towing, the Firestone Transforce AT2 might be a great choice. Designed specifically for drivers of commercial trucks, this all-terrain tire offers a nice combination of off-road and on-road traction.
Thanks to the chip- and tear-resistant compound, this tire offers all of the durability a truck or SUV driver might need. The symmetric tread pattern with open shoulder design and independent tread blocks improves traction on loose terrain, which is beneficial for those who use their vehicles on gravel roads. The same tread pattern helps in wet conditions as well, while the deep tread depth and siping help for better traction in wintry and snowy conditions.
That said, the Transforce AT2 is not the best tire if you value handling responsiveness. The tough sidewalls really help when towing, but they make driving much less pleasurable experience. The traction and grip levels are very good, but due to the worse responsiveness, the high-speed stability might suffer. On top of that, when the bed of your truck is empty, the ride is not as smooth, and the Transforce AT2 can be very loud at highway speeds. Overall though, it is better than the Toyo M-55 on the road.
BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
Best all-terrain tires gravel roads
The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 is universally accepted as one of the best, if not the best all-terrain tires out there. The reason why people love it is the traction it offers in off-road conditions. In other words, it is loved mostly by enthusiasts who value the off-road abilities more than on-road abilities.
Not that the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 is bad on the street, mind you. Traction and grip in dry and wet conditions almost on the level of other on-road tires, with the Continental TerrainContact the only tire that really beats the BF Goodrich in this category. Comfort and quietness are also pretty good for such an aggressive tread design, but still not the best in its category.
In off-road conditions, the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 really comes into its own. It offers absolutely the best traction of all all-terrain tires in off-road surfaces thanks to the combination of interlocking tread blocks, loose object ejection design, and Sidewall armor put together by a computer-optimized design. Put the BF Goodrich into the mud, and it will certainly be able to get out of it with ease. However, it doesn’t provide much better traction on gravel surfaces than other all-terrain tires. And that’s the reason why it is not on the first place – gravel roads simply aren’t as demanding as other off-road surfaces, and the advantage this tire has diminishes in this category.
On the positive side, the 50,000-mile tread warranty s very well for a tire that’s primarily designed for demanding terrains.
Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Kevlar
Best puncture-resistant tires for gravel roads
When you see Kevlar in the name of a tire, you know that it means business. Designed to tackle the most demanding off-road conditions, the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Kevlar is the best choice for off-road enthusiasts. Gravel roads don’t pose a problem for this tire – it simply chews everything you throw at it. The reason why I included it into the list is the Kevlar casing which guards the tire against punctures, making it seemingly indestructible. These are military-grade tires, mind you.
And it’s not just the Kevlar casing – the tread is designed so that it repels dirt and ejects stones, while also being capable of tackling any terrain out there. The Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Kevlar offers outstanding traction in snow as well, something that most off-road tires can’t brag about. That said, on-road performance is somewhat limited with this tire. It is not nearly as responsive as all-terrain tires, and it doesn’t provide the driver with enough grip and traction. On gravel roads though, it is a champ.
Falken Wildpeak A/T3W All Terrain
Best budget tires for gravel roads
Falken is another manufacturer that’s popular with off-road enthusiasts. Their Wildpeak AT3W model is an all-terrain offering that brings excellent traction in most conditions, good on-road performance and a price that’s lower than what premium manufacturers will charge you.
The Wildpeak AT3W is an excellent choice for drivers who live in areas with weather conditions that change frequently. It offers excellent traction in both dry and wet conditions on the road, and it also brings the same performance on gravel. When it comes to off-road conditions, it is very good on rocky roads, and admirable in the mud. Another positive thing about the Falken is that it works in light snow. It is also pretty comfortable and quiet for an all-terrain tire on the highway, which is important to drivers who use the vehicle mostly on the road.
Despite the lower price point than premium all-terrain tires, the Wildpeak AT3W offers the longest tread wear warranty at 70,000-miles.
Cooper Tires Discoverer S/T MAXX
Best off-road tires for gravel roads
If you mostly use your truck or SUV on gravel but still want a set of tires for occasional off-road use, then the Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX might be the best choice out there. Designed to offer great traction in most off-road situations and very demanding terrains, the Discoverer S/T MAXX also shows great performance on gravel or dirt.
The Cooper Tires Discoverer S/T MAXX offers great traction off-road thanks to the multiple block edges for great clawing action on softer terrain, stone ejector ribs for resisting rock retention and in-block sipes. All these things work in unison to give the driver outstanding traction on gravel roads, but also very nice handling responsiveness. This tire is also heavy-duty and can be used for towing and hauling if that’s your thing.
Handling and traction on the pavement are acceptable, while comfort is pretty good for an off-road focused tire. The Discoverer S/T MAXX can also work in light snow but should still be replaced with a proper winter tire in the coldest months.
General Grabber AT2
Low-priced tires for gravel roads
General Tires almost always manages to have a product on this site, and there’s a reason for that – they offer excellent performance at lower price points. The Grabber AT2 all-terrain tire is a great example of that – it is capable in off-road conditions, durable and it even works on the road.
The General Grabber AT2 Radial Tire is specifically designed to tackle almost any terrain out there, which is obvious by the deep and aggressive grooves. It works great on gravel too, with high levels of traction and stability. The Grabber AT2 is usable on the road too, with good grip and traction, and comfortable ride quality. However, it can be pretty loud on the highway. On the positive side, the tear-resistant tread compound will protect the tires on gravel roads, even if you drive like a maniac.
As you can see, there are a lot of all-terrain options on the market available right now. However, there’s a difference between them – some are designed for more demanding terrains, while others are designed for better driving experience on the road. Whichever type you choose, be sure that it suits your needs and your driving style so you can be completely satisfied with the purchase.