I like driving my Jeep on forest roads, away from the beaten track. I’ve done boondocking trips all over the country, but one of my favorite areas is close to home. Living here in Knoxville, there are plenty of opportunities to do that, especially with the Appalachians to the south and east and the Cumberland Plateau to the north and west. A great way to get started is the same way I did—taking the Georgia Traverse. You can do the whole thing or sections.
The Georgia Traverse is 390 miles mapped going from northwest Georgia, near the Alabama border, and ending in northeast Georgia, near the Georgia/South Carolina border. 226 of those miles are unpaved, consisting of dirt/gravel. Most of the paved section is getting from the Cohutta Wilderness over to the most western part. You can download the GPS route and waypoints here. Note there is a loop in the Cohutta Wilderness that you can take up to TN—however, recently a part was blocked off, which means you should be prepared for washouts, closed gates, and other variations. On most sections you can usually bail if you need to.
The Traverse has many offshoots not mapped on the official route since it goes through a number of National Forests and Wildlife Management Areas. You can shoot north up to the Smoky Mountain National Park, the Cherokee National Forest or other National Forests. You also are close to the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is near Cherokee, Georgia. You can take the north, paved all the way, up through Virginia with plenty of great views. I did it in two days last year.
I’ve done all of the Traverse and numerous other tracks around it. Difficulty varies from the paved sections to some rough, rocky parts. But none of it is technically difficult. We’re not talking rock-crawling here, but I think a four-wheel drive with some clearance is good. That being said, I have seen all sorts of cars and motorcycles on it, but the big thing is, you don’t see many people, unless you do the middle and eastern sections on weekends in the summer. Since it’s mainly single track in the unpaved part, the less people you run into, the better.
To do the entire thing will take you a couple of days. The good news is you pass plenty of campgrounds, although I prefer to remote camp in the National Forests or Wildlife areas. You’ll see plenty of those non-designated sites as you go, usually marked by a rock fire pit. Another place to camp is pulling off a side road with a locked gate and camping there, next to the gate. I’ve seen people camping on the side of the road.
The terrain varies as does your elevation. But the views are as good as anything you’re going to find in the usual tourist places and the fact you have them to yourself is even better. Plenty of small waterfalls, grand vistas when your break out of the trees, and rocky streams
I highly recommend the Gaia App (available at discount by clicking on link). You can download the Traverse track and waypoints on it and use it. Also, depending on what overlays you use, you’ll find plenty of other forest roads to explore.
Remember to always keep your vehicle topped off before heading into the wilderness. Also, cell phone service is spotty and most often non-existent. I carry a SPOT-X satellite messenger as a way to check in, especially when going overnight.
For those interested in boondocking, here is how I equip my Jeep Gladiator.