5 Tips For Finding Under The Radar Backpacking Spots

Find peace and solitude in the great outdoors.

By: Anna Cohen

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Sometimes, there is nothing more fun than a backcountry party. It can be a blast to connect with other outdoor folk at a bustling wilderness camp site. But, for many of us, one of the biggest appeals of backpacking is the solitude and quiet that the wild gives us. Coming over a ridge to your destination, only to find every single camp site taken, and the area packed to capacity with fellow campers can be a real downer, not to mention stressful. So, for those times when you feel like keeping your distance from the masses, try out these tips to find under the radar backpacking destinations.

Photo: Jason Zabriskie

1. Avoid Places That Have A Ton Of Information Up Online.

If a trailhead has a BUNCH of information and reviews up online, it is probably going to be super packed. If you have heard talk of a certain hike or a particular alpine lake, chances are others have too. If you choose to go on one of these popular treks, just prepare to have company along the way.

2. The Harder The Route, The Better The Chance Of Solitude.

If a trailhead is hard to find, or a route is particularly long or gnarly, you have a much better chance of having the place all to yourself. It’s like that old saying: “Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded there.”

Photo: Kathleen Morton

3. Find Wide Open Spaces On A Map.

Pull out your atlas, (Google Earth works too) and start looking. Look for lakes nestled in mountain peaks and meadows hidden in distant valleys. Most maps will say the name of these places. You can then search online (on www.theoutbound.com) and find out what you can about any trails that might lead you in the right direction. You might have to forge your own way a bit, but your chances of seeing some incredible, lesser known sights will be high.

4. Look For Places Far Away From Roads.

This goes along with numbers two and three. By looking for lakes and cool areas far away from roads, you will up your chances of being in an area that is harder to get to, less known, and therefore less crowded. Even forest service roads should be avoided, because people can still drive their vehicles on them or use them as easier access into the backcountry. If a trailhead is far away from a main road, and the directions to the trailhead say “4x4 Required”, you can assume that it’s hard to get to and that means less traffic.

5. Check Out Land Designations.

Wilderness areas can only be accessed by foot or stock. They tend to be less traveled. Most National Forests and BLM land allow dirt bikes and ATVs, so you run the risk of crossing paths with noisy motorized traffic.

Photo: Scott Kranz

The bottom line is that there are trails to certain places for a reason: they are beautiful. Popular destinations are likely going to be packed. To get away from the crowds, try out some lesser known areas, or find your own places to explore by scouring the map and getting off of the beaten path.

Cover photo: Kathleen Morton

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.