Scott Brady is the Publisher and Chairman of Overland Journal, one of the finest adventure travel publications out today. Scott and his staff of intrepid correspondents traverse the globe both on wheel and on foot, fueled by a curiosity that is equal parts anthropological, zoological, and of course, mechanical. Their field notes, journals, and pictures are compiled quarterly into a new edition of Overland Journal that is dense enough to last you through a cross-country flight, yet striking enough to lay on your coffee table. It’s a must read for any serious, modern day adventurer. When we think of overland travel, our thoughts often wander to a Land Rover in Africa, cruising down a dusty track, the dust lifting skyward and punctuating the brilliant red of the setting sun. Having traveled by foot, motorcycle and expedition vehicle on six continents, the world has never ceased to transfix me, much like the pages of a wonderful book, each chapter revealing something special and unexpected- something exotic. As adventurers, we often seek the unknown and distant as the most appropriate of destinations, and while that is often the best course, we frequently forget the pleasures and rewards of traveling a little closer to home. This list is to remind us of the destinations accessible without a plane or without a ship; places we can access with a little determination, a sturdy vehicle and a sense of wonder. Holmul, Guatemala If dreams of Camel Trophy occupy most of your nights, the jungles of Guatemala will check every box on the adventure list. From the crossing at Belize, a dirt track parallels the border for about 50kms before turning inland. From the turnoff, the route becomes biblical with deep mud, winching, fallen trees, phosphorescent spiders, jaguar, snakes and even the occasional drug runner. Once at the Mayan site, you can camp in the temple square, surrounded by 20 meter tall pyramids and ancient stele. This Peten region is filled with Mayan structures and artifacts, most concealed by centuries of earth and flora. The city was first inhabited 800 B.C. and reached its height of power between 750 and 900 A.D. It is real Indiana Jones stuff. The route can continue (with permission from the minister of forestry) to the Mayan site of Nakum and ultimately into Tikal. Make sure your winch works – really works. Mexican Hat to Moab, Utah, USA This route is one of the finest in the world, with stunning scenery, challenging terrain and rich aboriginal history. Starting in Mexican Hat and the San Juan River, a visit to the Goosenecks before starting on the dirt track in the Valley of the Gods. A quick stretch of pavement and the route continues up Comb Ridge (filled with Anasazi ruins). Crossing Hwy 95, the route continues north on Cottonwood Canyon Rd. The trail gains elevation, reaching over 3,000 meters before descending into Beef Basin, the Needles District and ultimately Elephant Hill. This route requires a vehicle with good tires and ground clearance. At least one locking differential will make the route easier on the driver and vehicle. Baja, Mexico At least a month should be reserved for exploring this desert peninsula. Little time should be spent on the border cities, as the real treasures exist further south. There are two routes that rank amongst my favorites, starting with the backroad to Mike’s Sky Rancho, a dirt track that leaves from MEX3, just east of Lázaro Cárdenas and travels south towards the San Pedro Martir. The route continues towards Meling Ranch before turning east again and climbs to the tallest mountain in Baja, Picacho del Diablo. If a serious overland trek is on the schedule, then the remote and rugged route to San Evaristo is my second favorite in Baja. The route starts at MEX1 (waypoint) and winds its way east through washouts, loose climbs and narrow shelf roads. Route-finding can be difficult, so this trip is best for the prepared and experienced, but the rewards are stunning. Deep gorges and canyons extend off from this heavily eroded plateau and small ranchos and villages provide a unique experience. Several old missions can be accessed with the 4WD or by foot and the route eventually terminates at the gulf. Fuel and supplies may not be accessible (especially diesel) in San Evaristo, a small fishing village halfway through the route, so plan accordingly. There are many remote campsites and some beautiful beaches at the end of the trek. The route continues south along the coast, eventually turning to pavement and then finishing in La Paz. Canyon de Chelly Canyon de Chelly is one of the greatest Overland Adventures in North America. Old John Wayne westerns will play in your head as you drive through this historic canyon home to the Navajo – or Diné as they refer to themselves. The trail is located in the north-east corner of Arizona, to get there, take Arizona Highway 191 to the town of Chinle, AZ. There are two primary trails that you’ll want to drive, one follows the bottom of the canyon system, the other skirts the top. If you’re interested in traveling both, first drive the perimeter (top) trail. It will help you better appreciate and understand the scale of what you’ll be driving through. The terrain can vary depending on the season you travel through the Canyon, in the dry fall, any 4WD vehicle with moderate ground clearance can pass through. However, there are times in the spring where even large, modified 4WD vehicles will have trouble. Deflating your tires will allow better traction in the soft sand found on the trail. Be sure to include a proper recovery kit, and leave the dogs and alcohol at home, as neither are allowed on Navajo land. The Dempster Highway (in winter) Ends of the Earth; There is something about distant places, their terminus that resonates deeply within the adventurer. A mountain summit, a coastline, the end of a road; all pull at us, inspiring the commitment and sacrifice necessary to continue to the horizon, or past another false summit. The Dempster Highway and McKenzie River ice road accesses the last vehicle-accessible human outpost in Northern Canada, Tuktoyaktuk, over 230 north of the Arctic Circle, clinging to the edge of land and the start of the frozen ocean. Getting to Tuktoyaktuk was not easy, in fact it took over 3,000 miles and eight days of solid driving to just reach Whitehorse. From this outpost town, the Dempster turn due north and winds through beautiful mountains before crossing the Arctic Circle, and leading you onto the ice of the Mackenzie River, and eventually all the way up to the small Inuit town of Tuktoyaktuk. The Trans-America Trail The concept of the Trans-America Trail (TAT) is fascinating; finding a way to traverse the US from east to west on dirt roads, two-tracks and single-track. The man credited with this project is Sam Correro, who spent 12 years piecing together the route from Tennessee to Oregon with a combination of map research and on-the-ground riding with his Kawasaki KLX. For me, the Trans-America Trail represents one of the greatest motorcycle trips available in the 48 states. It has all of the components of a grand adventure, including technical terrain, the requirement for complicated navigation, difficulty in obtaining fuel and supplies, remote and rarely visited destinations and a fantastic goal, which is to cross the US on 92% dirt, for a total of almost 5,000 miles. The Mojave Road In 1925 the industrial revolution was building momentum, and Mr. Ford’s cars clogged the streets of Manhattan. The world was changing; leaving the “wild west” behind. However, in the Mojave Desert, a gunfight was erupting between the cattle ranchers and sheepherders of the New York Mountains. Drought had put a stranglehold on the land, forcing the homesteaders to leave and tempers to flare at Government Holes, one of the few productive wells in the area. The Cattle companies’ hired gun, and the sheepherders blazed away at each other, until all lie dead; ending a fateful chapter of Mojave history. A present day 160 mile trek along the Mojave Road occurs under considerably more peaceful conditions, but the history and arid environment of the Mojave Desert are still available to the hardy traveler. This route, which starts near Barstow, and travels all the way to the Colorado river is one of the longest continuous off-highway treks available in the West, ranging from dry lake beds to nearly 6,000 feet and Pinyon Pines. Three or more days are required to cover its distance, which provides the opportunity for excellent remote camping. The Grand Arizona Traverse Arizona is exceptional in its geological and biological diversity, and when combined with the rich aboriginal and western history, it is a veritable playground for the adventure traveler. Developed by the Expedition Portal online community, the Grand Arizona Traverse is long (requiring nearly two weeks to complete) and challenging. This route should be undertaken with a high-clearance 4wd with good quality tires and an experienced driver. A winch and at least one locking differential is advised. Starting at the imposing and somewhat tragic Mexico/U.S. border wall, the route follows the ancient El Camino del Diablo trail before turning north and into the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Continuing to the Harquahala mountains and Wickenburg, the trail becomes even more difficult as it enters the Bradshaws and Crown King. Continuing north, the trail passes famous western towns like Prescott, Jerome and Williams before ending at a remote campsite on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. The view from there is nothing short of breathtaking. The McKenzie Trail 12 years before the famed Lewis and Clark expedition, the first European to cross North America and reach the pacific Ocean was Alexander MacKenzie, in 1793. The final 420 km of his route was along a traditional aboriginal trail used to transport fish grease from the coast to the interior of British Columbia for trading. So the official trail name is the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail, but most people today still refer to it as the Alexander MacKenzie Heritage Trail. The trail starts near Quesnel BC, 641 km North of Vancouver, and travels East to Bella Coola on the coast. Although most travelers hike the trail, it is still open to vehicles, but the lack of traffic and the changing conditions can make the week-long (one-way) trip an ordeal to complete, even for the most competent trucks and drivers. Conditions vary from dry and dusty wagon tracks through ranch-land, to seemingly bottomless mud-bogs through the Canadian forests, to swamps, blowdowns, hills and technical terrain. A minimum of three very well set up trucks with winches, aggressive tires, and multiple chainsaws are required. Sat phones or Spot devices are recommended. Punta Mariato, Panama Punta Mariato is the southernmost point in North America and is located in Panama, within the geographic region of Central America. The point is remote, nearly 100 miles south of the main highway and accessible via a spiderweb of muddy dirt tracks, river crossings and wide, boulder-strewn washes. I used a KTM640 Adventure motorcycle for my trip to that remote point and was supported by a Land Rover Defender. The road was hard work for both vehicles, made more intense by the deep mud. However, the route was stunningly beautiful and captured much of life in Panama, including cowboys, shaded from the sun by the country’s namesake, wide-brimmed hats and little cafes serving $4 lobster tails and $1 ice cold beers. You cannot drive to the very point, as that requires either a panga boat ride or a day-long trek through the jungle. I took the boat and was rewarded by a brilliant sunset as the sun sank into the Pacific.
Photo Credits: Holmul, Guatemala pictures are by Ben Edmonson. The Mackenzie Trail photos are by Dave Blair.
During my year long stint living and traveling in my camper I made a stop in Death Valley National Park. Over my journey I logged nearly 12,000 miles exploring the western US. Death Valley was on of my favorite places. Entering the park was like landing on the moon. The landscape was desolate, dry, and beautiful in its simplicity. Below is one of the “Over the Hood” video installments from my overland adventure.
In the spirit of escaping the daily grind, we polled the staff for some of their favorite overland trips that are right here in the good ol’ U.S.A. While this is just a handful of the awesome adventures that await you in the American backcountry, these are some of our most well loved excursions filled with adventure, history, and scenery. Any of these trips can be done with a well-equipped stock, or minimally modified rig. So in no particular order, here is our list of domestic excursions every wheeler should consider.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is a series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina featuring miles of OHV routes along the Atlantic Ocean, giving wheelers a unique opportunity to wheel right on the coast. One of the more popular areas is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (www.nps.gov/caha), which is home to lighthouses, Civil War history, and protected sea life. Most of the OHV routes can easily be traversed in a stock 4×4 with proper tire pressure, although some routes are seasonal. Plan to visit the remote town of Carova Beach and/or have your rig ferried to the incredible South Core Banks.
Info: North Carolina’s Outer Banks
Death Valley, California
Death Valley National Park has the distinction of being the hottest, driest, and lowest place in North America and encompasses more than 5,200 square miles of desolate terrain. Off-highway trails abound, and any explorer with the right resources can easily discover vast amounts of geologic and human history. Because of Death Valley’s size and desolate nature, you can go days between human contact in the backcountry and the hostile environment is a study in extremes. The terrain can be challenging, but a stock SUV can access the majority of trails with proper equipment and a skilled driver.
Info: Death Valley National Park
Moab is often considered the sport of wheeling’s Mecca in the United States. With incredible scenery unmatched by just about anywhere else on earth and trails of all lengths and difficulties that crisscross the terrain, anyone can find enjoyment in Moab. For those looking to extend their journey to Moab, try arriving via the dirt trails of the San Rafael Swell or Mexican Hat.
Info: City of Moab
Black Bear Pass, Colorado
Proving that Colorado is home to some of the most spectacular trails in the United States, Black Bear Road starts from U.S. Highway 550 between the towns of Ouray and Silverton and ends up in Telluride, Colorado. Reaching a maximum elevation of 12,840 feet, vehicles on Black Bear Road navigate tight switchbacks, loose terrain, and falling rock, but those who make the trip are rewarded with views of Ingram and Bridal Veil Falls and an unmatched perspective of Telluride. The local trail system includes other famous routes, such as Imogene Pass, Ophir Pass, Bullion King Lake, and Red Mountain Pass.
Info: Mile High Jeep Club
Mojave Road, California
One of the original routes through the Mojave Desert to the California Coast, the Mojave Road is located mostly within the Mojave National Preserve. This trail is a step back in time with rich history that follows the path of Native Americans and early settlers of California. The 138-mile route starts on the banks of the Colorado River, crossing several mountain ranges, and terrain types before culminating near Barstow, California. While the trail isn’t technically difficult, it is does cross deep sand, sharp rocks, and desolate areas, giving travelers a glimpse of what it must have been like for settlers during the turn of the century. The Mojave Road Guide by Dennis Casebier is a must-have resource for anyone who plans on traversing the historic route and is available from the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association (www.mdhcs.org).
Info: Mojave National Preserve
Morrison Jeep Trail, Wyoming
The Morrison Jeep Trail, located northwest of Cody, Wyoming, and southwest of Billings, Montana, is known for its 27 tight switchbacks that make up the ascent from the Clarks Fork River to the top of Bear Tooth Plateau. This trail is another example of stunning scenery that can be accessed behind the wheel of a capable 4×4. After paralleling the Clarks Fork River, wheelers start the 2,000-foot climb, before being granted admittance to the stunning high country of Wyoming and Montana. Any number of trails in the area can extend your backcountry stay indefinitely.
Info: Magic City 4-Wheelers
Border to Border
Back in 2010, Four Wheeler contributor Chris Collard successfully navigated from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, almost entirely on dirt. Even with the population explosion in the West, we were amazed that the ability to drive the entire height of the Western U.S. was still possible. Collard did have to make some adjustments to the formula, such as hitting pavement on East-West routes to bypass land closures, as well as adding in a few side trips, extending the run from about 1,300 miles to more than 2,700 miles. With the ability to complete this epic off-road journey fading fast, this is one you’ll want to attempt sooner than later.
Info: Four Wheeler
Rubicon Trail, California
Long considered one of the best wheeling trails in the world (hey, there are even Jeeps named after it), the legendary Rubicon Trail is known for amazing scenery and challenging obstacles. From tight boulder fields to granite slabs with unbridled vistas, the Rubicon is often rearranged by winter weather, making no two trips exactly the same. No one who has ever traversed the Rubicon will argue that The Rubicon Trail should be atop every wheeler’s “To Do” list.
Info: Friends of the Rubicon
Rubicon Trail Foundation
Lewis and Clark Trail, North Dakota
Four Wheeler contributors Manrico Delcore and Mary Beth Debicki negotiated the Lewis and Clark Trail in 2005, as did Senior Editor Brubaker and Tech Editor Holman. From the trail we experienced immense views of the North Dakota badlands and sat at an overlook of the Missouri River once use by Lewis and Clark themselves. If you like to combine history with your adventure, this is a great trail to explore.
Info: Four Wheeler
If you’re afraid of heights these roads in Colorado might be a great way to conquer your fears.
At the juncture of US Highway 50 and Skyline Drive, visitors will pick up the one way road. The entrance is about 3 miles west of Canon City proper. The road is also three miles long. Skyline is not for those who have never experienced a high road with cliff edges. It can be quite thrilling for those who seek adventure.
Opened in 1920, Old Fall River Road earned the distinction of being the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park offering access to the park’s high country. Primarily gravel, one-way uphill and punctuated by switchbacks, slower-paced, 11-mile-long. The old road quietly leads travelers from Horseshoe Park (a short distance west of the Fall River Entrance) through the park’s wilderness to Fall River Pass, 11,796 feet above sea level.
Mount Evans is the road into the sky. Drive from 8,700 feet at Idaho Spring where you turn off Interstate 70 to 14,240 feet to the summit, and you will pass through 3 life zones, passing ancient trees, lakes and forest to the land above timberline. It can be 90 degrees in Denver and 40 degrees at the top of Mount Evans.
The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles (40 km) in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.
Covering the 48 miles between Estes Park on the park’s east side and Grand Lake on the west, Trail Ridge Road more than lives up to its advanced billing. This stretch of U.S. Highway 34 is the highest continuous paved road in the United States.
This scenic highway provides you the opportunity to enjoy Pikes Peak at your leisure. From the gateway at an elevation of 7,400 feet, you’ll encounter some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world as you wind your way through an alpine wonderland of scenic beauty, mountain reservoirs, beyond timberline, overtaking the clouds…all along the way to the 14,115 foot summit of America’s most famous mountain.
Article credited to Imfromdenver.com
Follow the USA Pro Challenge in the ultimate chase vehicle. Rent a Sportsmobile camper van and explore Colorado while spectating one of the most coveted road races in the US. Don’t worry about booking lodging along the route, your van has all the amenities while keeping pace with the race leaders.
The 2015 USA Pro Challenge swings into action in its fifth year with a new circuit start in Steamboat Springs on Monday, August 17th and then it makes its way through another eight stunning host cities for the race finale in Denver on Sunday, August 23, 2015.
The Rocky Mountains of Colorado serve as home for the USA Pro Challenge, and every year since its inception over a million fans get to witness the world’s best cyclists, iconic routes and lung-piercing climbs of the seven stage event. With the State of Colorado containing 28 of the 50 highest peaks in the United States, it’s no surprise the race is a favorite for the world’s top teams and cyclists.
“Each of our 2015 host cities offers something unique and special to the 5th anniversary of the Pro Challenge,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of USA Pro Challenge. “We’re confident that this year’s route will provide the most exciting week of racing yet. We have added new cities and a dramatic mountaintop finish that will prove to be a fierce battleground for riders eager to show they have what it takes to compete on a new climb up Loveland Pass.”
The Pro Challenge has grown into the largest spectator event in Colorado history with tremendous crowds enjoying the weeklong race action and event festivities. New additions to this year’s race include: Arapahoe Basin, Loveland Pass, Copper Mountain and a lung buster time-trial in Breckenridge, a new twist for a familiar host city of past races. This year the USA Pro Challenge also pays homage to the inaugural race in 2011 with a repeat of that year’s final stage – from Golden to Denver.
The 2015 USA Pro Challenge race is back with a combination of familiar host cities and new communities added into the mix.
I’m excited to announce that Into The Wild Expedition Rentals and Elevation Outdoors has joined forces to help you conquer the great unknown.
Elevation Outdoors is a outdoor magazine based out of Boulder Colorado. They publish a free magazine and a website that covers everything from local events, trips reports, and gear reviews. Combine that knowledge with “Thor”, the ultimate adventure-mobile, and your expedition needs are covered!
We will be working together on their events road trip. EO will be using our van to help transport people and gear to some great events around the state of Colorado.
Keep an eye out for “Thor” the van at these events and stop by the Elevation Outdoors tents to check out their gear on display and for a tour of the van!
Mention you saw the van at one of the events or in Elevation Outdoors magazine and receive 15% off your next booking!
This multi-sport smorgasbord tosses whitewater comps, SUP, BMX, fly fishing, biking, camping, adaptive sports and more into one big par-tay.
Don’t Miss: Burning Can! Oskar Blues festival of canned beer takes place on Saturday with 35 breweries to taste from for just $25 bucks.
The Mountain Games just continue to grow. It starts with the competition—everything from the downriver SUP race to the same cycling hill climb up Vail Pass that racers hit on the USA Pro Challenge to leaping dogs—which pulls in both pros and casual athletes. But art, films (“Valley Uprising” will be here) and concerts from bands including G. Love and Special Sauce and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe make it a cultural happening.
DON’T MISS: New events this season include a tandem SUP Cross, a two-person raft race, the Ultimate River Challenge and disc golf.
Why not spend the longest days of the year (and Father’s Day) at America’s oldest whitewater festival. FIBArk is one massive party with a ton of paddling thrown in. Competition here ranges from the classic whitewater rodeo to downriver SUP to the Raft Guide Olympics. And land events include mountain bike races.
DON’T MISS: The Karaoke Competition. Because you want to hear paddlers belt out “Don’t Stop Believing,” right?
This brand new festival is sure to get some booties shakin’. Why? you ask. Well, it’s officially presented by none other than Elevation Outdoors and sponsored by Copper Mountain and KSMT 102 the Mountain.
DON’T MISS: The lineup includes Balsam Range, Reckless Kelly, The Honey Cutters, Larry Keel.
With mud season in full affect in Breckenridge we decided to wrangle some of the locals and take a spring break trip to Moab. By the time we headed out we were almost 30 deep with fellow adventurers. Moab has such an amazing variety of activities. We were packed to the gills with bikes, boats, climbing gear, sky diving rigs, seasoned hiking boots, and a few racks of PBR.
We made camp just outside of Moab on BLM land. It had easy access from the road and plenty of room for the whole gang. This would be our base camp for the undetertimend future.
Each night around the campfire, plans were made for the next day. Breaking off into groups, boating, biking, climbing, and Sportsmobiling (not sure if that’s a word…yet) were the standard. Once that tough decision was made, everyone geared up and took off.
One of the days I headed out with the mountain bike crew. We decided to shuttle half of the “Whole Enchilada” trail. The van hauled the people, while the second truck hauled all the bikes, leaving another vehicle at the bottom as the shuttle. The trail was about 25 miles long supplying some amazing vistas! We took our time down, totaling about 5 hours of trail time. For many of us this was the first ride of the season. Needless to say we were spent by then end of the day.
While we mountain biked, others headed out in search of their own adventure. When everyone returned to the camp that night we all shared stories of our day. Some went rafting, some went climbing, it was a full day for everyone.
Another adventure I wanted to check off the list was exploring Moab with the Sportsmobile. Up until this weekend the van had been rented and I had yet to do a true van weekend myself!
We headed down to the visitor center to pick up some trail info. The guy at the desk was more than helpful. We told him what vehicle we were driving and that we were looking for a good day trip. He made some suggestions and we headed out.
The van handled great on the trail!! I was surprised by its agility, easily navigating tight corners and sandy river bottoms. Even the other trail goers were surprised to see such a large rig maneuvering the same trail as their lifted jeep or UTV. Lots of thumbs ups and even a few people waved us down to see what this thing was all about.
We were one of the only vehicles to make it to the end of the trail. Once we arrived we set up camp, grilled some burgers and cracked a cold one. The shade of the awning was also handy in the Moab heat. We spent an hour or so relaxing and taking in the views. After a quick breakdown of camp, we headed back to the home base.
Interested in taking the Sportsmobile out on your own adventure!? Check out our website at www.IntoTheWildExpeditionRentals.com for more info.