If there’s one question I hear more than any other when I’m talking to someone new to the overland lifestyle, it is this one; “Where can I go overlanding?”
My answer depends on how prepared you are and how much you already know.
I’m not going to be responsible for sending someone out to run the Rubicon Trail in a stock Nissan Frontier. Just the same, I wouldn’t want to advise someone to do an extremely easy route in a fully built out Toyota Tacoma or BMW GS 1250 Adventure.
Depending on your driving and recovery skills – and how built your vehicle is, it is easiest to start near where you live. Navigation apps like onX Offroad, Gaia GPS, or campsite apps like TheDyrt can show you places near you where you can get out and practice what it takes to travel remotely … all without getting too far from home.
I can almost guarantee that you’ll be shocked by how many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or US Forest Service lands are within a day’s drive of your front door. These are YOUR public lands and they are there for your use. So get out there and enjoy them! The only thing I ask is that you also agree to take care of them. That means staying on approved trails, following all guidelines and precautions, and most importantly digging a cathole for your bodily functions. With everyone traveling in the remote backcountry because of the pandemic, I can’t tell you how much human waste I’ve seen in our National Forests this year. It’s foul and you should be ashamed of yourself if you don’t poop in a hole and bury it.
READ MORE: WHERE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM WHEN OVERLANDING
I always suggest that people new to overlanding take lots of short weekend trips to get experiences under their belts so they are prepared for multi-week or longer trips in the future. Spending the time dialing in your needs on shorter trips helps you get comfortable with the capabilities of your rig. Short trips expose you to different terrains and obstacles and help you prepare for future travel. And lastly, weekenders can help you figure out the best camping and cooking solutions for your style of travel.
Once you’re comfortable with off-highway driving and are feeling self-sufficient, you can then consider getting some training to expand your driving, riding, and recovery skills. Many folks get set up with an Overland Experience ticket at Overland Expo and learn from our professional trainers with real-life scenarios to build your knowledge.
With training and vehicle preparation out of the way, the first question you’ll need to ask yourself is, “Where do you want to go?”
READ MORE: HOW TO FIND OVERLAND TRAILS
Since overlanding is both about the journey and the destination, that one question will help you make your decision about where to begin looking for overland trails and dispersed campsites. Our Trips & Trails content here on The Compass is a great starting point to give you ideas for spots to visit.
Do you love stand up paddle boarding in warm weather? Take a look at the Baja Peninsula, especially on the Sea of Cortez side with amazing dirt roads, remote (or organized) camping, untouched bays, and warm water … AND TACOS!
Maybe desert hiking is your bag? Death Valley is an amazing place for off-highway travel that includes incredible landscapes with towering mountains, blankets of wildflowers, and the park is teeming with wildlife – even with the morbid name.
Perhaps you want to ride your adventure motorcycle across Utah without touching much pavement? Check out the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route, a 744-mile route that includes ancient ruins, amazing sandstone monoliths, canyons teeming with wildlife, and snow-capped mountains.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Where can I go overlanding?” Maybe it should be “Where can’t I go overlanding?”
Just get out there and explore, take an unknown spur trail off of a favorite trail, ask a local about their favorite dirt road, find a trail on your route and explore it. Remember, you can always turn around if it gets too difficult.
AUTHOR: ANTHONY SICOLA
Anthony is the Director of Sales for Overland Expo and travels extensively with his wife Astrid and his dog Sir Digby in his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, nicknamed Hank the Tank. Follow his adventures on Instagram @overlandnomads
Header image: Jonathan and Roseann Hanson