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Old West Routes
 

Use the Route tab to explore options by desired time and pace on the trail.  

Our Scouting Reports & GPS Tracklogs retrace the paths blazed to old west frontiers by early pioneers and prospectors. They left an ideal overland explores playground in their wake; remote pack trails, wagon roads, water routes, ghost towns, boom camp survivors, mine relics, colorful history and a spirit for adventure that inspires. 

 
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North American Overland Journeys
 

Location tabs are the fastest way to find geographic regions of interest and interconnected trails.

All of our Scout Reports and GPS Tracklogs flow continuously from one interesting region to another, state-to-state, province-to-province, nation-to-nation using as little pavement as possible, and when we do, it tends to be byways versus freeways.

 
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Go Deeper: Foot, Bike, Horseback & Watercraft
 

For many, self-reliant vehicle overlanding is the adventure. Others Go Deeper. 

All our Scouting Expeditions provide opportunity to hike, bike and backpack. Many routes also provide equestrian and watercraft journey extensions. We’ve flagged some favorites to inspire you to take your overland adventure to another level.

 
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Explore what fascinates you the most.
 

Every Scouting Expedition is researched to travel through Old West Frontiers rich with interesting trails, tales and relics. 

The roar of the rush has subsided, but imprints linger; ghost towns, abandoned rails turned to trails, surviving boomtowns that retain the charm of yesteryear continue to outfit today’s adventurers with supplies, historical lodging and spirits. Look deeper, and you will find signs of Native America.

 
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Choose Your Pace & Challenge
 

As most of our Scouting Expedition GPS Tracklogs are interlinked, the base route is most often Easy or Moderate, but we explore Difficult options along the way. Some can be overgrown and sometimes barley visible, making them that much more appealing for those looking to build that into thier own adventure. Three broad categories are used but beware, what is Easy today can be Difficult tommorow, due to environmental conditions (see Go Prepared). 

 
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Get Lost in the Journey
 

One of the greatest pleasures associated with 4WD vehicle overlanding is the ability to wander at will, as one trail leads to another in a maze of options. However, advance research can help you explore routes that fascinate you the most and can make the most of your time.

There is nothing wrong with using a map and compass for guidance. In fact, you should always have them with you. But GPS technology and affordable mapping software really empower you to free-flow and always have a sense of where you are, at all times.

 

Go Prepared

The sport of Overlanding is all about being self-sufficient and ready, mentally and physically, for whatever you might encounter on roads less traveled. Ensuring you and your vehicle are prepared tends to go a long way in giving you the confidence to enjoy the journey. Having said that, way too many people spend all of their time preparing and never actually get on the trail. Don’t let the perceived need to have the best vehicle and equipment hold you back. Simply choose routes suited to your skill set, experience and current equipment. Whether you choose to stay entirely on easy paved by-ways and well-graveled roads or go deep into more remote backcountry on barley visible frontier trails, you should always have an idea of where you will resupply for critically important staples such as fuel and water.

Consider Training, Overland Trade Shows, Expedition Vehicle Rentals & Group Excursions

The best way to improve your skill set quickly is to take some form of training. Such providers as Overland Training Institute provide insight that can springboard you forward, gaining the knowledge and confidence needed to safely broaden your horizons. I have personally experienced several training excursions with Tom Severin of Badlands Off Road Adventures that really added confidence for my family with new types of terrain and with such things as using a winch in complicated situations. Equally helpful is the incredible array of courses, products and inspirational sessions available at Overland Expo; Vehicle preperation, driver training, map & compass/star/GPS navigation, vehicle recovery, field repair, logistics, balancing vehicle modifcations with GVWR, first aid and inspirational sessions of all types. The depth and breath of the offering is outstanding but can overwhelming. Don’t try to learn everything at once. Leave time to meet like-minded enthusiasts you can travel with, also achievable with clubs such as North West Overland. They plan trips for all interest levels through their community forum, but encourage members from everywhere. Each area and vehicle types has similar clubs. Another training tool are major planned annual events such as Moab Jeep Safari, a week of highly organized daily treks for every skill level, with seasoned spotters, and backup if you have mechanical problems; a great way to broaden your skill set surrounded by keen enthusiats and incredible scenery. Tonto Trails rent fully equipped expedition vehicles for self-guided expeditions, so you can experience (test) properly equipped vehicles; Sportmobile or RAM with 4Wheel Camper. California 4x4 Rentals rents fully kitted out JK's. No Limit Expeditions offers guided tours in their fully equipped expedition Land Rovers to excotic destinations and provide driver training, as well as gourmet meals, as you go. These are but a few examples. Follow forums or Google that for more ideas. 

Learn to “Pick Your Line” Carefully

Unlike the sport of Rock Climbing, few Overlanders go looking for highly aggressive terrain. However, it does make sense to prepare for the day that you encounter obstacles and you want to avoid doubling back or when it is imprerative that you carry on.  Experience has shown, learning careful tire placement can get you around many major obstacles, even with a stock 4x4 in low range and all terrain tires. I have observed bone stock units travel unscathed on difficult trails along side highly modified rigs, by talented drivers picking the right line. Where possible, use a spotter to ensure your clearing obstacles and picking the path of least resistance. If your alone, get out often to ensure your line is correct. I wore out a seat cover doing just that. In situations where momemtum is not required, go slow and when you feel any resistance or wheel spin, back-up and shift your line. Sometimes moving over 6 inches can make a huge difference as can staking rocks to improve undercarriage clearance or to avoid side-panel damage. Participating in events such as Moab Jeep Safari on trails slightly beyond your normal skill level is a great way to learn how to read a line, with the aid of expert spotters. Badlands Off Road Adventures offers training courses on starting rock crawling as well as trail runs for all levels. Assuming your vehicle is short wheel base and equipped properly (or take a Jeep Safaris rental Jeep), you can kick it up a notch and take Badland Offroad Adventures guided training tour on the infamous Rubicon Trail; four days of constant, diverse and difficult rock obstacles, with expert spotting support. This may not be for everyone, but it is an excellent emersion course on learning how to pick a line, that can increase your confidence overnight, and enable you to pick better lines on all types of trails and situations. Equally important is knowing when its time to turn around, "Fear" is often wisdom in the the face of danger. 

Specialty Publications, Internet Research & Community Forums

Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, staying abreast of the latest trends, products and services has never been easier. In addition, the wide selection of off-road and special interest outdoor publications, Internet makes shopping for information, products, advise and inspiration incredibly easy. Best of breed for our sport, is Expedition Portal Forum and Overland Journal, but there are so many more great sources; North West Overland, FJ Cruiser Forum, Land Rover Forums, Jeep Forum, JK Forum, Tacoma World, Pirate 4x4, to name just a very few. Google will take care of the rest. 

Now Affordable & Easy-to-use: GPS Adds Peace-of-mind, Confidence & Empowers You To Freestyle 

Printed maps are a necessity, as electronics can fail. The more detailed the better, but if you’re doing long distance travel, detailed scale topographical maps can be expensive and difficult to get for your full journey, making it hard to plan wide-path route contingencies for the inevitable detours. In addition to ensuring you have a reliable vehicle, one of the most important investments in safety Overlanders can make is ensuring they can always find their way to fuel, water and food. You may already posses the technology you need. All iPhones, GPS enabled iPad and Android tablets/smartphones, and of course, dedicated GPS devices can be used without a cell phone signal and associated fees, as they feed off GPS satellites directly (just make sure you shut off your Data Roaming to avoid fees). Mapping software such as GaiaGPS.com lets you download all the maps you need for a one-time fee of $9.99 for Android and $19.99 for iPad/ iPhone devices. The flat fee enables you to load as many Map Tiles as you want for your trip. Make sure you load a much wider area than your planned route in case you have to go around unexpected detours. Even if you prefer using printed maps, it still makes sense to have GPS technology in case of emergency, much the way you should always carry a tow strap but try to avoid using it. There are a growing number of websites that provide GPS tacks and waypoints for free download such as EveryTrail, Trailspotting and Adventure Rider. Adler Publishing and FunTreks each have a wide series of excellent printed trail guides and FunTreks sells GPS Data Data Cards and offers free waypoint downloads from their website and on EveryTrail.

Carry Printed Maps & Compass Even If You Are Using GPS

If you plan to explore from paved byways and maintained gravle roads, all you will need are conventional maps. However, if you plan on exploring unmaintained backroads, detailed topographical maps are the best. Since you may have to travel outside that region, a mapbook for each province/state you are in, is the most common printed backup solution (Benchmark or Delorme). Whether your using our GPS/GPX tracklog or freestyling, it is always a good idea to get familiar with the lay of the land before you go. Follow your planned route on maps, look for alternative trails nearby for easy reference. Google Earth is a great way to actually see and navigate the terrain, but don’t be fooled, a birds-eye view can make roads look a lot smoother than they are. While you’re following the route on your printed maps or GPS device, look for towns where you can resupply. If you cannot obtain detailed Topo maps, you can load our GPX file into your mapping software and take screen shots of your planned route for printing, should your electronic devices fail.

In the USA Look For Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM)

It is the public's responsibility to reference the Motor Use Vehicle Map (MVUM) of the National Forest and Grasslands they are traveling in to determine designated routes for motor vehicle use. The MVUM are updated annually, to correct mapping errors or discrepancies and year-to-year land use changes. MVUM show which roads are open for vehicle use, type/size of offroad vehicle and where dispersed camping is available. Not all forests have MVUM. Check on-line for map download and printing options. Free maps are available from Forest Service offices and by mail, as well. While not intended to replace your topographical maps, they are another printed field reference. 

Never Before Has It Been Easier to Carry More Than One GPS Enable Device

Because there are so many GPS enabled smart phones/tablets, it make sense to carry electronic back ups. I like to use an iPad to navigate my planned route or track where I’m at while freestyling, because of the easy-to-see screen size (RAM makes mounts for every type of vehicle type and device). I also like the large screen when I have to plan a detour. With a squeeze of fingers I can enlarge/reduce the scale and surf the region (parked of course). Even if you choose to use a tablet, you likely have a smart phone. Check to see if it is GPS enabled. Again buying an application for as little as $10 or $20 is a wise investment. It gives you another source if you run out of power or have technical problems. I do a lot of traveling by myself, so I also carry a dedicated Garmin GPS device. I have my routes loaded on several devices. If your traveling with friends that have GPS enabled devices, encourage them to bring them along. Even some cameras, have GPS capabilities that can act as backup. Make sure you check you’re route with Internet access turned off before you leave home, as you may think you have off-line Map Tiles loaded, but they are actually being read off Internet. 

USGS Great Source Of Historical Routes & Points of Interest

GPS Software will often provide more than one map type to download for your trip planning. With GAIA I most often choose USGS in the US, as these maps are very old, and have roads that go back to the first frontier routes. Such fabled routes as the Pony Express and Oregon Trail are still shown as are many unsung heroes of the frontier west. It is a mixed blessing because many of the routes shown are long since abandoned and are now just a shadow in the landscape (but some overlanders like them that way). Other trails are now inaccessible because they are on private land or being used by the military. Newer freeways are sometimes not shown on these maps, but we tend to avoid these anyway, so that’s an easy trade-off. All USGS printed maps are available on-line via GAIA maps and what a collection for $10-$20.00. If your like me, and love printed maps, you will appreciate that digital versions still look like the old topo maps you have come to know, but now you can enlarge/reduce the scale as needed with your reading device, which helps make up for the fact that you can no longer feel them.

Be Prepared To Plan Alternate Routes As You Go

It will happen, a route that is rated Easy or Moderate will now become Difficult, because of erosion or weather. Our supplied GPX tracklog may have passed on private land that was open to the public at the time, but the land owner has since elected to put “No trespassing” signs up. If your in a National Forest, Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) are published annually and the government may decide to close what was designated open previously for environmental or safety reasons. You may see a region off in the distance, that interests you more and want to navigate to it. Again, I use GAIA Maps as an example because that is what I know, but there are many more options out there. The software is easy to learn and navigate, a personal prerequisite. When I need to reroute, I really like my iPad. Two fingers lets me change the scale, a swipe lets me skate around quickly and follow possible new routes around the obstacle I encountered, dropping waypoint flags for one or two options as I surf. The adjustable scale makes it easy to estimate the distance to major roads, fuel and decide if it makes more sense to double back versus taking an unknown route, which may still require more detours before reaching a gas station.

Laptop is Great Pre-Planning & On-trail Contingency Route Tool

Garmin provides an excellent program called ‘Basecamp’ with Gramin Maps I like to use on my computer in tangent with GAIA USGS maps on my tablet (many other combinations out there). The dual reference adds confidence when booth maps have the same road, and I always find some trails, points of interest or some clues to the regions frontier history on one map and not the other. Basecamp may have some of the latest roads not on USGS maps. To be fair GAIA also provides more current map downloads such as Open Cycle for the same flat fee, but I have come to respect the importance of having more than one map device, given the amount of solo travel I do. While traveling through the Black Rock Desert, I encountered a government closure of a mountain pass I had planned to use. That forced me onto an unplanned route and at one point the USGS GAIA map tiles I had loaded on my iPad ran out. I could have used my Garmin handheld to plan a route, but I find the screen small and slow for surfing around to see where the route will take me. I linked my Garmin handheld to the my laptop and sent my current track from the handheld to Basecamp on my computer, quickly planned a detour route with waypoint flags and sent it back to my handheld Garmin. I always carry a laptop to look at the days photographs by the campfire, and now to help plan GPS alternatives as needed. Since I use both types of mapping software/devices for planning, I often have tracks and contingency trails at the ready on two devices, before I leave for more remote routes. 

Power Invertors, Powerpacks & Chargers 

With such a reliance on electronics, another indispensible tool for overlanders is a power inverter that will allow you to recharge devices off your vehicle battery. Invertors can be plug into a cigarette lighter, or better yet have them permanently wired, so you can recharge your devices while driving. Installing multiple outlets enables you to keep electronics topped off, ready for remote use and avoids weakening the starting battery while parked or burning fuel to simultaneously run the vehicle. There is also a wide array of power packs available that can be charged in advance, or while traveling, that can charge/power portable electronic devices while camped and when you go deeper by foot, bike, boat or horseback. Many can also be used to boost your vehicle. Remember your invertor could fail as well. If you have a battery powered GPS device carry lots of extra batteries.

Vehicle Backup Power

Very important to backcountry travelers, is having a backup for their vehicle should the starting battery fail. At a minimum, if you’re traveling with others (which is always recommended), carry a set of booster cables. There are all types of portable battery packs available, some the size of cell phones, that will give your vehicle a starting boost, if you are travelling by yourself. However, you could experience a total failure where the battery will not recharge while driving, albeit rare. The safest option is to have dual batteries, preferably the same brand and style. You may not have room under the hood, and have to secure your second battery in a leak proof container. Dual batteries also add peace-of-mind when you have such consitent draws as electric fridges. With the aid of automatic disconnects you can ensure that the vehicle starting battery will always have power. 

Sufficient Water, Food & Gasoline (Where you will resupply?)

Always bring more food than you will need for meal occasions. If you are using a cooler, make sure some reserve food is non-perishable. Most important, however, is water. The human body can go without food for weeks, but a matter of days in desert hot conditions can be life threatening without water. Good rules of thumb are a minimum of 1-gallon/4 liters of water per day per person, and add some for emergencies or more if your're planning activities like hikes. Running out of fuel can also be life threatening if it leads you to run out of water and food, or being exposed to severe elements. Our Scouting Reports, are not intended to be a recommended or definitive route. We don't like to list available gas stations, because on the edge of civilization, they are not reliable. What is open in one trip may be closed on the next. Listing them as gas sources may be more damaging to overlanders counting on them. It is important that you have a good sense of your own vehicles range, and where you will get fuel as you travel. Don’t be fooled by the size of the dots beside a town name on maps of backroads. Many are no longer there, and few small towns and hamlets on the fringe of civilation sell fuel, even if there is a convenience store. If not sure, use the Internet and call ahead and talk to locals. Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to carry extra fuel containers, mounted externally of course, to ensure that you have notably more than required to reach your planned destination, in case you have to take a detour or double back. When you come across gas stations, always top off fuel and water. I like to carry 10 gallons of fuel in reserve.

 

Safety, Recovery Equipment & Tools

In addition to the previously mentioned booster cable, dual battery or booster pack you should always carry a first aid kit, a shovel, axe, portable bow saw, tow hooks, tow/pull strap and a tree strap (protect trees you may need to use and doubles nicely to wrap around large rocks as anchors). Even if you do not require a Hi-lift jack due the amount of lift/tires your vehicle has, it can be an extremely valuable tool if your vehicle gets stuck or high centered. Simply being able to jack it high enough to pile up some rocks under the tire to clear an obstacle, may be all that you need. Hi-lift jacks can even be used as a come-along. But research how they should be used on-line, watch Youtube videos or better yet take some training, as they can be dangerous, with inexperienced operators. Optional but helpful, is having a wider base for soft terrain to prevent the jack from sinking or slipping. There are many metal basses offered, but a good solid piece of wood will suffice. Carry tools, even if you are not mechanically inclined, as you may encounter someone who is while having difficulties or they can be used to help someone else. Look for a balance between storage space, weight, cost and likely need. Basic screwdrivers, pliers, a complete set of Allan wrenches, wrench set or wrenches for the sizes found on your vehicle; metric and/or imperial sizes. A compact, but complete socket set can be very helpful. A socket extension and crowbar can be valuable when you need reach or leverage. Taking the time to follow forums suited to your vehicle brand can help identify typical problems you might encounter, spare parts and tools you should carry for field repairs. 

Traveling Alone

Again, it is always better to travel with more than one vehicle. You can pool your recovery equipment and help each other in time of need. If you find that you like or need to travel alone, then having a winch can prove beneficial to get your vehicle unstuck or to move trail obstacles (can help in groups as well), such as downed trees. If you frequent desert terrain, where there are few trees, you may want to invest in an anchor system, such as Pull Pal. It can be a lot more effective than trying to dig a hole in rock hard dirt/sand, big enough to bury your spare tire as an anchor. Of course, there are trade off’s. Where will you store it safely (some recovery bumpers have attachments i.e. AEV) so it does not become a missile in your vehicle? The added weight needs to be considered, as does the cost. Think about how you will call for help in case of medical or vehicle emergencies. Such devices as “Spot” personal locator and messenger devices that do not require cell service should be considered. CB radios are useless in emergency situations as they don't have the range and are only helpful for such group events as Moab Jeep Safari. HAM radios are a more viable option but require training and liscence. Satellite phones have become more affordable (e.g. Globalstar $500) as have usage plans ($40 per month) and are the easiest to use.

Vehicle Modifications

There is no end to the modifications that can be done to prepare a vehicle for Overlanding. In fact, it can be trap. For most of the 30 plus years I have been involved in the sport (we used to call it camping), I most often used my daily driver, a stock Jeep, with limited modifications; Off-road tires, skid plates and tow hooks. Now that we are going further and deeper into remote regions for long periods, we have stepped it up. There are many capable vehicles right out of the box, that already have the basic options you need for Easy and many Moderate trails. Ground clearance is important, as is traction, so select the right tires for the terrain you want to travel. Lift kits are not always necessary. Adding weight to a vehicle or having the ability to traverse very rocky sections, may warrant it. Use as little lift as you can to accommodate the tires you want to use, keeping your center of gravity as low as possible, to retain the vehicles stability. Skid plating can provide added protection. Consider light weight alternatives. An air inlation system, portable or built in, enables you defalte tires for better traction and a smoother ride on rough trails. If you’re interested in navigating boulder strewn trails, steep sliprock and other technical terrain, consider rear and possibly front lockers, as well as sway bar disconnects. The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes equipped with these options, but aftermarket products are readily available for most vehicles suited to Overlanding. Of course, there is so much more; recovery bumpers, rock rails, beefier differential housings, stronger axels, reinforced suspension products, to name just as few.

Modifications, Repair & Weight Considerations

Most major modifications have a ripple effect. If you add tires and rims that are significantly larger than stock, you will likely need a lift kit, Hi-lift jack and recovery bumper with a swing away tire carrier that can hold the weight. Jointly, they add more weight and alongside all your camping gear and extra water/fuel, that weight adds stress to factory breaks, axels, frames, suspension products, steering box, CV joints, differential housing and much more. As a result, you may have failures or feel a need to strengthen other components to avoid doing so. For example, our 2007 Wrangler Rubicon slowly grew to 7200 lbs, leading to the need for a V8 and transmission transplant. Think long and hard about everything you change or add. For example, Beadlock rims sound appealing because they can let you air-down tires to 5lbs if you need the traction. Technically, they are supposed to be easier to take off the rim for field repair, but that is not always the case. Experience has shown that getting a flat fixed on a Beadlock rim can be extremely difficult, even in Phoenix where 4 million people live, never mind the “Hootervilles” you typically find yourself in, as very few have experience doing the work. Most tires on conventional rims (which have the added advantage of being lighter) can be aired-down to 20 lbs, that may be suited to 95% of the trails you want to do, and aired-down more for special situations. Because most of my scouting trips for Overland Frontier are solo, I have overcompensated on convernience, recovery and specialty equipment. This has come at a price and considerable additional weight, important considerations.

As stated on opening, the sport of Overlanding is all about being self-sufficient and being ready, mentally and physically, for whatever you might encounter, as you travel through incredible scenery on roads less traveled. Know your personal limits, that of your vehicle and equipment. Assume what can go wrong, will go wrong – and prepare for it – just in case it does. 

 

OverlandFrontier.com Must Come To An End

It is with a heavy heart that we must advise our supporters that we are forced to close the Overland Frontier website. While the site was only open for one year, we started development many years earlier. Since that time the importance of a mobile friendly website has increased. We hope we can be back one day, with a new and improved resource for overland routes. We have so many more Treks, Journeys and Expeditions that we did not have time to showcase. We are anxious to find a new mobile-friendly channel to share these routes with other enthusiasts and we are open to ideas and partners; contact rogermercier@me.com

In the meantime follow our expeditions on Facebook