Traveling in a van gives you the freedom to go almost anywhere in the country for an amazing summer vacation. When you want to avoid crowds and explore more remote areas, consider visiting these off the beaten path destinations this season. Keep in mind that these areas of dispersed camping or boondocking typically don’t offer any amenities, so make sure you’re prepared.
Shining Rock Wilderness Area, NC
Shining Rock Wilderness Area, located in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, has several places to set up camp, including near creeks and higher up in the mountain ridges. The area covers more than 18,000 acres and ranges in elevation from 3,300 feet to more than 6,000 feet. If you’re heading here, note that you’re required to bring bear canisters for food. Campfires aren’t allowed due to the risk of fires spreading, so make sure you have a camp stove or other cooking gear. Several trails are available for day hiking in the area, including Cold Mountain Trail, Shining Creek Trail, and Fork Mountain Trail.
Umpqua National Forest, OR
Umpqua National Forest in western Oregon provides beautiful surroundings in the Cascade Mountains. The forest has multiple places to consider for dispersed camping, where you can enjoy peace and quiet. The pine and fir trees throughout the forest offer ample shade, while Rogue River offers scenic water views. Check with rangers beforehand, since campfires are sometimes prohibited in summer. In general, you can set up camp almost anywhere in the forest, except within a mile of trailheads, picnic areas, and other developed recreation areas. The forest has more than 530 miles of trails to explore, which includes the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
Superior National Forest, MN
Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota has several areas where you can go backcountry camping in the wilderness, including Gunflint Ranger District, Kawishiwi Ranger District, and LaCroix Ranger District. Keep in mind that some areas can only be reached on foot or by canoe, so make sure you’re heading to an area where RVs or vans can go. Rustic RV campsites are also available throughout the forest. Staying in Superior National Forest gives you a chance to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or choose from more than 400 miles of hiking trails to explore. The forest has a lot to discover, including historic railroads, scenic lakes, and more.
Pine Creek Landing, FL
Pine Creek Landing in Apalachicola National Forest, located in the Florida Panhandle, provides remote places to camp near the Ochlockonee River. If you don’t mind the summer heat and humidity in Florida, you can spend quiet days fishing in the river or nearby streams and enjoying the shade under longleaf pines and other trees. The forest offers many other outdoor activities for campers, including hiking along scenic trails, such as Prospect Bluffs Historic Sites and Leon Sinks Geological Area. You can also take a scenic drive along Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway or Big Bend Scenic Byway. Other remote areas in the park are available for camping, fishing, and hiking, including Wright Lake.
Payette National Forest, ID
Payette National Forest in western Idaho covers 2 million acres of land, including heavily forested land and desert grasslands. The forest has several areas where you can set up camp in a van or RV, such as Lake Creek Dispersed Camping Area, Goose Lake, Lost Valley Reservoir, and McCall Recreation Area. From low canyons to high mountain ridges and peaks, the forest has many activities to enjoy while camping, including exploring hiking trails and fishing in rivers and high mountain lakes. For an even more remote experience, consider exploring Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, which is filled with steep, rugged mountains and other challenging terrain.
Lassen National Forest, CA
Lassen National Forest in northern California provides a great chance to enjoy the outdoors while escaping the searing heat of southern California’s national parks. The forest includes parts of both the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the Cascade Mountain Range. If you plan on visiting in summer, check for wildfires in the area before heading out. During your stay, you’ll need to have a California Campfire Permit in order to use a campfire, stove, or lantern outside developed campgrounds and recreation areas, so plan accordingly. Several areas are available for dispersed camping and RV camping, including the Butte Creek area and Hat Creek Ranger District. The forest offers hiking trails, fishing, and many other activities.
Black Hills National Forest, SD and WY
Black Hills National Forest, located in northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, offers 450 miles of hiking trails to explore while camping, as well as fishing, boating, and other activities. Despite Mount Rushmore being in the forest, you can easily stay in one of the forest’s more remote areas where you’re unlikely to run into other campers. The forest has different types of terrain, including woodlands and forests, canyons, hills, and grasslands. You can check with the Forest Service office to find dispersed camping sites that offer the kind of surroundings you want to stay in. Note that you’ll need to camp a half-mile away from developed campgrounds and recreation areas if you want to do dispersed camping or boon docking.
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, MI
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area in northwestern Michigan, lies along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. With 3,500 acres of land, this wilderness area in the Huron-Manistee National Forest offers multiple places for camping in remote areas. While camping in this area, you can hike along 10 miles of trails and go beach combing. You can also go swimming in Lake Michigan if the water is warm enough, or go fishing in Nordhouse Lake. Keep in mind that camping isn’t allowed within 400 feet of Lake Michigan’s shores, 200 feet of the lake, or 100 feet from established trails. No campfires or bonfires are allowed on the beach.
Berry Creek, NV
Berry Creek Dispersed Campground in the southern part of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest offers a great place to stay at high elevations. This remote area of the forest is 8,200 feet above ground, providing campers with picturesque views all around. While staying in this area, you can go fishing in nearby streams and rivers or hiking along trails. Berry Creek also allows mountain bikes on forest service roads if you want an exciting way to explore the area. Picnic tables and campfire rings are available at this dispersed campground, but you won’t find hook-ups for RVs, so make sure you’re prepared.
Richardson Public Land, ME
Tucked away in western Maine, Richardson Public Land offers a good spot to camp well off the beaten path in the mountains of the Rangeley Lakes Region. The land covers 22,000 acres and includes over 20 miles of shoreline on Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Richardson Lake. Ponds, streams, and lakes provide fishing spots, while trails offer a way to explore the mountains and forests. Other activities to enjoy during your summer trip include swimming, boating, and canoeing.
If you’re exploring van options to enjoy off the beaten path adventures, visit Rec Van. We have both used and new vehicles available and are here to get you exploring.