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How far is "too far" for an overnighter?
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Jon Holthaus
(t25hatch) - M
How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 14:53:57 MDT Print View

This question has came up a few times amongst friends lately.

Living in Ohio there are a few great places to frequent for a weekend, however when time doesn't always allow such trips, how far are you willing to drive for a simple overnighter? By that I mean getting a few miles in before sun sets, waking up and packing the car up by noon. The closest trailhead which legally allows overnight is a two hour drive, which doesn't seem far at all to me, but some think that's crazy. How far do you drive for an overnighter and what do you consider too far?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 14:58:08 MDT Print View

2 hours seems reasonable. 3 is pushing it a bit for me, but I use to do it. A 3 day trip. 6 hours. We would all like to be closer to the trail.

Edited by kthompson on 05/12/2012 14:58:55 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 15:00:25 MDT Print View

I am 6 hours drive from the nearest decent trail and 10 hours from decent mountains.

What a bummer :-(

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 15:16:45 MDT Print View

Stephen. You just moved. Did you make it worse on yourself?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 15:52:55 MDT Print View

I did just move from Europe Ken.

Work asked us to do a 3 year stint at HQ, kind of hard to refuse in the current economic climate, I can't really complain as I have some cool trips planned while here :-)

Nathan V
(Junk) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lake State
Re: Re: Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 17:37:07 MDT Print View

I have to drive about 3 hours to the nearest trailhead and about 4 1/2 to the nearest "good" trails. I wish it wasn't so far, but it is.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Driving to hiking ratio on 05/12/2012 17:55:47 MDT Print View

Depends on how bad you need it, how good you think it might be, and how much you hate driving. Usually a short overnighter like that has to be within a few hours for me. But I have driven 2hrs for a 4hr run in paradise, and I've also driven 11hrs for just an overnight at the GGG. Both we're awesome, glad I did it. This is rare though, most overnighters are in the 45min range.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: How far for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 18:06:22 MDT Print View

About 3-4 hours in any direction for me, currently. Anymore gets to be more about driving (and getting gas, food, etc...) than hiking.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"How far is "too far" for an overnighter?" on 05/12/2012 18:11:03 MDT Print View

Closest trailhead for me is about 5-10 minutes by car and offers plenty of high desert overnight potential, but for whatever reason or excuse, I never utilize the enormous amount of public land available to me locally for short backpacks. I do most of my running out there so I don't really view it as a place I would want to backpack, but it's totally doable if you're willing to pack in all/most of your water.

I have and will drive up to ~3 hours for an overnighter, but it's a rare occasion, usually reserving time away for trips ~4-5hrs away.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 18:29:25 MDT Print View


It all depends on how bad you've been bitten by the hiking bug.

I recently drove 4 and 1/2 hours to do a 24 hour hike in the Kisatchie National Forest.

But you also have to understand that I live in one of the flattest areas of the country. I drive 90 minutes to a state park just to get some semblance of hills when I train. There is also the side benefit of free overnight parking, rangers and local law enforcement patrolling the roads and no fees or permits required for using the hiking trails.

The picture in my avatar is the sunrise on the morning of the "second day" of my 24 hour trip.

Party On,


Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 18:52:29 MDT Print View

Living in Colorado I'm extremely fortunate to have real mountains virtually in my backyard. When I lived in Colorado Springs, I could be in National Forest in 15 minutes, the trailhead was *almost* within walking distance.
Now days, the forest is 30-40 minutes from home.

For me, I wouldn't be willing to drive more than about 90 minutes for a single overnight, but that leaves probably 25 trails or areas in range.
I have driven all the way across the state, 5 hours, for something special like the Durango segments of the CT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 18:55:34 MDT Print View

Have no problem driving 5-6 hours to a trailhead in the Sierras for an overnighter. I also have the luxury of being 20 minutes to some in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Leigh Baker

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
Re:"How far is "too far" for an overnighter?" on 05/12/2012 19:00:25 MDT Print View

It's 4 hrs from my front door to the nearest trailhead (SW AR, Ouachita Mts.)I try to do a trip at least every other weekend when the weather's cool, but it doesn't always happen. On school breaks (I'm in education)I will head farther, and when summer comes I try to plan a few trips out west, and spend more time canoeing.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 19:11:46 MDT Print View

Back when gas was cheap, we would jump in the car Friday night and drive all night to get to destinations 300 or more miles away for the weekend. But with freeway access you could cover ground easily. Now that I am 2+ hours from the interstate, getting away takes more time. Mattole trailhead at the Lost Coast is 48 miles from my front door. Takes an hour and a half to get there in good weather. Easily over 2 in bad.

I've heard that half of the US lives within a days drive of the AT. I do wonder what the average drive time is for folks getting out.

Gas prices have certainly curtailed my hiking further away from home. $4.60 a gallon here. Looking to get a more economical vehicle to extend my range.

Edited by kthompson on 05/12/2012 19:17:36 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 19:38:22 MDT Print View

5-6 hours is about the max to drive after work and get decent sleep before hiking the next day. If you have more money than time, and you really, really want to get out, then it's worth it.
This is why I want to be able to 20 mile days. Not because I enjoy that sort of thing, but because I want to see as much as possible with limited time.

Andy Chasse'

Locale: The Front Range
2 hours on 05/12/2012 19:49:08 MDT Print View

2ish hours is my limit for an overnight. However I'm lucky to live pretty close to a lot of great wilderness areas...the closest Pecos Wilderness TH being <1.5hrs away and the Sandias being just over a mile from my apartment. When I lived in Houston, I regularly made a 3-5 hour drive for weekend trips.

Stephan Doyle
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 21:47:50 MDT Print View

It depends. Like so many posters, I make exceptions for "special" trips.

I drive 3-4 hours each way for winter trips, and often those are just for the day. When it's not snow season, I typically am within two hours; but again, I've driven to Yosemite (~5 hours) just for a run.

Christopher Yi
(TRAUMAhead) - F

Locale: Cen Cal
Re: How far is "too far" for an overnighter? on 05/12/2012 21:58:27 MDT Print View

Usually 4 hours or less. I can be anywhere from SEKI to Yosemite, Whitney area or Death valley. Only pro living in Bakersfield gives me good access to either side of the Sierras.

But it's more of arriving at the trailhead at 2-3AM, hike in the next day and camp, then head home the next day. I don't think I would bother with a true overnighter in your example.

Edited by TRAUMAhead on 05/12/2012 22:02:25 MDT.

Jon Holthaus
(t25hatch) - M
Re: "too far" on 05/12/2012 22:42:49 MDT Print View

Thank you for all of the great responses everyone. For me the 'bug bite' is very frequent, as my schedule allows me to get 18-20 weekends out a year, including one 4-5 day trip, three full weekend trips, leaving the rest single overnighters. Perhaps I'm looking for justification here, but I wanted to see what everyone else's thoughts were.
I was driving home this afternoon thinking, I've put ~ $40 in the gas tank (split two ways), ~ $4 in food, and managed free time that is worth more than money. In total for around $24 to get out for a single night to get a great hike in, reset the mind, and start the new week off fresh, I don't know how that couldn't be worth it.
After seeing what a few others have to drive it seems as though the 2 hr drive is a real treat. Im glad to see others that share the same passion would do the same!

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Different Transportation and Schedule From Most... on 05/13/2012 06:56:31 MDT Print View

My bike is my car, 90% of the time--including most of my hiking and camping trips. I also work the evening shift, so end-of-day for me is usually between 11 PM and 1 AM.

I've done overnight rides up to ~5 hours (~60 miles) in length to go for a day and a night at a trail before. It's an interesting experience, riding along mostly-deserted roads with the world narrowed down to just the white line to your left, the tiny area illuminated by your headlight, the occasional car racing past at 80 MPH, and the constant, Zen-like meditation-in-motion that riding becomes after the first few miles.