12 Great Ways To Find Overlanding Trails


Overlanding is a blast. Heading out on roads less traveled to roam and camp is the adrenaline rush you have been looking for. For those with experience, you already know.

However, when the trails that you run on start to become a bit too familiar, you will want to find something new and exciting. How do you find out about new trails? There are plenty of cool places out there waiting for you to discover them.

Twelve of the best ways to find the Overlanding trails – guaranteed – include:

  1. Online research
  2. Paper maps and atlases
  3. Public land – BLM/WMA
  4. National Forest Service and Forest Ranger Station
  5. Overland Discovery
  6. TRX Trailhead
  7. Trails Off-Road
  8. OHV areas
  9. Scout trails during hiking and biking trips
  10. Joining an Overlanding community
  11. Ask members of an Overlanding discussion forum
  12. Ask a tow truck driver

Adventure awaits, so let’s find you some trails!

12 Excellent Ways to Find Overlanding Trails

What exactly is Overlanding? It sounds cool, without even knowing what it is. Overlanding is a grand adventure that combines off-road trail riding and camping – not camping with cabins and amenities, but boondocking rough camping out in the wilderness.

An Overlanding trip is usually made in an all-wheel-drive vehicle because you will probably need that capability and assurance to get through some of the situations you will get yourself into out there.

OHV (off-highway vehicles) are designed to tackle tough terrain. The last thing that you want is to get stuck or stranded in the middle of nowhere because you did not drive a powerful enough vehicle to the party.

Not everyone is out looking to push their vehicle to the max on these trails. If you know for sure that the trails you are headed toward are not too extreme, then a two-wheel-drive vehicle would be suitable. It does limit your capabilities, though.

Finding new trails to explore is part of the fun, but it can be a challenge sometimes. How do you find trails that you have not explored yet? First, you must decide what your Overlanding style is:

  • Are you new to Overlanding and not sure how to get started?
  • Are you open to just filling up your vehicle with gas and blindly exploring?
  • Are you more comfortable following a map or GPS?

A clearing in the trees is all you need to get started! If you can adopt a mindset of constant adventure, you will be more likely to be alert to recognizing an off-road opportunity when you see one. Just get out there, and enjoy yourself – and bring a co-pilot along for the times that navigation becomes challenging!

The following are twelve fantastic ways for you to find Overlanding trails:

1. Online Research

There is no better place to start any adventure than the world wide web. The internet can help guide you in the right direction or give you precise details on finding your next trail.

You can use the internet to map out your entire trip thoroughly or just use it as inspiration as a jumping-off point. You have complete access at your fingertips to a wealth of information: trails, maps, advice, tips, and community.

If you are new to all of this, start with the basics. Type in Google keywords like “off-road trails near me.”  Connect with people doing the same thing as you by using search words like  “Jeep Overlanding group.”

There are Overlanding enthusiasts all over the world, with a higher concentration in areas that have mountainous terrains. The likeliness that you will be able to find and connect with someone familiar with trails in your state is very high. They are out there; you just have to look.

Pulling up virtual maps of places that interest you is a great way to learn about how you can access whatever trails may be there for exploring.  Zoom in for a better look. That is one great benefit of using online maps.

2. Paper Maps and Atlases

Bring it back to paper maps and a handheld compass for a vintage twist to your next trail trekking trip. If you have been driving longer than smartphones have been around, you probably know all about it. You may even still have one tucked away in the glove box of your car – strategically folded up with a super fine print.

However, maps can be limiting if you intend to travel outside of a particular area. If you need something more, get yourself an atlas. They cover more ground than a map. They typically have printed pages that are attached to a spiral page binder so that you can easily turn the pages, much more efficient than a folded style of map.

3. Public Land – BLM/WMA

One popular destination choice for Overlanding is public land. Many overlanders are familiar with public land, and they use certain websites to research locations and details of trails and new spots.

  • BLM – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a division of the US that manages public land within the states. On BLM land, you can camp for free in most areas. There are also plenty of trails to explore and off-road adventures to be had.

On its site, you can check out the maps of trails, camping spots, and even climbing areas—search in your neighborhood or another state across the country.

  • WMA – Wildlife Management Areas are not necessarily meant for Overlanding, but the land has some great trails to explore. It is strongly advised to visit the website and read over the details of each location because they are often used as hunting grounds.

On its site, you can check out maps of your state’s designated WMA land. For all of those out there that enjoy hunting and fishing, this may be just what you are looking for – trails and game. A trip to WMA land is probably not a trip for the entire family, but it could be a perfect solo excursion destination.

4. National Forest Service and Forest Ranger Station

The USFS (United States Forest Service) is in charge of managing public land, such as national parks. They have physical locations that you can visit or call. They also have an incredibly helpful website that you should check out. Browse the website to learn about details on destinations for your Overlanding adventures. You can read up on the news and history of the area while you are at it.

The Forest Service site covers maps of trails and even has videos and pictures of the trails.  You can get ready for your trip with all the information you need, like how accessible the trails are and details of the terrain.

You might even be tempted to fill out an employment application while you are on the website. For an Overlanding enthusiast, is there a more fulfilling job to have than Forest Service? If you land a job with them, you will have everyone asking you for advice on their next trailblazing trip.

Asking the Pros

Who is better to ask about trails than the ones who get paid to traverse them daily? Ranger stations can be Overlanding information gold mines. Stopping in to talk to the rangers during regular business hours in person would be best. That way, you can look at maps together and get hands-on advice. They can also let you know of the off-limits areas.

If you are planning an Overlanding trip, simply look up the phone number of the local ranger station where you are headed and give them a call.

5. Overland Discovery

Overland Discovery is unique because its primary service is renting vehicles for Overlanding excursions and camping. They have a full fleet of Jeeps with RTTs (rooftop tents), campervans, and SUVs to choose from. Along with sweet rentals, Overland Discovery’s website also has its Overlanding blog linked and a list of different trails across the country to check out.

With Overland Discovery, you can plan an Overlanding adventure across the country and rent a vehicle to use in one place. It is also a way to have your friends join your adventure if they do not own a capable vehicle themselves.

6. TRX Trailhead

If you do not currently own a Magellan GPS unit, you can still access the same information through their website TRXTRAILHEAD.COM. This website is a hot spot for not only finding new trails but also for adding in a variety of other stops like restaurants and tourist attractions.

TRX Trailhead is a way to link your Magellan GPS history to a tracker and save your steps, as well as add trail updates for the public to see.

You can search for trails close to home, or check out Overlanding areas in another state. You can learn all about trails hundreds of miles away, then plan a long-distance trip away for the weekend. Gather some other off-road enthusiasts and make it an official gathering!

7. Trails Off-Road

Trails Offroad just had its fifth anniversary. For the past five years, the site has been working hard, collecting details on trails all across the country. Though it is nationwide, there are more trails listed for the western half of the country. That is not uncommon to find since there are more challenging trails out west (and more trails altogether).

Trails Offroad provides nationwide maps plus cool things like an Overlanding blog and ways to connect with other community members. It’s like an exclusive members-only club, just for adventurers. Search for trails by their name, or tap into a broader search by looking up regions or individual states/zip code.

8. OHV Area

Unfortunately, there are not more of these around, but some areas are lucky enough to have them. Scattered across the country are areas specially designated for off-road fun. OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) land is mostly used for vehicles like dune buggies and ATVs.

Some of the OHV areas are privately owned, and they do charge an entrance fee. The entrance fee may be a daily pass or annual membership to save money and the hassle of buying a pass every time you go. Then, there are free sites! Those are often maintained by the people that go there. They are all different, so just check all the details before you go.

The downfall of an OHV area might be that it is fun for a one time trip or to go every once in a while, but you might get bored if that is the only place that you go. Also, most of these areas are not open at night, so you wouldn’t be able to camp out and get the full Overlanding experience.

Bend, Oregon, is one of the most popular spots for finding excellent OHV land. The town is full of unique restaurants, beautiful scenery, and wildlife.

9. Scout Trails During Hiking and Biking Trips

Some people find their favorite Overlanding spots while exploring new places on their ATVs, their mountain bikes, or even on foot. You might be out taking a hike, taking your dog for a walk, or having some fun riding trails on your mountain bike when you unexpectedly stumble upon what looks like what might be a worthy trail for an Overlanding adventure.

A welcome change from sitting down and driving is actually getting your hiking boots on and hitting the trails on foot will stretch out the body and give you some healthy physical exercise.

Close to Home

Get ready to see the neighborhood that you have lived in for your entire life in a new light. Most people tend to think of adventures as events that happen away from home, but you may be surprised at what fun lies just around the corner. Many tend not to notice the wonderful aspects of their neighborhoods.

A patch of woods or a back road that you have never been on are good places to start your neighborhood adventure.

Cross Country

Not everyone wants to stick close to home for their Overlanding adventures. When you feel like you have exhausted the scenery in your local area, or you just want a change of pace, perhaps it is time to take a road trip.

Overlanding adventures aren’t all about the off-road stuff; they are also about the ride there. What could be better than combining the thrills of Overlanding with a good old fashioned road trip? Road trips are unique opportunities to escape reality and create your own adventure.

Make the most of your trip with the following tips:

  • Go coast to coast! Amazing Overlanding trails are stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the New England coast. You could also go the southern route through the desert, down to the everglades in Florida. If you love a good adrenaline rush, make sure that you hit some of the country’s mountain ranges.
  • Pack a bag, grab some snacks, and put on your road trip playlist. Snacks, music, and the open road are a winning combination. Plan out iconic roadside attractions and historic downtown areas to check out along the way. This country is full of rich history and cool landmarks.
  • Keep a log of your route, pit stops, and experiences for sharing with your fellow community members. Bring a friend with you that can double as your camera person to capture video footage of the trip. Capturing everything on film is sometimes a challenge, but you will be glad that you did.
  • If you can’t bring a friend, strap a GoPro to the hood. They are popular for a reason. How cool would it be to be able to show everyone the trails instead of trying to describe them? Posting these videos will be helpful to other overlanders.
  • Don’t forget to dig deep to find overnight Overlanding spots. With a cross country trip, it is best if you can take your time and not rush it. Spending a few nights out in the wild is a significant part of enjoying the journey.

10. Join an Overlanding Community

Even though Overlanding is mostly about everyone’s unique individual journey, Overlanders do follow the guidance of others. Not only can being part of a community like this expand your trail options for the future, but it can also give you a camaraderie that can grow into relationships in and out of the chat group.

Surround yourself with others that are on the same mission as you. You may find others that want to form a group trip, and those are fun.

Overlanding communities can be found online, such as Facebook groups or other social media platforms. You can find anything from local to worldwide communities. You can get even more specific in the genre by looking for your brand of vehicle – the most popular, of course, being Jeep Overlanding/off-roading groups.

Group Effort

When you share your experience with others, you multiply your enjoyment. Get a group together of like-minded fellow overlanders and organize a trip to scout out some new trails and set up camp together. Fall in line to form a tough convoy of all-wheel-drive trailblazers and ride out into the sunset.

Whether you are familiar with the trail or not, having your friends with you will make it feel like a brand new experience. Catch a birds-eye view of your group with a drone flyover video. When you reach the camp destination, you might choose to rally around and stick close together, or maybe you would like a bit of privacy in which case you will space yourselves out a bit.

11. Ask Members of an Overlanding Discussion Forum

You may already turn to Overlanding discussion forums for advice on matters concerning Overlanding. But, have you thought about using those same forums for digging up new trails to check out?

Members of discussion forums are there to talk about their passions and hobbies. They are usually a platform for asking direct questions and receiving the members’ opinions and responses. It seems that most Overlanders are more than willing to share their favorite trails with the group.

12. Ask a Tow Truck Driver

When you stop to think about the people that would know the most about trails, who comes to mind? Other overland enthusiasts, right? How about somebody else that could be affiliated with a trailblazer?

You may hate to admit it, but the reality is that sometimes you break down out on the trails, or damage your vehicle so that you can’t drive it home. Who do we call to help us? A tow truck company!

The next time you find yourself face to face with a tow truck driver, take a few minutes to ask them about nearby Overlanding trails. You may be surprised to find out that they know more than you think!

Things to Know Before Hitting the Trails

Safety first, as always. Overlanding is an exciting experience, and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. Take a look over this list to make sure you have it all covered:

  • Expect the unexpected. Pack a toolbox, just in case of any mechanical issues.
  • Hydrate! Considering the extra dust and heat, it is essential to drink plenty of water on your trip.
  • Watch the ground! Driving through trails means that you have to be aware of the terrain to prevent injury or vehicle damage. Loose rocks or sinking sand could put a stick in your spoke.

Permits

Checking if there are any special requirements to explore a new piece of land is always a good idea to do ahead of time. Trespassing is against the law, and some landowners take it very seriously. Plus, trespassing gives the Overlanding community a bad reputation.

If the property belongs to a private residence, you might want to reach out to them directly to ask for permission to go on their land. Once you have permission, you can arrange a date and time for you to be there, so that they are aware.

Property that is owned and operated by individual associations may require you to apply and purchase a permit to be on their land. Some permits are sold for the day; others you can purchase for the year. Always display your permit visibly so that you can prove that you have the necessary paperwork to be on the land.

Learn Map Coordinates

Do your future self a favor, and learn to read and use map coordinates. Following some directions to new Overlanding spots may require you to be able to read and follow map coordinates, rather than typing a physical address into your navigation system. The majority of desirable destinations will not have physical addresses or even names to locate them by.

How are you going to feel if you are out in the middle of nowhere, and all you have to go by to find your destination is a series of numbers that are like a foreign language to you? Don’t worry; you do not have to memorize a bunch of numbers to be able to navigate your way with coordinates.

Safety and Responsibility

Part of enjoying the Overlanding experience is knowing the unwritten rules surrounding safety and responsibility out on the trails and in nature. The following rules should be adhered to when you are enjoying the trails:

  • Rule number one, wear your seatbelt! When you are out there going through rugged terrain, you should be wearing your seatbelt at all times.
  • Preparing for a trip can help avoid unnecessary headaches. Make a list so that you won’t forget to pack the essentials. If you are just going out for the day, it won’t matter as much as if you were going for a weekend or longer. Don’t forget to pack water, especially if it is going to be hot out.
  • Solo Overlanding trips can be the best times you will ever have. Going out on your own for a back road adventure can be a blast, but it is best to let someone know where you are headed. Think of it as trip insurance. The chances are that you probably won’t need it. But, if you do, you will be glad that you have it. If something happens to you or your vehicle while you are out in the wilderness, you may need a way for emergency services to locate and get to you.
  • Carry it in, carry it out. Since the Overlanding camping experience is usually out in the wild, there are no facilities such as trash cans provided for campers. It is your responsibility to carry home whatever garbage you bring with you to the site. Littering is a major offense in the Overlanding community. For everyone to enjoy the trails and the beauty of nature, you must do your part to take the best care of it as you can.
  • Acquire any necessary permits or permission before you hit the trails. Please do not trespass for the sake of hitting trails.

In Conclusion

Overlanding is a great way to get out and have some fun. Whether you are just going for the day, or you’re camping out for the weekend, mix it up. Find yourself some new trails, and maybe even some new friends to join you on them.

Jeremy Hoxie

Born and raised in beautiful Northern Michigan, I've have spent two decades enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer. When not working on RigForge, I spend my time Overlanding and tackling off-road trails while sharing my experiences and testing gear along the way. My current rig is a 2013 Jeep JKU Moab.

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