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Old 02-04-2016, 10:15 AM   #1
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How to trip plan

HI I have loved looking at the trips and backcountry roads that SMB's find. A question I have is how do you guys find and plan trips? Is there certain places that allow a SMB to camp anywhere, or do you usually park at a campground? How do you find these backcountry spots? Also Im in Indiana but planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains this April or May. Thanks
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Old 02-04-2016, 01:20 PM   #2
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I think some of this has to do with location. I currently live in Colorado and there is BLM and USFS land all over the place that I can go to and park/camp for free. However, I lived for many years in Massachusetts and I can tell you that there isn't a lot of unclaimed land in the northeast so boondocking is much harder to come by.

As far a finding spots, I use this forum and others to find trip reports that seem to have cool places to check out then I formulate my own trip around those ideas. For example, I read a trip report on this forum about a few parks in Utah that I want to check out so I pulled them up on a map and then started looking for USFS land along my route to and from the parks I plan on visiting. Once I found the USFS sites that made sense for stops along the route, I pulled up the MVUM(Motor Vehicle Use Maps) on the USFS webpage and started looking for roads that allow dispersed camping and picked a couple of spots. With this info I created a 6 day trip with what will hopefully be a handful of cool spots to explore.

Also, look for forum members that are local to the area you are looking to explore, I am sure they can help.

Here are some sites I use to help plan:

Interactive Visitor Map

CalTopo - Backcountry Mapping Evolved

BLM - The Bureau of Land Management

Example of a MVUM:
Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests Pawnee National Grassland - Maps & Publications
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Old 02-04-2016, 02:38 PM   #3
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On my side, I usually first look for things to see, place to visit, POIs, etc. Then I look for their GPS location before to input these data in Gaia GPS or equivalent apps which shows what roads/trails are leading to... Then you even can prepare GPS routes that will lead you there.
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Old 02-04-2016, 04:33 PM   #4
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I also use off road trail books and web sites to help plan a route. If somebody suggests a spot or read about somewhere in a trip report, I'll mark it on google maps. A nice thing about an SMB is you can usually find a place Just off a trail to camp but I prefer to find unique places. Sometimes I just drive with no plans at all but usually have a backup of some sort.
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Old 02-04-2016, 05:17 PM   #5
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If you're coming to the Smokies I would reserve sites on Recreation.gov or ReserveAmerica.com It's the busiest park in the nation and always full when the weather is decent. You won't find ANY dispersed (free) camping there, but you can outside of the park but it will be WELL outside of it. I have several places but they are at least an hour from the park. I recommend Cade's Cove or Elkmont campgrounds in the park. Any of the tourist towns nearby will have campgrounds too but they are parking lots basically. Not camping in my mind.
I live about 30 minutes from GSMNP but don't really go there often due to the crowds, still I'm glad to help if you need specifics. The hiking around Newfound Gap/Mt. Leconte/Clingman's Dome is beautiful.

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Old 02-04-2016, 05:36 PM   #6
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If you want information on campgrounds along the route check out the Ultimate Campground Project, The Ultimate Public Campgrounds Project - Home.

The is also Boondocking (Free Camping) although I have not found this site to be very useful.
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Old 02-05-2016, 05:50 AM   #7
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Awesome thanks guys this helps a ton! Im going to check out those sites and some places of interest. I am serious about the smoky's. I have been checking out a hike to Mount Cammerer Fire Tower, its an 11 mile hike from Crosby Campground. Looks awesome so I will reserve a spot soon there. As far as the trip my SMB is old. I was thinking of travelling with an emergency fund and plan on making some type of major repair in case something breaks along the way.
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Old 02-05-2016, 10:31 AM   #8
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Having just roughed out an itinerary for our summer roadtrip, I can answer this too.

Usually we prefer dispersed camping, and because our daughter is still young, we tend to do single-destinations trips - out and back to BLM land, a free-camp state park, etc.

For this summer, we're doing our first road trip, and the Mrs. really wanted to do some beach camping. Here in CA, that means mostly reservation-based campgrounds (especially if you want to avoid the ones that are just paved lots for big RV parking!).

I started with one destination I knew I wanted to hit (Kirk Creek Campground, on the bluffs south of Big Sur), and got one of the few available reservations there (mid-week).

Then I sort of built the trip around that, guessing how many hours per day we'd want to drive, and using Google Maps to find campgrounds along various possible coastal and mixed coastal/mountain routes. I had a lot of options - I could have done probably half the nights dispersed camping, but it would have meant covering more miles day to day. The other option was to book more days in campgrounds closer to the mean line of our route up/down the coast. The main criterion for this particular trip was minimizing the number of driving hours in a given day - my kiddo just isn't quite ready for the days of long-miles my dad used to put me and my siblings through!

The next step was looking at the various possible routes for likely activities (Wine tasting in Solvang, beach day in Pismo, touring Hearst Castle, etc. etc.) This started to give me an idea of how much time we'd like to linger in certain places (and leaving generous time allowances for spur-of-the-moment decisions).

After that, it was just a matter of making a couple extra reservations to ensure we'll be able to get into the busiest areas (beach camps always fill up during summer), but leaving a lot of other flexibility in the schedule. Knowing my wife's tolerance for too many days without showers, etc., I also charted which nights we'd be primitive camping vs. campgrounds with amenities, etc., and made sure to give her a couple of "break" nights in a hotel (for example while in Solvang, so we can walk and both taste wine instead of having to abstain since we'd be driving our lodgings around). All told, it's a 9-day trip, with only two hotel nights that will have big pay-off for wife happiness, so I think it's worth it!

If all goes as well as I hope, then we'll be able to start to tackle longer trips with longer drive stints. The process will likely be pretty similar, though - pick a key destination or two, then use maps and any other info I can get to fill in a likely route and stops along the way.
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Old 02-05-2016, 04:36 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Tkkujawa View Post
Awesome thanks guys this helps a ton! Im going to check out those sites and some places of interest. I am serious about the smoky's. I have been checking out a hike to Mount Cammerer Fire Tower, its an 11 mile hike from Crosby Campground. Looks awesome so I will reserve a spot soon there. As far as the trip my SMB is old. I was thinking of travelling with an emergency fund and plan on making some type of major repair in case something breaks along the way.
An emergency fund might not be a bad idea. Our first long trip in our 89 resulted in a lost day and a half due to the replacement of a rear main seal. That has been the only issue in the five years that we have had it. It ran great on the two week 2,600 mile trip to Canada and back last September. You might also want to get a fix on the local Ford dealers along the route.
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