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By Carly Eisley

The current global pandemic has wreaked havoc on travel plans and shelter in place orders have many of us gazing longingly outside. Many of us are wondering when we can get back to camping and other recreation we love.  Once things do „open for business,“ avoiding large crowds will still be the wise thing to do.  How about a secluded East Coast road trip?

Words like „remote“ or „solitude“ are typically not the first thing one thinks of when describing the eastern part of the United States.  Known more for having densely populated cities than wide-open spaces, the East Coast  isn’t what many think about when they are trying to „get away from it all.“  

There are some heavily visited parks that live up to this reputation such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited in the country. The Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain can also be crowded with visitors waiting for views of the sunrise, and the White Mountain National Forest is immensely popular with New England hikers.  Fortunately, there are plenty of places on the East Coast to hunker down and enjoy some peace and quiet, away from the crowds.   

You may trade mountain overlooks for forest canopies, but it can be well worth it.  Pick up a campervan at our New York camper van rental location and check out one of these five secluded East Coast road trip ideas.  They all provide a little bit of privacy, east of the Mississippi.

Woman overlooking mountains

Head Towards Bald Eagle State Forest in Pennsylvania

The state forest system in Pennsylvania is home to over 2.2 million acres of forest land open for recreation such as hiking, camping, mountain biking, fishing, and hunting.  These large tracts of land ensure that there is plenty of open space to enjoy without a crowd. When planning an East Coast road trip, you really can’t go wrong stopping at any of them! 

Bald Eagle State Forest encompasses over 193,000 acres in central Pennsylvania, with access to 45 remote, dispersed motorized (aka car camping) campsites.  If you prefer more modern comforts in your camping experience, the adjacent Poe Paddy State Park and Poe Valley State Park are camping options that still let you escape into the nearby forest without totally roughing it.   There are over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails to explore, and 14 streams for fishing or a post-adventure cooldown!

Bald Eagle State Forest is approximately 4 hours from the Escape campervan rental site in New York.  Make a pit stop en route to Bald Eagle at Hickory Run State Park to stretch your legs and explore some unique hiking in the boulder field.

Person walking on boulders

Keep on Driving to the Allegheny National Forest

The Allegheny National Forest is a ~5 1/2 hour drive from the New York Depot.  The 513,000-acre area is open to dispersed camping as well as some established campgrounds.  There are miles of hiking and biking trails, and a 27-mile long reservoir open for swimming and boating.  

Visit the nearby Kinzua Sky Walk for a stroll among the treetops and a breathtaking view of the surroundings.   Hunker down in your own corner of the hardwood forest and stick to the seclusion of the trees. Or, join the crowds for some of the more popular sightseeing attractions and trails.  The choice is yours!

Person sitting on a rock

Consider the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia

The expansive George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are a great home base for exploring the Appalachian Mountain region of Virginia.  Take a hike on the Appalachian Trail, to explore the nearby Shenandoah National Park, or drive the scenic Skyline Drive.  You can also bike or hike the trestles and bridges of the Virginia Creeper Trail.  

When you’ve had your fill of the scenery, retreat to the solitude of one of the many dispersed camping sites in the over 1.6 million acres of forest.  They extend from Virginia into neighboring parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.  With miles of trails and dirt roads extending throughout the National Forest area, it’s hard to believe it’s just a 6-hour drive from New York City and 3 hours from Washington D.C.  

Person standing at  the Blue ridge mountains

Stop at Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina

A few hours away, western North Carolina is home to a mountainous region full of recreation opportunities.  The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests are in close proximity to popular areas such as Brevard, Asheville, the Biltmore House, Mount Mitchell, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  However, they have much fewer crowds to navigate.  These areas are very well known for their mountain biking and hiking trails and have hundreds of miles of trail options, to help keep the area a little less populated.   

From riverside strolls lined with rhododendron blooms to mountain peaks with expansive vistas, you are guaranteed to find something that will bring you a little joy, with peace and quiet!  There are both dispersed and developed campgrounds throughout the areas to choose from. Local rangers can give the best intel on accessible yet secluded sites.

Mountain top view

Hang Out at the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in Georgia

Finally, stop by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.  With over 850,000 acres of land, there are abundant trails and camping areas to find a private area to hunker down.  The Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail can be found in this area on Springer Mountain if you are seeking some backpacking or section-hiking.  

You will find plenty of dispersed camping options in addition to developed campgrounds if you would rather trade complete seclusion for running water and bathrooms.  There are many rivers and streams in this area for water activities ranging from toe-dipping serenity to white-knuckle insanity.

Five Secluded East Coast Road Trip Ideas

Ready for Your East Coast Adventure?

The East Coast is known for its large cities and population density. However, book an Escape campervan and discover the privacy and seclusion that awaits you today!

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