Head for the Hills This Weekend: How to Execute an Impulse Road Trip

by A Manly Guest Contributor on April 11, 2012 · 42 comments

in Travel & Leisure

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jeff More.

Have you ever found yourself on a Wednesday afternoon at work wishing you could be camped out in the mountains this weekend? Stop telling yourself you can’t on such short notice, because you can. In one of AoM’s early articles, How to Streamline Your Next Camping Trip, Brett and Kate ran through the basics of pre-packing for the weekend. Today I’d like to revisit the camping bit and go a little more in-depth with how to take off and head for the hills on short notice.

In my life, I’ve found that what used to hold me back from a weekend of adventure was while I liked the idea of going somewhere, when faced with the prospect of going through the packing process and cruising into a National Park late at night only to spend hours combing campgrounds for an empty spot, thinking about sitting at home and playing Battlefield just sounded so much more appealing.

Then halfway through the weekend, I’d start feeling like I wasted the weekend when I could have done something more epic. So one day I decided to stop the cycle of regret, and I made the decision to systematically eliminate the barriers keeping me city-bound on my weekends and commit to finding a way to make weekend road trips a frequent affair. I’ve been successful in doing so by utilizing two road trip streamlining techniques: 1) finding dispersed camp spots, and 2) keeping a road trip bag packed.

An Impulse Road Tripper’s Best Friend: Dispersed Camping

What is dispersed camping?

If you live in the United States, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service (USFS), for the most part, allow “dispersed camping” in National Forests, which is camping in undesignated camp spots. These “primitive” camping areas don’t include any amenities such as toilets, trash cans, picnic tables, treated water, or fire grates, and so require campers to be self-sufficient, which happily keeps away the crowds. And best of all, camping in these areas is absolutely FREE.

With dispersed camping, you can head out and set up your tent somewhere on a whim. You may need to get a fire permit though (check the regulations in your state), which is as simple an affair as swinging by a US Forest Service office (or going online) and getting a little slip signed; once you’ve got that in hand, you’re good to go for the rest of the calendar year. The USFS permits are good for all USFS lands, so even if I pick up a permit in, say, the Los Padres National Forest, I can use it if I camp up in the Inyo National Forest too.

With dispersed camping, you get to go primitive and enjoy solitude, you don’t have to have the trip pre-planned or search in vain for a campsite, and you don’t have to pay any campground fees or deal with red tape–it’s truly a win-win-win, as far as I am concerned.

Finding a dispersed camping area

Finding dispersed camping areas will take some work at first (and you’ll probably make a few mistakes along the way), but discovering them is part of the adventure.

There are Forest Service maps available for $8 in many visitors’ centers and they usually carry maps for the surrounding districts as well. Keep in mind that if you have a favorite National Park to visit, they are often surrounded by National Forest land, and I would recommend scouting the Forest Service roads outside the entrance for a spot to your liking. Some of the back roads that I’ve found are my favorite places in the American West–many more so than the actual main drags of the big, crowded parks.

Note that different areas have different fire restrictions, as some places let you burn backpacking stoves but not the actual ground campfires you may be used to, such as in wildfire-prone Southern California. On other Forest Service lands, your glorious pyre, big enough to send smoke signals to the International Space Station, is fine as long as you police yourselves and drown it out later. There are usually big signs as you enter Forest Service boundaries that indicate what kind of fires are permitted.

Before you go, call the BLM and USFS offices and ask if they have any campfire, firearms (if you like plinking), or any other types of restrictions. Word of warning: USFS land is geographically expansive and broken up into districts with seemingly vague (to the public) boundaries, and you may be transferred when you call the main line. Often only a few or just one Ranger will be answering the phones on top of his/her other duties, so sometimes you will have to leave a message or be put on hold while they take care of a walk-in guest. Be patient–they are doing their best.

The US Forest Rangers I have met have all been very friendly and some have even recommended places for me and friends to camp and plink. Be specific and tell them you are looking for “dispersed camping” spots, otherwise they may think you are calling to find out about established campgrounds as most visitors do. Dispersed camping is generally allowed anywhere off the main road and away from civilization, but some spots are topographically and geographically better suited than others–a spot with a clearing big enough to see the Milky Way, an accessible stream, and a berm to shoot against is basically heaven to me.

Planning a Perfect Weekend Road Trip

I use the first evening spent dispersed camping as a launching off point to further destinations most people consider out of range for a weekend trip. For example, within an eight hour radius of Los Angeles, I have Yosemite, Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks, the Eastern Sierras, Zion, Grand Canyon, and Big Sur. Finding a place half or two-thirds of the way to these places to camp out Friday night lets me get a good night’s rest and tackle the remainder of the drive Saturday morning full of energy.

Here’s an example of my timeline going up the Eastern Sierras for a weekend:

  • Friday 5:30pm, punch out of work.
  • Friday 11:00pm, arrive at my scouted out camp up Highway 395 (normally 4 hours without traffic).
  • Saturday 6:00am, arise, boil water for tea or coffee, grab a Pop Tart, jump in the front seat and start driving.
  • Saturday 8:45am, arrive at trailhead in Yosemite National Park. Hike all day.
  • Saturday afternoon: scenic drive through Yosemite National Park.
  • Saturday night: camp in the Forest Service area in the area south of Yosemite.
  • Sunday morning: half-day hike in the south portion of Yosemite.
  • Sunday afternoon: drive home.

Or:

  • Friday 5:30pm, punch out of work.
  • Friday 8:30pm, arrive at my camp in the mountains north of Santa Barbara, CA. (Cold leftover) tacos and beer, read a book, go to sleep.
  • Saturday 6:00am: arise, make tea, start driving.
  • Saturday all morning: scenic drive up California’s Highway 1, stopping at every pullout, going on short walks in the Big Sur area.
  • Saturday afternoon: sunset hike.
  • Saturday night: camp in my scouted out camp spot off Hwy 1 in the Los Padres National Forest or sleep over with friends in Santa Cruz.
  • Sunday morning: drive back down Highway 101.
  • Sunday afternoon: half day hike at Pinnacles National Monument.
  • Sunday night: drive home.

Gear and Packing Tips

There are no hard and fast recommendations here, and Brett’s idea of pre-packing a big plastic tub is pretty solid, but I thought I’d walk you through my configuration as a case study. My packing procedure is:

  1. Drag road trip bag to car Thursday night.
  2. Load leftovers from the workweek, some ice and beer into ice chest Friday morning, drag to car.

That’s it. On top of the weekend gear, I strongly advise you leave a few days of life-sustaining supplies and emergency gear in your car full-time.

For my car bag, I use a 4-cube Mountainsmith hauler (though milk crates should work, too) for the duration of the weekend. I also keep a small Camelbak I was issued back in the day loaded up with the Ten Essentials along with a camera and tripod, riding shotgun. And I personally always roll with 3-7 gallons of water in the car, as some of the places I frequent are desolate and bone dry. Since dispersed campgrounds don’t offer treated water, you’ll want to bring your own in the quantities you deem necessary, or bring along a way to purify the water you take from a stream.

My set up is somewhat spartan, but I like being on the road with an uncluttered car. Besides the obvious gasoline, I have no consumables I need to resupply for a weekend trip. Being mostly self-contained lets me focus on the moment and not worry about my physical needs.

The four-cube organizer is configured as follows:

  1. Toiletries, odds and ends.
  2. Food–Mountain House meals, cookset.
  3. Clothing–usually just one change of clothes, a pair of gloves, fleece, and a softshell jacket.
  4. Shelter–tent, pad, and sleeping bag.

Hint: most of the stuff overlaps for what you’d want in a Bug Out Bag, and if you have one, simply transfer the contents into your road bag before you leave, then restock your consumables (toiletries, fuel canisters, freeze-dried meals) and repack your Bug Out Bag when you get home. I like the cube bag to keep things tidy and appreciate the luxury of an ice cold beer at camp on a Friday night, but if you want to be extra manly, hit the road with just your BOB.

Speaking of Bug Out Bags, going on frequent weekend getaways hones your preparedness, allowing you to take stock of your material needs every time you come back and teaching you about your own personal limitations. Note the things you didn’t take and wish you had, and conversely, things you took that were completely useless that just got in the way. Refine and streamline your kit.

Now Hit the Road…Or At Least Be Ready To

Leaving your bags packed and marking dispersed camp locations takes care of the hard part, and all that is left to do is decide where you want to go. Now you can make a weekend of adventure happen as often as you want it to. Problem solved, problem staying solved.

Have fun and don’t forget to leave your travel plans with a trusted friend or loved one.

_________________________

Jeff More works and resides in Los Angeles, where the four seasons are mudslides, earthquakes, riots, and wildfires. He is an avid shooter of both firearms and camera, and celebrates his American heritage by playing the 5-string banjo. Check out his website at www.skunkabilly.com.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 big_papa April 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Excellent read Jeff! Thanks for posting.

I’ve been contemplating an adventure lately but always seem to come up with the same failed results you listed in the intro. This might just be the push I needed to get out there. Thanks again.

2 James April 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Good article.
I try to live by the never waste a weekend indoors philosophy. I really need to start taking advantage of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) dispersed camping down here in Arizona. There is a lots of empty desert to camp in, rather than just taking day trips.

3 Brent Pittman April 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Jeff,
Great tips for BLM, I bet they’ll get a slew of calls from this posting.

4 Will Berlin April 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Fantastic article. Putting this into practice . . . right now.

5 Neill April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I go camping a lot, with scouts, with friends and a lot of the time just my girlfriend. we have space allocated in the garage with the different types of camping ready to go! Hiking gear, Yuppie camping or just quick camping.

6 Greg Herrman April 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm

We use to do this around Flagstaff, AZ when I was in college. Great father-son weekend. Pack a pole for trout.

7 Will April 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Nice Jeff! I can just see this with my family. I know you think my parents are cool but…

8 Jeff April 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm

James,

Congrats on living in my favorite state in the Union! Some of my best memories are in Organ Pipe Natl Monument.

As a caveat, if you are near the Mexican border, while the BLM and USFS might administer the land, you are most likely to encounter US Border Patrol out there, so make sure to call them regarding restrictions as well.

A lone person recreating and wandering the roads in an offroad vehicle is not the norm, while sadly, someone making a drug dropoff/pickup is. There is a possibility you will be stopped, searched and temporarily detained.

Much of the area is also outright closed to the public, due to human/drug smuggling activity. I love the southern Arizona mountains but for now I recommend exploring the Kaibab National Forest up north–and forget the $26 Grand Canyon Natl Park campsites! I’m just waiting for the snow to melt off the road to the North Rim….

Also, I don’t know if the Navajo Nation, which covers a substantial part of your state, allows dispersed camping, but it’ll be worth calling them. Every time I’ve called them regarding camping, they’ve been super friendly and helpful.

Neat blog, by the way. Sounds like you have quite the adventure filled life already.

9 dannyb278 April 11, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Black HIlls Natioan Forest, and The Bighorn National Forest have always been my favorite. good trout fishing.

10 Chase Christy April 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I can’t wait to take my son camping with my dad later this spring. Thanks for the tips.

11 Annalisa April 11, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Jeff, your article held my interest because you mentioned the Los Padres National Forest. The college I’m attending this fall (Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula) is situated right on the forest’s border! I’ve been trying to get my hands on more ways to safely hike and camp, and this was a perfect match. Thank you very much!

12 Kyle Ballard April 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

If you are heading to Zion your welcome at my fire anytime, as I live 20 minutes from Zion. Thanks for the great site! I am truly manlier since I’ve started reading.

13 The Dutch Dastard April 12, 2012 at 4:45 am

Bully for living in the Netherlands. I’ve been craving to do this for years, but the closest you can get to doing any of this are little spots in the relative ‘wild’ where you can set up your tent in a range of 10 meters from a designated pole. No fires allowed, nor is any woodwork.

14 Mongol April 12, 2012 at 10:57 am

In my opinion, this article is excellent and far from lazy. Not only does the author appear to have extensive experience, he also took the time to outline an example of a weekend schedule. Had he not done so, I may have still felt that a quick weekend outdoors trip was unattainable due to time constraints. For me personally, this site is all about drawing on the experiences of other men. This article certainly fits the bill.

15 Kenyan April 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

I’m actually headed to Big Sur this weekend for some camping and a concert with some friends. We’re coming from UT and it would be great if you had any suggestions about spots to check out.

I really like the idea of always being ready to rough it out in the wilderness, nice post.

16 Rob April 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Big Sur sure is nice, but I would be wary of roughin’ it off the main trail. In the fall and winter, it’s fine, but there is a lot of poison oak there.

As with anything, watch out for the flora and fauna. Also, I would suggest that this article be toned for the more experienced woodsman, due to flora and fauna risks. Just camping anywhere after dark is a bit fishy. You have to make sure it’s not in a black-berry bush or a deer-run during rut.

Be prepared!

17 Rob April 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Oh, Kenyan, didn’t even see that there.

Try to call ahead at Big Sur. Last I was there, there were only 2 rangers for the whole park. The hot springs are nice, but crowded on the weekends. I would try for Holister or Laguna Seca if you are in the area. Santa Cruz is also real nice up Hwy 9 a bit, more Bonny-Doon actually.

18 Nick April 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Really enjoyed this article a lot. Inspired me to finally get off my lazy butt and do something outside this weekend.

19 Seth April 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Great article! This is something I consider myself fortunate to be able to do, being 25 and single, I don’t have to worry about a wife or kids as of yet. Over the years, experience had enabled me to be ready for a weekend trip within an hour or less (provided I am caught up with laundry!). Serving in the military, I find this to be very helpful, because you rarely work the same schedule as your buddies, so when you both find you have a couple days off, simultaneously, you’d better grab it while you have the chance! Furthermore, being in Germany, it doesn’t just mean being ready for backpacking, but also having a sum of money in order to hop on a train and visit historical sites here, or in neighboring countries! Carpe diem!

20 Joe LaBarge April 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for this excellent post. I’m new to southern cal myself and this spring I’ve been doing a lot of research about camping in the hills. I want to take my family out and find some un-tampered land. This post couldn’t have had better timing!

21 Jim Weller April 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I love you AoM!

Summer is short in Alaska so you have to be ready to rally and maximize your weekend time (while beating others out of town).

Here’s my camping checklist. I keep this all in big plastic tubs with duct tape labels; clothes, backpacking, kitchen, tent, sleeping bags, etc.. Throw the appropriate tub in the back of the mini-van and head for the hills!

3 season camping in Alaska for Jim and SARAH
This describes my “standard load out” for one person for spring, summer, and fall camping in central and southeast Alaska. It’s prepped for cold spring and fall nights, but not extended periods in winter like conditions (less than 15 degrees Fahrenheit). This list is appropriate for trips for 14 days or less. Anything more, you should consider staging gear or at least plan more efficiently. Sharing resources as a group can save some weight (tent, stove, first aid, etc.).
Gear list
1. Pack
a. Stuff sacks
b. Contractor bags
2. First aid kit
a. See First Aid Kit Document
3. Clothes – Synthetic or wool
a. Pants
i. (core) undies
ii. (base) Long underwear
iii. (loft) Fleece
iv. (outer) Synthetic pants
v. (wind) Synthetic waterproof windbreak pants
vi. (rain) Rubber rain pants
b. Shirts
i. (core) synthetic
ii. (base) Long underwear
iii. (loft) Fleece
iv. (outer) Synthetic shirt
v. (wind) Synthetic waterproof windbreaker
vi. (rain) Hooded rubber rain coat
c. Extremities
i. Feet
1. Boots
2. Gators
3. 3 pairs of socks per 2 days
ii. Hands
1. Glove liners/light gloves
2. Windstop Gloves
3. Outer mittens
iii. Head & neck
1. Light hat
2. Heavy hat that covers ears
3. Neck warmer, scarf, or balaclava
4. Tent
a. Tent
b. Footprint
c. Rain fly
d. Poles
e. Duct tape
f. Fabric patch kit
g. Pole splice
h. Tie down lines
i. Stakes
5. Sleeping Bag
a. Sleeping Bag
b. Sleeping Bag Liner
c. Stuff sack or contractor bag
6. Stove & Fuel
a. Stove
b. Fuel (1/3 liter per person per day)
c. Repair kit
d. Lighters
e. Waterproof matches
f. Wind shields
g. Cook pad
7. Cook kit
a. Pot
b. Cup/bongo per person
c. Utensils per person
d. Knife(s)
e. Rolled up cutting board
8. Water – ¼ qt (1 liter) per day per person
a. Water filter or emergency iodine tablets
b. Sigg aluminum bottles
c. Large water canteen (platypus or equivalent)
9. Food – 2500-5000 calories per day per person
a. Coffee & spice bags
b. Sugar
c. PowCow
d. Oil/Margarine/Butter
e. 4 servings freeze dried meals per person per day
f. Bread
g. Cheese
h. Summer sausage
i. Fruit leather or fruit rollups
j. Oatmeal
k. Chocolate
l. Alcohol; liquor is quicker
m. Grains; oat meal, hot cereal, etc.
n. Comfort food (fuel intensive)
i. Brownies
ii. Corn beef hash
10. Hygiene & Body Care
a. Toilet Paper
b. Toothbrush
c. Tooth paste
d. Floss/flossers
e. Sanitary wipes
f. Gold bond medicated powder
g. Gel alcohol hand cleanser
h. Extra ziploc bags
i. Antacid
j. Hair ties
11. Personal
a. Sunglasses
b. Pocket knive
c. Bug net
d. Bug repellent
e. Bandana
12. Lighting
a. Head lamp
13. Orientation
a. Compass
b. Maps
c. Surveyor’s tape
14. Misc.
a. Binoculars/monocular
b. Book
c. Playing cards/ cribbage board

22 ctd April 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm

A “bug out bag” is ideal for such an application, being intended for what amounts to a 3 day camping trip with zero prep time.

23 Jeff More April 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Hi Annalisa,

I’ve scouted the area near you (highways 166 and 33) and haven’t found a spot I really liked in the USFS area and was a little sketched out in some spots. I’d push farther east to the area near Frazier Park, or stay at the Carrizo Plain a little farther north. It’s free but they ‘improved’ the camp, but you can still disperse camp there. If you’re new to this whole camping/hiking/outdoor thing it will be a good option. It’s one of my favorite places to camp–not very scenic but lots of cool wildlife and a good jumping off point to go up the coast.

If you’re a lady (I think you are judging by your name) it’s always good to travel with companions. I know some gals who travel alone but usually after they gain some XP and level up their spidey sense.

If you don’t have a guidebook for the area, I highly recommend the Mountaineers’ Books’ 100 Hikes in Southern California. I think it’s by Allen Riedel. Best of luck in school this Fall,

Jeff

24 Jeff More April 13, 2012 at 12:05 am

Mr Ballard, you might regret that offer! I know the BLM closed down Mosquito Cove between mile markers 23 and 24, do you know of any good spots to stay in your area?

Hi Kenyan, where in Utah are you coming from? I’ve never driven across NV or California’s central valley east-west so can’t help you there. You may try the NF in California west of Reno if you’re coming from I-80. If you live in southern Utah and coming down the I-15, check out the Mojave Natl Preserve, it’s a National Parks administered area but allows dispersed camping. Let me know your route and maybe I can help. Feel free to drop me an e-mail if you like. Have a safe drive,

Jeff

25 Jeff More April 13, 2012 at 12:15 am

Seth, thanks for your service. I hope you are enjoying Germany. I hear in Europe they do the hut-to-hut hiking/camping thing, which sounds like a hoot, in the Alps I think. Sounds like you have the right mindset and will have fun no matter where you are.

Mr LaBarge, check out my guidebook recommendation to Annalisa. Some great hikes there. Sadly, though, there isn’t a whole lot of untampered land left.

Jeff

26 ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ April 13, 2012 at 7:31 am

Highway 395 is a good route to access the eastern Sierras and there are lots of great dispersed campsites along the way (consider Saline Valley), but isn’t it a serious trek over Tioga pass to reach Yosemite from the LeeVining area?
Just askin’.

27 Jeff More April 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Mr Leonidas (?),

You’re right, and getting stuck behind the big RVs in the Yosemite Valley traffic (i avoid that place between Memorial Day and Labor Day) added much more travel time than anticipated! I think I only did that once. I did it mostly to see if the USFS had reopened spot on the south entrance of the park as we had really late snow that year. I do like the 395 much better than the 99 and 41, as I haven’t found much in the Kings-Sequoia areas to disperse camp. I think I need to make a scouting trip up there. But you’re right, the 395 is fantastic, way more options, way less people. The camel spiders (?) are trippy, though.

Neat blog, thanks for your service to our county.

Jeff

28 John Russell April 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

It is only ~8 hours strait through from so. cal. to Yosemite. push through, bed down about 1-2 am in the valley. Nobody sleeps more than a few hours on the ground anyway. be sure to go at least a 100 yards away from the car and the rangers will never find you. spent much of my early 20′s doing these lost weekends.

29 South of the Kalahari April 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Great post! I live in Southern Africa where things aren’t so nicely organized but there’s plenty of wilds (close by too). There are even places further north where you can still camp among the more dangerous wild animals (the kind that do kill you). Not the kind of thing you want to do without XP or a good guide.

Quick road trips here do need a bit more planning for safe places to stop (words like “theft” and “hijack” spring to mind – though its generally pretty safe in a group).

If any of you chaps aim to head out here, make sure to do your homework first. The very touristy spots are usually quite nice (although outrageously expensive for us locals), but seldom really in the heart of the bush. The path less traveled often does make the difference! Oh and please, in African parks (unless doing a hike with an armed ranger) stay in the car! We do tell campfire stories about the stupid foreigners who thought they could scratch a buffalo’s ear or hug a hippo…

Thanks for the blog, its great reading!

30 Culper April 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm

This picture at the top is amazing. I tried to do a tineye search for it but nothing came up. Can anyone tell me where it came from?

31 T Lee-Harris April 22, 2012 at 12:16 am

Jeff I think you just changed my life. Great read! I work 24 hours at a time as an EMT, the 48 hours I have off at a time I’ve really been trying to fill with things to do. I always come up short. Hopefully getting out in a tent with a pack and a bag will be amazing. Let’s do it gang, have fun, and enjoy the trail this summer! Ps always tread lightly!

32 Jeff April 24, 2012 at 12:12 am

T Lee-Harris, thank you! That made my morning.

33 Jeff April 24, 2012 at 12:14 am

Hello all,

I just became aware that the fire permit is a California US Forest Service thing. Your state may or may not require a permit.

The permit good for all of BLM and Forest Service land in the state of California for the remainder of the calendar year is available at Sierra Natl Forest’s site: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/passespermits/campfire_permit/campfire-index.html

Happy trails,
Jeff

34 JT April 25, 2012 at 12:09 am

I often sit in class on a friday wishing I could just get up with and walk out of class with out saying a word. go home get my kayak, tent, clothes, etc and drive to the national park for the weekend. Heres whats holding me back: parents, decent education, money.

35 Joker April 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for this. Buddy of mine and I have been discussing a trip for awhile, we had wanted to take a roadtrip on our motorcycles from NY to Vegas and the question of lodging had come up. For most of the way we had thought about camping it out. Wasn’t having much luck with my search fu regarding rules/regs and stipulations but with the “dispersed camping” keywords I’m having much better results.

36 Chris April 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Great article. I’ve done the car camping thing for years and been backpacking a couple of times, but don’t care a whole bunch for some crowded campgrounds with paved “trails”, RV’s blairing music, etc… I’ve always thought there has to be more; somewhere you can camp and actually enjoy nature. I will definitely be looking into dispersed camping spots in California!

37 Man Wall April 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Living in a city, I like to get away as much as possible. Just need a buddy and some wheels.

38 Jeff May 1, 2012 at 1:20 am

Hi Joker,

I recommend looking at your cross-country route, finding all the green spots, seeing if they are US National Forest, (Google Maps will not discriminate between US Forest Service, State Park, National Park, etc. to my knowledge, they are all green). The roads are light gray on green so you’ll have to zoom in to see them. Satellite view helps to see if they are dirt, or paved, or are a road to someone’s dwelling (these can be private roads and thus gated shut, even if they are Natl Forest land)

Sounds like you have a heck of a trip ahead of you!
Jeff

39 Aaron Lampshire May 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

A pop tart, for breakfast, as a man? Two pop tarts is around 200 calories of pure junk, and it ain’t no mans breakfast.

40 Culper May 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Does anyone know where the top picture comes from? I’d love to get one framed.

41 Vinícius August 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm

You know, I envy you for being able to do that safely. I am still figuring out a way to do this down here in Brazil, where our Parks merge with dangerous districts and drug dealing zones. So, unfortunately, we cannot park our cars and enjoy a view of the Milky Way without being somehow paranoid.

But I felt deeply pushed to try that Impulse Road Trip anyway! Thanks for that!

42 Ed Fowler April 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I’ve camped with a blanket and a couple cans of beans but my favorite spur of the moment get the hell out Dodge set up was an old Nissan pickup with a shell, a twin sized mattress, and a Sears clamshell carrier inside the shell. Food, clothes, cooking gear. I’d find a nice spot, drag out the Snail and warm up dinner. When you’re done you close the lid and you have a cubic yard of waterproof storage. Explored Montana to Calgary with that setup snd never slept or ate better.
Happy trails.

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