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Old West Routes

Use the Route tab to explore options by desired time and pace on the trail.  

Our Scouting Reports & GPS Tracklogs retrace the paths blazed to old west frontiers by early pioneers and prospectors. They left an ideal overland explores playground in their wake; remote pack trails, wagon roads, water routes, ghost towns, boom camp survivors, mine relics, colorful history and a spirit for adventure that inspires. 

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North American Overland Journeys

Location tabs are the fastest way to find geographic regions of interest and interconnected trails.

All of our Scout Reports and GPS Tracklogs flow continuously from one interesting region to another, state-to-state, province-to-province, nation-to-nation using as little pavement as possible, and when we do, it tends to be byways versus freeways.

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Go Deeper: Foot, Bike, Horseback & Watercraft

For many, self-reliant vehicle overlanding is the adventure. Others Go Deeper. 

All our Scouting Expeditions provide opportunity to hike, bike and backpack. Many routes also provide equestrian and watercraft journey extensions. We’ve flagged some favorites to inspire you to take your overland adventure to another level.

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Explore what fascinates you the most.

Every Scouting Expedition is researched to travel through Old West Frontiers rich with interesting trails, tales and relics. 

The roar of the rush has subsided, but imprints linger; ghost towns, abandoned rails turned to trails, surviving boomtowns that retain the charm of yesteryear continue to outfit today’s adventurers with supplies, historical lodging and spirits. Look deeper, and you will find signs of Native America.

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Choose Your Pace & Challenge

As most of our Scouting Expedition GPS Tracklogs are interlinked, the base route is most often Easy or Moderate, but we explore Difficult options along the way. Some can be overgrown and sometimes barley visible, making them that much more appealing for those looking to build that into thier own adventure. Three broad categories are used but beware, what is Easy today can be Difficult tommorow, due to environmental conditions (see Go Prepared). 

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Get Lost in the Journey

One of the greatest pleasures associated with 4WD vehicle overlanding is the ability to wander at will, as one trail leads to another in a maze of options. However, advance research can help you explore routes that fascinate you the most and can make the most of your time.

There is nothing wrong with using a map and compass for guidance. In fact, you should always have them with you. But GPS technology and affordable mapping software really empower you to free-flow and always have a sense of where you are, at all times.

Anza Borrego Desert Iconic Trails & Oasis Journey

Anza Borrego Desert Iconic Trails & Oasis Journey


Over five hundred miles of four-wheel drive roads and one hundred miles of hiking/biking trails provide remote access into the largest desert state park in the United States; 1000 square miles of diverse terrain ranging from badlands, narrow sandstone canyons, palm tree oasis and snow capped mountains. 

Borrego is a Spanish word for Bighorn Sheep and Anza honors the first expedition into the region by Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza in 1774. While American patriots fought for their independence from England, Anza led about 240 people 1,800 miles overland through this desert to settle and protect Spain’s claim to Alta California by settling an outpost they called el río de San Francisco.

500 miles of diverse 4WD trails across badlands; range from easy-going sandstone canyon trails to narrow articulation-testing trenches, steep hill climbs and two-track canyon drop-offs.

Largest Desert State Park in the United States

TREK SERIES A: The Great Overland Stage Route of 1858, Carrizo Gorge RR & Sandstone Canyon Drop-off Trails

We retraced elements of the 1858 Great Overland Stage Coach Southern Route that passed this way on its 2795-mile journey. This part of the route travels along ancient native trails and camps. By 1919, the San Diego Imperial “Impossible Railway” used 17 tunnels to cross the ominous Carrizo Gorge, home to the tallest wooden trestle in the US, now a popular cross-country hiking and scrambling destination. Moving north, two interesting trails that drop into the Fish Creek Canyon were explored; the Canyon sin Nombre and the Seco del Diablo (Dry Devil) and Tapiado loop leading to Diablo Drop-off and the more exciting “Squeeze" and breadthtaking Pinyon Drop-off, both narrow one-way routes.

TREK SERIES B: Sandstone Canyon, Palm Canyon Oasis & Truckhaven Extreme Off-Road Playground

Any Anza-Borrego expedition should have the Sandstone Canyon on the roster. Dropping into Fish Creek Canyon, the Sandstone Canyon gateway, from the Diablo Drop-off, or the more difficult Pinyon Drop-off trail takes the expedition to another level, but easy access is available via Split Mountain Road, our exit point. Before leaving Fish Creek Canyon we take in the Wind Caves; an ancient marine bed, now eroded shallow caves with panoramic views of the surrounding Carrizo Badlands. Making our way to the Salton Sea, we explored a confusing, rough and barren network of dirt roads in Ocotillo Wells OHV Park across the Borrego Badlands. We preferred an alternative route along Borrego Springs Road, that passes 130 incredible metal sculptures scattered across the desert floor, on the way to Palm Canyon, an outstanding short hike into a lush oasis frequented by Big Horn Sheep. The Coyote Mountains region can be explored by 4WD and the canyon by foot on the way to the giant extreme off-road playground, Truckhaven; thousands of acres of narrow articulation-testing trenches, steep hill climbs and drop-offs before exiting at the Salton Sea.

Full Journey:
Scouting Synopsis
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Trek Stage A : Overland Stage Route, Carrizo Gorge RR & Sandstone Canyon Drop-off Trails  

Overland Stage Route, Carrizo Gorge RR & Sandstone Canyon Drop-off Trails

The first series of Trek Legs in our Anza-Borrego scouting expedition provides an incredible array of terrain to choose from. Leg 1 of the scouting expedition starts on several Easy trails, just above the Mexican border, in the most beautiful rugged desert region in Anza Borrego encountered - see Trek Leg 1 below. Ancient tribes were attracted to the palm trees, a universal symbol for water and life. The boulder-strewn Jacumba Mountains supply relief from the afternoon sun and nesting sites for the golden eagle, an important spiritual symbol for the Kumeyaay natives, who still consider this Piedras Grandes cultural preserve sacred. We traveled up the iconic Butterfield Overland Stage Route to Blair Valley to explore prehistoric village and ceremonial sites. From there those looking for an Easy route to Sandstone Canyon, a must on any Anza-Borrego expedition, can jump to Trek Leg 4. Two more adventuresome routes into the canyon were explored. Trek Leg 2 starts Easy by traveling through Canyon sin Nombre and retracing surviving dirt sections of the Overland Stage Route. Trails became more technical as we scouted the Seco del Diablo (Dry Devil) and Tapiado loop leading to Diablo Drop-off, now a Moderate route after the parks department graded a portion. Trek Leg 3 provides a Difficult alternative through the more exciting “Squeeze and Pinyon Mountain Drop-off into Fish Creek. Both Leg 2 and 3 are narrow one-way routes (see detailed Trek Leg  Scouting Reports below).  Leg 4 travels the Easy Fish Creek Canyon trails, our link to Stage B of this Journey.

View Trek Series scouted route live, on-line, in Google Maps/Satellite below or download GPS/GPX Tracklog to your Smartphone, Tablet, Computer or Dedicated GPS device (see Maps in menu for more information).

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Trek Leg 1 : Prehistoric Oasis, Goat Canyon & Great Overland Stage Road  

The most beautiful rugged desert region in Anza Borrego, rich with prehistoric native sites, The Great Overland Stage Route and old railway relics to explore.

Prehistoric Oasis, Goat Canyon & Great Overland Stage Road

The SoCal scouting expedition starts just above the Mexican border, near an Oasis that has attracted overlanders for 6000 years. Relics of ancient living are everywhere; 3500 year old native burial sites, mortar holes, water basins, caves with art including the “Horse and Rider Pictograph, the oldest record of early Spanish exploration - likely the 1774 Juan Bautista de Anza expedition, who blazed a route to colonize San Francisco. We retraced old native camps and ancient trade routes, the same that John Butterfield used in 1858 for the Southern Route of his Great Overland Mail Stage Line. The San Diego Eastern Arizona Railroad and the Goat Canyon Trestle, the tallest wooden trestle standing in the US, add to the regions appeal for iconic trails. Route ends in Blair Valley, site of the Overland Stage Road “Foot & Walker Pass”, at the head of Blair Valley, a prehistoric campsite; still attracting overlanders today. Rank: The trails in this region are mostly Easy, however, some soft and deep sandy sections near the railway and a rocky section along Corrizo Creek earn a Moderate rating. Watch for illegal immigrants. Blair Valley section is Easy.

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Trek Leg 2 : The Great Southern Mail Stage Route & Diablo Drop-off