A common theme of many of my posts and articles is the desire for solitude in wild places. This doesn’t necessarily make me anti-social; just a preference to enjoy the peace and quiet that the wilderness can provide without other people to muck things up.
For those who are tired of crowds in campsites or on the trail, finding your quiet place isn’t that difficult. But don’t look here in PopUpBackpacker for directions to my favorite secret places.
Some people criticize me because I post pictures or trip reports about remote places, but don’t divulge the exact location. Those people are free to do exactly what I did. Research and physically search for favorite places. My list of places took me several decades to develop; so why should I just tell them where they are. Half the fun is finding them?
The inspiration for this post came from a post by a well known backpacking Blogger. Who it is doesn’t really matter. This person is skilled in most things outdoors and has done some very long hikes. Also he enjoys many types of outdoor activities, gets out often, and really isn’t a gear “geek.” For him it is all about getting out as often as possible. Like me, he enjoys solitude. I present this story not as any form of condemnation, but as an example of why we should not post trip reports with directions to our own personal secret places. I have one advantage over him — age. When I started backpacking there weren’t trail guides. Most popular places weren’t popular. I saw first hand how published trail guides and magazine articles can quickly and swiftly ruin special places.
Recently this backpacker did a weekend hike over one of his favorite routes; a loop he hadn’t done in a few years. Surprised, he mentioned to his hiking partner that he had never seen this particular trail with so many people hiking it. Somewhat disappointed with the crowds, they started asking people how they found out about this trail loop. He was shocked to learn that 3 out of 4 people were hiking the trail because they had read about it on the hiker’s personal blog!!
This is why I don’t post information that would make it easy to others to find my favorite secret places.
FINDING YOUR OWN SECRET PLACES
The good news is that your own secluded favorite places do not need to be far from home in remote, hard to access locations. Often you can find your own Shangri-La near popular trails or camping destinations. The trick is to study maps and find places that are somewhat off the beaten path, but accessible. There are many public lands that permit “dispersed” camping; camping that is not in developed areas, and is often free. To find the best dispersed camping, you may need to visit Government websites or even make a personal appearance at the local Ranger Station. Once you find what you think may be a great destination, you may have to physically locate it.
Get a big-ass road atlas. A map of the entire state is preferred. Now look for large areas of land that have few roads on it. And if the road is designated “unpaved” that is a good sign!
Now start drilling down to the large portions of vacant public land. The Internet is helpful. Your best bet are lands that are managed by the Federal Government such as the National Forest Service (NFS), National Park Service (NPS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Often you can view maps online, but it is better to contact the agency and purchase a paper map. Many maps will indicate how the land is designated for use. For example, you cannot drive in designated wilderness areas.
Now that you have located an area you want to go, study the rules and regulations for the area. Typically, if there is a charge for a specific camping site, then there are going to be people there when you arrive — bad idea. Some areas will be designated as dispersed camping areas — that is good!
I have a few secret campsites we take our camper, which are 5-10 miles from popular and crowded campsites. And we typically can go to these places anytime of the year, to include holidays, and will rarely see other people. Of course, I am not going to tell you where these places are.
WHERE NOT TO LOOK
If you think that trail guides or camping directories will yield secret places; think again. These do the reverse. As soon as someone includes your secret place in a trail guide or other publication, to include the Internet – the secret is out and your secret place is no longer secret and no longer secluded.
The good news is that most people are too lazy to try and find their own secret places. They rely on someone else to do their homework. So NEVER disclose the location of your secret places.
For an example of my trip reports that do not disclose the location, but might inspire others to find their own secret places read Hike to a Secret Place or Joshua Tree Two-Day Grand Loop. It is possible that you might be able to locate the route or area of both these hikes, but most people aren’t going to try because there are no trails, little or no water, and no GPS tracking do-hickeys.
Sometimes I do trip reports of places that are not well known or rarely visited. For these places, it is unlikely folks will try the routes because they are too difficult to locate, navigation is not easy, or water is sparse. Some you might want to read are Butler Canyon Loop or San Jacinto Loop or Lake Mead Walk About.
For more on methods of finding great camping spots (more for camping not backpacking) read my article on Boondocking.
COMMENTS AND CRITICISMS
My site has no comments page if you want to criticize my thoughts. But if you are not one to find your own off-the-beaten path places — you might want to try it. Much more satisfaction to find a great hike or camping spot on your own with a little detective work, than posting on a forum “where should I go” or following the crowd via a trail guide.
Good luck and happy backpacking/camping.