It is not a journey with a purpose. The journey is the purpose.
Originating from cattle herding, overlanding has been around for more than a century. Only in recent years has it become a mainstream sport and recreational lifestyle. Modern-day overlanding is driving an off-road vehicle across technical terrain, with a focus on the journey, not on the destination.
Many trails and roads are in remote areas that can be nearly inaccessible and require overlanders to be completely self-sufficient, that’s why we compiled seven of the best overland routes in the country to add to your bucket list.
These self-reliant, modern-day adventurers are setting out to explore the far reaches of the earth — one mile at a time. Whether you’re a seasoned overlander or itching to feel the thrill of a remote journey, the best overland routes are worth checking out. Be sure to plan your trip beforehand by using The Dyrt PRO where you can download campgrounds and maps for offline use.
From Challenging to Scenic, The Best Overland Routes Cover it All
1. The Mecca: Moab, Utah
With old mining roads and 4×4 tracks making up hundreds of miles of trail, it’s no surprise that Moab is often considered a 4-wheeling Mecca. You can take a tour with an experienced guide, rent a jeep, or bring your own rig. With everything from easy 2-wheel drive scenic routes to adrenaline-pumping trails for the most experienced drivers, there’s something for everyone.
The spectacular red rock formations and endless trails make this rugged landscape an overlander’s paradise.
2. The Historic: The Mojave Road, California
The historic 138-mile Mojave Road takes visitors back in time. With virtually no improvements since its inception, the historic Native American trade route and wagon trail remains the same as it was 150 years ago.
Overlanders should take 2-3 days to explore the stunning desert landscape and Joshua tree-lined routes.
3. The Legend: Rubicon Trail, California
Another historical road to add to our list of best overland routes. The trail began through exploration for a safe route across the Sierra Nevadas. The Rubicon Trail is known for its ruggedness and versatility, inspiring the Jeep namesake. As a popular training grounds for Jeep, the overland classic has a variety of terrain ranging from beginner to expert.
Don’t be fooled by this route’s popularity; it’s still considered one of the most dangerous and difficult. Experienced overlanders shouldn’t miss this one.
4. The Infamous: Black Bear Pass, Colorado
The infamous Black Bear Pass promises unrivaled views of Bridal Falls and Telluride. As one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado, it’s not for the timid. Weather conditions only allow the complete route to be open for a few weeks from late summer through the early fall. This trail earned its notoriety from steep descents with nasty switchbacks and loose falling rock.
Technical terrain and breath-taking views make this bucket list-worthy for those who crave challenges.
5. The Brute: The Dalton Highway, Alaska
Slightly more civilized than other trails on the list, the Dalton Highway is still no cakewalk. Crossing the Yukon River and ending at the Arctic Ocean, this road stretches for 414 miles through the wild Alaskan bush and barren tundra. Built in the 1970’s as the service road to the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. The highway has earned fame through the controversy of the pipeline and the reality show “Ice Road Truckers.”
With steep grades, avalanche danger, and hundreds of miles between gas stations, this brutal gravel highway is not for the faint-of-heart. Those brave enough to try will be rewarded with dramatic views and if they’re lucky, a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
6. The Wild West: The Continental Divide
Border to border adventure! Stretching from Canada to Mexico across the Western United States, this route winds through iconic American landscapes, including Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and the Rio Grande National Forest.
Prepare for your overlanding trip by downloading maps. The Dyrt PRO lets you download maps and campgrounds without cell service. “My alternative to using pro would be to drive back out to cell service.”
With a wide variety of terrain and a border-to-border showcase of some of most beautiful American wilderness, it’s easy to see why it’s often referred to as the Great Divide.
7. The Colossal: The Pan-American Highway
Since you already made it to Prudhoe Bay on your Dalton Highway expedition, you might as well turn around and head south — really south! If you have the time, resources, and dedication you can complete the colossal 18,640-mile Pan-American Highway. If earning some miles is your goal, then you can drive from the Arctic Ocean in Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina at the southern tip of South America.
The Pan-American Highway promises to be the road trip of a lifetime.
Wherever your trails take you, stay safe and stay connected. This article is brought to you by our friends at Midland Radio, and they’re experts in staying connected when you’re off-grid. Check out their Micromobile GMRS Two-Way Radios for staying in touch with your pals on your next overland trip.
- Loon Lake, Douglas County, CA