North America is an incredibly diverse continent. It offers copper deserts and emerald swamps as well as towering mountains and flat, expansive prairies. And overlanding provides the perfect way to truly experience every part of it.
Overlanding combines the rugged adventure of off-roading with long-term camping, allowing you to get away from it all and embrace nature. If you’re ready to pack up the car and leave the highways behind, these are some of the best places to go overlanding in North America.
Smoky Mountain Road, Utah and Arizona
The name calls to mind the great tree-covered mountains of the southeast, but Smoky Mountain Road is visually the opposite. This 78-mile dirt road takes you away from it all through remote deserts at thousands of feet of elevation.
As you can imagine, this isn’t a road to take unprepared. It’s a six-hour drive one way, but you’ll see some incredible sights, such as Kelly’s Grade, Lake Powell, and Navajo Mountain.
Rubicon Trail, California
When we use the expression “I’ve crossed the Rubicon,” we’re actually referring to the Rubicon River in Italy. But in the US, this phrase calls to mind this infamous trail near Lake Tahoe in California. There’s a reason Jeep borrowed the name, after all.
This trail is significantly shorter than Smoky Mountain Road—a mere 22 miles—but it’s by no means easy. The sharp rocks and sheer inclines will require a precise and experienced driver equipped with the necessary overlanding recovery gear,and the road can be crowded, depending on the day. But its view of the Sierra Nevada is unreal.
South Core Banks, North Carolina
Most overlanding trips happen out west in the deserts and mountains. But if you want to mix things up, you can head over to the East Coast and hit the beaches of the South Core Banks in North Carolina. South Core Banks is good for people who want the feeling of getting away from everything without going too far from civilization. There aren’t any mountains or rocks to contend with, but keep in mind that driving on sand poses its own challenges, especially at night.
North Copper Logging Road, British Columbia
If you want to hit the trails in the winter, there’s nowhere better to go than Canada to see some incredible vistas and wildlife. And if you’re heading to the Great White North, then North Copper Logging Road is one of the best places to go overlanding in North America in the winter. This 43-mile-loop logging trail takes you through the woods of British Columbia past the Zymontez mine.
Like the Rubicon, this trail is not for the novice off-roader. It has quick altitude changes, loose gravel roads, and frozen rivers to navigate. Even so, you’ll be able to see some incredible mountain views.