Knowing where to go while Overlanding is a great way to ensure you enjoy the ultimate encounter with nature.

Are you planning to go on an overland trip to the U.S.A? Don't go out in search of an adventure without being prepared! We have provided a guide listing some of the most scenic Overlanding trails in the United States of America.

With our guide to different trails in the States, you are bound to have an unforgettable Overlanding experience. Below are the best Overlanding trails to take in the U.S.A.

Overlanding Trails In The USA

As a self-reliant modern adventurer whose only purpose is the journey itself, nothing provides an overlander with more satisfaction than having their journey mapped out. With the different trails available in the USA, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the best routes that suit your preferred terrain before setting off in your overland vehicle.

It doesn't matter if you are a novice or a veteran and an experienced overland camper, planning your trip before setting off will go a long way in helping you avoid sticky situations and have more fun.

To help you have the best remote adventure while also remaining prepared on your self-sustained trip, we have compiled a list of the best Overlanding trails in the United States of America.

1. Smoky Mountain Road

Location: Kane County, Utah.

If you yearn for a beautiful drive with scenic views, Smoky Mountain Road is the trail for you. Located miles from Escalante town, Smoky Mountain Road is a backcountry trail that connects Alstrom Point to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. 

Smoky Mountain Road is a one-way road with an elevation of about 1960 feet. It is as remote as possible, offering a sweeping view of rocky roads, cliff-like slopes, and intimidating rock formations. Although the remoteness of this trail means you enjoy the ultimate Overlanding experience, it also means you need to stock up on enough food, water, and fuel before venturing this route.

Smoky Mountain Road is not paved or smooth, and the road can be perilous (especially in the winter). To get across without any problem, we recommend making the journey in a 4WD and not traveling alone.

Overall, Smoky Mountain Road offers a spectacular adventure that should be cautiously approached. However, we guarantee an experience of a lifetime when you go Overlanding on Smoky Mountain Road.

If you find yourself Overlanding in Utah, here are the ten best free dispersed camping spots you can visit.

2. Alpine Loop

Location: Colorado

Alpine Loop is cradled in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. It offers a relatively easy and short adventure that anyone will enjoy.

Alpine Loop is located five hours southwest of Denver or six hours Northwest of Albuquerque. It passes through the San Juan National Forest and connects Silverton, Ouray, and Lake City.

This trail has it all, from exciting views to an equally fascinating history. If you go Overlanding on Alpine Loop, it will be fun to remember that the road you drive on was once operated by miners who used mule-drawn carts to transport gold and silver. If you are lucky, you might even get to see one or two ghost towns left-over from the area’s mining history.

The Alpine Loop is a 63-mile-long trail with an elevation of 12,800 feet. It is a spectacular location that offers an endless view of lush green landscapes, from pines to grass-covered hills. 

Alpine Loop is a moderately-difficult drive that can be completed between four and seven hours or longer if you decide to take your time and explore the area.

3. Georgia Transverse

Location: Through North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia 

The Georgia Transverse is not a single trail but a collection of paved and unpaved routes throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. It is designed to be traveled east to west from North Carolina and cut off at the Georgia / Alabama border.

Georgia Transverse comprises a mixture of county, state, and Forest Service road sections totaling about 390 miles. Because it is not one big and long stretch of land, the trail offers different terrain from rocky to paved or even dirt. At least 226 of the 390 miles in the Georgia Transverse are unpaved roads and require a high-clearance Overlanding vehicle for easy navigation.

It is easy to view the Georgia Transverse as an opportunity to explore a vast land without restrictions. You can either drive the length of the trail in one journey or split it into shorter, bite-sized trips to enjoy as several Overlanding trips.

Overland trail in the mojave.

4. Mojave Road

Location: Los Angeles, California.

Mojave Road is a trail that measures at least 150 miles. If you plan to go Overlanding on this route, you will spend the better part of 3 days or more going from one end to the other, especially if you want to take your time to explore every area of the trail.

Mojave Road crosses the desert between the Wilmington Mojave River and the Colorado River. However, most of the trail lies in the Mojave National Preserve. It is an easy to west rocky road starting at the park near Piute Spring and ending near Soda Dry Lake. 

The Mojave Road offers interesting terrain, from uneven rocky roads to sandy strips and large washes. The landscape is not uniform nor well-managed, so it is moderately challenging to navigate. 

Like many other trails, Mojave Road has a history of its own. This route was popularly used as a trade road for the southwest, Chumash, and other coastal tribes before it became popular in the 1980s.

Mojave Road offers a view of interesting historical sites, ruins, canyons, and caves that you will undoubtedly enjoy exploring. There are also free albeit undeveloped campsites that will come in handy during your stay.

Mojave Road is a pretty iconic trail, so you will definitely run into other overlanders on your trip, especially if you visit in the fall or spring (although the trail is in use even during the colder parts of the year). 

5. Valley Of The Gods

Location: Utah

Valley Of The Gods trail is a gorgeous red landscape you’ll enjoy exploring. Made up of stunning stone formations, a vast desert terrain, isolated buttes, and intimidating pinnacles, this trail is straight out of any overlander’s dream.

Valley Of The Gods is referred to as a gem, and for great reasons too. To truly understand its beauty, you have to witness it first-hand. This picturesque trail located just north of Mexican Hat is part of the Navajo Nation and is a 17-mile loop.

Short and easy enough to drive through while also offering astonishing views. Valley Of The Gods offers a relatively easy but bumpy ride. For this trail, a 4WD is not necessary, as even a 2WD vehicle will have no problem driving through the trail. However, the roads can become slick and impassable when it rains, even with a 4WD.

6. Rubicon Trail

Location: California 

The legendary Rubicon Trail is a 22-mile-long route west of Tahoe and about 80 miles east of Sacramento. It is a historical 4x4 trail in the Sierra Nevada and a popular hotspot for adventurous overlanders.

If you have heard of Rubicon Trail, you probably only know that it offers a gorgeous view of a sprawling landscape overlooking the Granite Bowl and towering trees scattered around it. However, many adventurers have little to no idea of how dangerous this trail truly is.

Rubicon Trail is rugged, and I never, with its roads made of clustered boulders in several places. Although it has a variety of terrain, it is best to visit this trail with a 4X4 vehicle with high clearance.

If you are a novice overlander or an explorer who tends to steer clear of challenging terrains, you might have to sit Rubicon Trail out. Although the route is only 22-mile-long, it is one of the most challenging trails you’ll ever encounter.

This is why it is often reserved for the more experienced overlanders who love a little off-roading challenge.

7. Black Bear Pass

Location: Colorado

Black Bear Pass Road is located near Telluride in Colorado. Also fondly called Black Bear Road or Forest Service Road 648, it is nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in San Miguel County.

With an elevation of 12,844 feet, Black Bear Pass Trail is undoubtedly one of the highest mountain roads in Colorado. It is also one of the moderately difficult trails to pass unless you count the narrow switchbacks that can be tricky to navigate.

Black Bear Pass Trail offers breathtakingly dramatic views of the San Juans, Telluride, and of course, the mountainous landscape on either side of the route. Explorers are also treated to gorgeous views of the historic mines and waterfalls. All-in-all, Black Bear Pass Trail is a dream.

However, there is a catch.

The roads are narrow and only go one way. However, with excellent driving skills, great navigating acumen, and a hardy 4WD vehicle, you can pass through the trail with no problem.

Overland vehicle on a trail.

8. Engineer Pass

Location: Ouray, Colorado

The Engineer Pass trail is a point-to-point trail beginning three miles south of Ouray. It measures roughly 20 miles and passes through the San Juan mountains.

With Cinnamon Pass, Engineer Pass makes up a part of the Alpine Loop. It has a rich history and has several historical sites near the trail to show it. Some of these historical remnants include the long-abandoned Mickey Breen Mine, a ghost town, and an ancient mill (the San Juan Chief Mill).

More importantly, is the overview of the areas around the route. Engineer Pass has an elevation of 12,800 feet and offers a lovely view of the mountains around it. On this route, you will never run out of exciting scenes to enjoy.

Engineer Pass is relatively easy to pass and is considered beginner-friendly. The most challenging part of the trail is the first two miles, which are rugged and narrow in some areas. For the best driving conditions, visit the trail with a 4WD.

If you plan to go Overlanding in Engineer Pass, we recommend going before or after winter, never during. The alpine area can be challenging and dangerous to navigate in winter weather.

9. Dalton Highway

Location: Alaska

Do you fancy an Overlanding trip to the Western United States? Dalton Highway is one of the best trails you can visit.

If you are familiar with the Ice Road Truckers show, you are undoubtedly familiar with this beautiful trail in Alaska. Although Dalton Highway was initially created as a Trans-Alaska Pipeline supply road, it is now used by adventurous overlanders who are always up for a fun challenge.

This remote trail takes the cake as one of the most beautiful and accessible trails in one of the coldest states in the USA. This gravel trail is flagged by alpine mountains and serene grassy wilderness on both sides. In fact, it is so beautiful that anyone will wonder why the trail is called one of the most dangerous highways in the world.

Well, here’s why.

Dalton Highway is a whooping 414-mile gravel trail that is often mostly deserted. It runs from a town called Livengood to Prudhoe Bay and through the wilderness without network coverage, hotel, gas station, or restaurants for most of the drive. On this Highway, you are alone with your thoughts.

If this doesn’t bother you, you are definitely up for a treat. Although the road can be tricky and steep in several parts, the Highway is pretty managed and easy to navigate.

Remember to stock up on supplies because this is one long ride.

10. White Rim Trail

Location: Canyonlands National Park, Southern Utah

White Rim Road is an approximately 100-mile-long unpaved loop. It is a very remote and moderately challenging road that runs below the Island In The Sky mesa and at the top of the White Rim Sandstone. While driving this trail, you will be treated to an expansive and breathtaking view of the area.

To access White Rim Trail, you will need a 4WD vehicle with high clearance for easy travel. It is important to note that ATVs, UTVs, and OHVs are not allowed. You will also need an overnight or day trip permit to visit the trail and the area.

White Rim Trail is one of many of North America’s Overlanding trails. Are you interested in more of North America’s finest Overlanding routes? Check out some of these routes.

The Best Trails For The Best Adventure

Although our list is nowhere near exhaustive of the many trails waiting to be discovered in the USA, it offers the promise of an unforgettable adventure. Every trail is unique and offers unique adventures in its own different ways.

It doesn't matter if you choose to visit Smoky Mountain Road or pass through White Rim Road, it is important always to go prepared. Remember to pack essential overlanding gear, drive safely, and start safe!

December 28, 2022 — Russ Hennings