Overlanding involves the explorations of the places off the main drag and in between the major destinations. It’s often about the journey and the remote areas that are seldom seen by people. To experience this type of adventure, you need public lands and epic dirt roads that traverse interesting terrain. While all states in America have public lands, not all have the same overland-worthiness. In this article, we discuss which states have the best overland adventures to satisfy your wanderlust.
What Is Overlanding?
Overlanding is an increasingly popular style of outdoor recreation that involves traversing diverse trails and terrain. Overland enthusiasts focus on the journey rather than the destination and often spend days or months camping in remote areas.
This extreme method of travel is all about exploring nature, wildlife, and your own capabilities. You’ll mostly see overlanders driving 4×4 trucks, vans, and even bikes that can handle various terrain.
These are usually outfitted with some kind of camping setup and any equipment needed for self-reliance in the backcountry. Special off-road trailers are designed to handle rougher roads, as well as off-road truck campers that can fit on popular overland trucks, like the Tacoma.
➡ Related: These Amazing 4×4 RVs Will Take You Anywhere
What’s the Difference Between Overlanding and Off-Roading?
The difference between overlanding and off-roading lies within this question:
What do you want to get out of your experience traversing rough terrain?
Are you looking for a multi-day camping adventure that tests your self-reliance skills? Maybe you’d like to drive through the remote landscapes with everything you need in your truck or camper, only to sit and watch the sunset in a different location. That’s overlanding.
Or maybe you just bought a rugged ATV and want to test it out on large rocks and other rugged terrains? You might camp out in a tent that night and enjoy the nature around you, but you’re ultimately there to see what your toy can do. This is more in line with off-roading.
What’s the Best State for Overlanding?
The best states for overlanding all have a few things in common: they typically have vast areas of rural, public land, diverse landscapes, and beautiful scenery. There are usually historic routes and trails going through these states as well; most of which have been used as service roads, trade routes, and early pioneering.
Let’s take check out the top seven states for overlanding.
#1. Utah Overlanding
Utah is a fantastic state for overlanding because it’s rich in public lands. In fact, 42 percent of the state is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)! Not only that, but Utah’s ever-changing landscapes provide an experience of a lifetime–you’ll feel like you’re traversing multiple different regions as you move from one area to another.
If you go literally anywhere in Moab you’ll find some of the best overlanding trails the country offers. These include Hell’s Revenge, Klondike Bluffs, and Geyser Pass. Both Paiute ATV Trail (near the Pahvant Mountains) and Sand Mountain Open OHV area are fantastic routes as well.
All three areas have thousands of miles of off-road trails ready for you to explore.
#2. California Overlanding
Why is California so great for overlanding? Well, because it’s massive and diverse! The Golden State has everything from vast deserts and canyons to wooded forests and mountains. According to the BLM, they manage 15 million acres of these varying landscapes. This includes the 150-mile long Mojave Road which spans between the Colorado River and the Mojave River.
Some of the best trails include The Mojave Road (bet you didn’t expect that!), Coxey Road in Big Bear Lake, and Burns Canyon in Yucca Valley (hello, Joshua trees!)
Each of these trails has miles of off-road trails that will take you through both desert and mountains.
#3. Arizona Overlanding
If you’ve ever been to Arizona, you know exactly why it’s so great for overlanding–the rocky terrain that becomes greener as you head north, the vast public land, and of course, the Grand Canyon. There are countless off-roading trails throughout Arizona; it’s hard to decide where to start.
Ever wanted to off-road in the Grand Canyon? You’re in luck. There are countless trails going through the national park, including the popular Twin Point Scenic Overlook. Some other amazing trails include the Arizona Peace Trail and the Devil’s Highway, which crosses the remote desert along the Mexico border.
Pro Tip: If you’ve always dreamed of visiting the Grand Canyon, this is How to Plan an Epic RV Trip to the Grand Canyon.
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#4. Colorado Overlanding
You knew Colorado had to be on the list, right? With its breathtaking scenery, magnificent wildlife, and four amazingly diverse national parks, Colorado is an overlander’s dream. Let’s take a look at a few of the best trails for overlanding.
If you want to see stunning views, you’ll have to check out Imogene Pass, which is the second-highest drivable pass in Colorado. Yankee Boy Basin OHV route is gorgeous as well, and both are in Uncompahgre National Forest. Lastly, Chihuahua Lake Trail in White River National Forest has over 7 miles of mountain views and plenty of rocky terrains.
#5. Alaska Overlanding
Alaska; it’s called the Last Frontier because it’s just begging to be explored. And with its never-ending wilderness, there are plenty of opportunities to overland. In fact, overlanding is probably one of the best ways to explore Alaska because it’s so remote. It’ll also be a great test of self-reliance.
Without a doubt, the Dalton Highway is one of the most epic overlanding routes in Alaska. It spans 414 miles between Livengood and the Arctic Circle and has very little civilization in between. Some other amazing trails include Knik Glacier via Jim Creek and Nabesna Road in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
#6. Texas Overlanding
You know what they say–everything is bigger in Texas. And because there’s so much land, it’s a great state to overland in. From Big Bend National Park to the Hill Country in the heart of Texas, you’ll find countless off-roading opportunities throughout the state.
One of the best areas to overland is the primitive roads you’ll find in Big Bend National Park. These include River Road, Glenn Springs Road, and Old Ore Road. You’ll also be very happy exploring the Texas Hill Country Overland Route, which has 191 miles of off-road trails.
Pro Tip: Want to take your furry friend to Big Bend National Park. Before you do, make sure to read up on Do Any National Parks Allow Dogs?
#7. Oregon Overlanding
Interested in exploring thick woodlands, snowy mountainsides, and the Pacific shoreline? Oregon has all three of these gems, and that’s why it makes our list of the top seven states to overland in. There’s such a variety of scenery in this northwestern state, and plenty of land to explore.
Some of the best trails in Oregon include Three Capes Scenic drive (ocean views, galore!), Washington Backcountry Discovery Loop Route, and Bennett Pass Road Out-and-Back. Between these three routes, you’ll have over 1,000 miles to explore.
Our Recommendation: Utah
Out of all the places to explore in the United States, we believe that Utah is the best state to overland in. Moab alone has hundreds of miles of off-road trails through some of the most gorgeous scenery in America.
Not only that, but nearly half of Utah is available for public use. You’ll find miles of trails all throughout the state, covering unique and diverse landscapes.
Utah is also centrally located. If you get bored exploring the Beehive State, you can easily make your way over to Colorado or Arizona (two other amazing states for overlanding!).
Should I Give Overlanding a Try?
If the thought of exploring remote locations for days on end excites you, overlanding is definitely for you. It’s a fantastic hobby (or lifestyle, really) for those who want to venture the road less traveled, practice self-sufficiency, and feel closer to nature.
However, If you’re still on the fence about overlanding, just know that you can choose how “off-road” you actually go. Many of the trails featured above have varying degrees of difficulty, and you can always choose how long you stay out.
Everyone has their own style of overlanding, it’s all about finding what works for you!
Have you ever been overlanding? What do you love about it the most? Let us know in the comments below!
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Wednesday 23rd of February 2022
You realize that the Washington Backcountry Discovery Loop is in WASHINGTON, not Oregon. It starts on the Oregon side of the Oregon/Washington border, but that is it.