Five Places You Can’t Drive To

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No one likes to be told they can’t do something. Overlanders struggle with being told, “you can’t drive there,” and quickly dispatch any road-deprived destinations from their consideration. Below is a list of five amazing places you cannot access by vehicle, no matter how finely appointed it is. Not to worry, we have also included five alternatives with road access.

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (pictured above)

It is one of the most remote, wild, raw, and stunning places in all of North America. One of the last remaining landscapes with an immense network of glaciers, this national park is accessed only by water or air. Home to whales, sea lions, bears, moose, eagles, and other majestic animals, Glacier Bay National Park is a timeless wilderness dwarfing all who come to see it. With the glaciers retreating at an alarming rate, don’t wait too long to see this roadless treasure.

The Alternative: Denali National Park

Millions of visitors each year make the long drive to hopefully get a glimpse of the elusive and massive behemoth that is Denali. The tallest mountain in North America, Denali plays backdrop to a wilderness experience like few others. Not only is it road accessible, it’s an extensive drive to get there.

 

 

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Redwall Cavern, Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park

It is one of the most inaccessible wilderness areas in the United States. Forgotten by time, the mighty Colorado River meanders through the Grand Canyon exposing visitors to geological wonders beyond imagination. The Redwall Cavern is such a marvel. An alien landscape, remote beyond description, this tiny nook within the eminsity of the Grand Canyon is a contrast of scale. The sandy floor of the cavern juxtaposed against the enormous vaulted ceiling makes for a surreal experience like only the Grand Canyon can provide. 

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The Alternative: Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon

As imposing as the Grand Canyon is, to some it’s little more than an expansive hole. The vantage point is often the key ingredient to maximizing the Grand Canyon experience, and a drive to the Toroweap Overlook is well worth the long journey. Best viewed on the shoulder of winter when the light is low, Toroweap is a breathtaking vista.

 

 

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The Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Even if you made the effort to ship your vehicle to the tropical paradise of Kauai, the road ends long before you reach the Napali Coast. Accessed only by boat or on foot via the Kalalau Trail, this gorgeous beach is worthy of any bucket list. Jagged peaks jut up from the blue Pacific and pierce through the lush jungle to create an island nirvana of no equal. The cinematic backdrop to movies such as King Kong, this is a landscape not even CGI can produce.

 

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The Alternative: Cannon Beach, Oregon

The coastal magic of Oregon is something not to be missed. Not only is this natural treasure road serviced, it’s accessible by pavement. Just off Highway One, Cannon Beach is just one of the sections of the coast worth visiting.

 

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Chicago Basin, Colorado

The Rocky Mountains of Southern Colorado are an adventurer’s playground and Chicago Basin is perhaps the region’s crown jewel. To get there, many travelers opt to take the narrow gauge railway to the edge of the wilderness boundary before making the long trek to the basin on foot. Flanked by mountains reaching over 14,000 feet overhead, Chicago Basin is the place to be if you want to feel small––and alone. 

 

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The Alternative: American Basin, Colorado

A stone’s throw from Chicago Basin is American Basin. One of the more popular stops on the famous Alpine Loop, American Basin is frequently heralded as having the most beautiful wildflowers in all of Colorado. Nature photographers the world over come to this high alpine meadow to catch the light as it illuminates the peaks behind a sea of wildflowers. Get your elbows out. This tiny corner of the vast San Juan mountains is known to draw a crowd.

 

 

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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

As the name implies, your best bet for transportation in this million acre wilderness is a canoe. With more than 75% of the waters off limits to motorized watercraft, the BWCAW is a pristine wilderness with the only sounds to be heard coming from the rustle of leaves and the trickle of water as it drips from your paddle. Plying these waters today affords visitors the same etherial experience first enjoyed by French fur traders more than three centuries ago. The 1,000 miles of canoe routes combined with a strict permitting process ensures your visit will be a solitary sojourn.

 

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The Alternative: Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Not all sprawling wilderness landscapes are west of the Mississippi. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is as wild, expansive, and untamed as any place in North America. Rugged logging roads provide access to miles of coastline and bisect the region’s seemingly never ending forests.

 

North America is full of amazing destinations. While it’s nice to simply roll up on a beatiful spot from the luxury of a driver’s seat, those places far off the beaten path are equally worth a visit. 


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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.