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Overlanding: Travel to the Most Remote

When you go overlanding, you go to remote areas and stay there for days, weeks, or even months, depending on your own tools, technology, and ability to survive on your own. This short explanation gets to the heart of overlanding, but it's much more than that. Overlanding requires a lot of planning and preparation, the ability to change, and problem-solving skills since you will mostly be going through uncharted areas.

Vacations are about where you go and what you do there. Road trip is about the journey, yet it's about driving from home to a destination, generally a few hours or days away. Off-roading involves overcoming uneven terrain, yet you return home. While car camping is similar to overlanding, you remain in your car at a campsite. These activities are entertaining and can be used in overlanding excursions, but they have little to do with overlanding.

What is Overlanding?

Overlanding is distant travel, with "travel" as the ultimate purpose. It's not always about tackling the toughest terrain or traveling somewhere and spending time in your customized vehicle. It is more about nature, exploration, problem-solving, and environmental stewardship. Your talents in planning, mechanics, and even survival are essential on these adventures. Overlanding is all about the travel and the experiences, the time between A and B.

 

overlanding-jeep

Overlanding Trails in the USA

The United States has one of the most diversified landscapes in the world, including deserts, lush woods, and harsh mountains. This diverse set of chances makes the nation one of the finest for overlanding. While each location has distinct difficulties and experiences, the most popular routes are largely located in the western states, which provide an almost limitless supply of land masses to explore. This does not necessarily imply that there is nothing to do in the Midwest or Eastern regions.

To help you get started, we've developed a short selection of the most popular overlanding routes that showcase the best of America's offerings. At the conclusion of this tutorial, you may find some tips and methods for constructing your own unique path.

The Beast: Trans-America Trail

Location: Coast-to-coast

Distance: 5,000mi

Duration: As much as possible!

Difficulty: You should decide, as it is transcontinental.

The Sam Correro-designed Trans-America Trail (TAT) is the apex of overlanding. It uses off-road routes in the lower 48 states and seldom uses paved highways. From Eastern Tennessee to Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, the original path runs. It finishes at Battle Rock, Port Orford, Oregon. Unofficially, an open-source community added New York and North Carolina coast beginning places and Oregon and California ending points. For trans-American authenticity, there's a NY-to-LA variant.

Eastern Trans-Am Trail sections use agricultural roads and woodland paths. Approaching the Southern Rocky Mountains with multiple high passes makes the race more difficult. Overlanders then cross Utah's desert, Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest, and Oregon's lush Deschutes National Forest. Due to its different scenery, we think the TAT is the most thrilling overlanding trip in the US backcountry.

Overlanders confront mud, rocks, sand, and snow on the Trans-Am Trail. The track changes with the weather and location you're traveling in, ensuring no two portions of your experience are identical. With each segment's challenges and rewards, TAT creates lifelong memories. So, you and your car must be ready for this amazing trip. You need supplies, gear, and expertise to finish the TAT, but standard pickups or SUVs can do it, too.

 

overlanding suv in the mud

Overlanding on the West Coast

Pacific Crest Overland Route

Location: California, Oregon, Washington

Distance: 2,650mi

Duration: 1-2 months recommended

Difficulty: Depends on the region; includes anything from deserts to snowy mountains.

Popular West Coast overlanding paths include the Pacific Crest Overland Route (PCOR). The 2,650-mile route crosses California, Oregon, and Washington. The West Side route passes through some of the major national parks and wilderness regions, historical sites, and hidden natural beauties. From cold mountain passes to deserts and muddy routes, overlanders face challenges. You need complete gear and supplies to complete the journey.

The PCOR is best in fall when the entire path is available, but the Pacific Northwest segment may be enjoyed in spring and summer. For a rewarding experience, allow 1-2 months. Regional difficulty levels vary. Be ready and able to adjust to shifting conditions. The trail is difficult, but it rewards you with a deep connection to nature and some of the most isolated and gorgeous US places.

The Mojave Road

Location: Nevada, California

Distance: 140mi

Duration: 2-3 days recommended

Difficulty: Considered ideal for beginners, but don’t forget that you’ll face desert conditions.

The 140-mile Mojave Road is a historic California path across the Mojave National Preserve. It lets travelers see desert beauty without hard work. With its magnificent desert scenery, the Mojave Road shows the region's rich past. The path is like time travel because it's almost untouched since prehistory.

Desert path Mojave Road is best avoided in summer. For better weather, visit the path in spring and fall. The Mojave Road is a great 2 to 3-day overlanding trip. Due to the desert's remoteness, bring plenty of water, gasoline, and emergency supplies. Desert overlanding is beautiful, but the route teaches self-sufficiency and readiness.

Overlanding in Central America / Midwest

The Alpine Loop

Location: Colorado

Distance: 65mi

Duration: Weekend getaway

Difficulty: Suitable for beginners, but be aware of high-altitude challenges.

The Rocky Mountains split North America and greatly impacted the US climate, population, and agriculture. The Alpine Loop in Colorado's San Juan Mountains is the top high-altitude overlanding site. There are 65 miles of beautiful scenery and ancient mining towns. Since the path is above sea level, it presents distinct obstacles. The Alpine Loop will take you through vestiges of the state's mining past, but high-altitude driving is worth it for its breathtaking scenery.

The Rocky Mountains split North America and greatly impacted the US climate, population, and agriculture. The Alpine Loop in Colorado's San Juan Mountains is the top high-altitude overlanding site. There are 65 miles of beautiful scenery and ancient mining towns. Since the path is above sea level, it presents distinct obstacles. The Alpine Loop will take you through vestiges of the state's mining past, but high-altitude driving is worth it for its breathtaking scenery.

 

overalanding vehicle in the nature

Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail

Location: Wisconsin

Distance: 600mi

Duration: 4-5 days recommended

Difficulty: Easy, but you need decent ground clearance. Great way to test out your rig. Snow and mud may become challenging.

With a modest route alteration, vehicles with high ground clearance may ride the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail, originally meant for ATVs and adventure bikes. The 600-mile overlanding adventure begins at the Wisconsin-Illinois border and ends in Lake Superior.

Trans-Wisconsin has 50% paved, 40% gravel, and 10% woodland roads, making it ideal for novices doing long distances or testing their car and gear. Due to the varied terrain outside of the 50% paved segment, it requires significant ground clearance. With 4-5 days to finish, the path is a great escape. The adventure is ideal in spring, summer, or fall when circumstances are optimal.

Overlanding on the East Coast

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Overlanding Trail

Location: Florida

Distance: 50-70mi

Duration: 2-3 days recommended

Difficulty: Moderate. Keep in mind the locations are remote with very limited facilities.

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Overlanding Trail is a favorite with east coast overlanders for wildlife watching in nature. The route winds through pine trees and wetlands on Florida's Gulf Coast refuge. Wildlife thrives in its salty-fresh mix with the Gulf of Mexico.

Milder fall and spring weather is better for hiking. 50–70 miles may be covered in two days. Due to its isolation, bring supplies and equipment. The terrain is easy to moderate, but the remoteness adds to the adventure. Overlanders may enjoy the region's wildlife and quiet on this path.

Appalachian Byway

Location: Maine to Georgia

Distance: 2,400mi

Duration: 1-2 months recommended

Difficulty: Easy as it is more backroad driving than hardcore off-roading.

Appalachian Byway is a remarkable 2,400-mile East Coast multi-state overland path. It takes you via backroads, dirt roads, mountain passes, and even New York City's perimeter! From Georgia to Maine, the route follows the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail. The path is home to hundreds of endangered and uncommon plant and animal species.

 

overlanding vehicle for camping

The path is best driven in mid-to-late spring when southern weather is good. Alpine conditions can occur in the north, and hail or snow storms are probable. Since it's mostly backroads and dirt trails, the Appalachian Byway may be completed in 1-2 months. The path is a massive, beautiful trip through Appalachian beauty and diversity.

How to Come Up with Your Own Overlanding Route

All of the following routes are well-known, so you know what to anticipate. But overlanding is about exploration. Choose a national forest and find routes. Even Google Maps can assist. After getting a sense of the place, just drive without worrying about whether the road connects anywhere—it's enjoyable to observe how different roads converge.

Every U.S. National Forest has Motor Vehicle Use Maps. These paper and digital maps show which vehicles may use particular routes in specific seasons. Different levels of MVUMs show you where you may drive, avoid private land, and find attractions. An interesting app for digitally accessing MVUMs is Avanza.

 

digital maps

Furthermore, various mobile apps, such as OnXOffroad, Overlander, and AllTrails, offer assistance and credible information about overlanding. We highly recommend checking out this interactive map for route details. Trails Off-Road Interactive Map. These are just a few internet sites to help you choose the best paths and plan your own unique overlanding journey. Remember that the best sites aren't always on maps. They reveal themselves while you're out there enjoying the ride.

Ultimate Overlanding Companion: Pedal Commander

Overlanding demands more precision because it is typically done on unpaved surfaces. There will be situations where you require quick power or improved throttle control. You'll need raw power when climbing a steep incline, controlled power delivery on muddy terrain, or you might want to save some gasoline on the trip to the trails.

 

pedal commander for overlanding car

Pedal Commander, the best throttle response controller, is the perfect complement to your overlanding vehicle. It's a simple modification that eliminates throttle lag from your gas pedal, enabling your car to reach its full potential. Pedal Commander can let you navigate through mud or snow, crawl over rocks, or drive over tough terrain. With its four modes and 36 settings, Pedal Commander allows you to precisely modify your vehicle's throttle sensitivity to suit your driving style and situation.