5 Backcountry Spots to Test Your Trekking Compass

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Test your trekking compass skills at these backcountry spots.

If you want a challenge beyond the typical backcountry sites, without extra frills like a fire ring and bear poles, dispersed camping is just the thing. These extra-remote areas don’t even have campsites set up. With a special permit, you have permission to head deep into the wild and make the best of what you find. You’ll absolutely need a map and trekking compass to succeed, but the reward is gorgeous views, true privacy, and the chance to exercise navigation chops. Here are four dispersed areas where you can test your mettle:

Holua Dispersed, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Have you ever been camping inside a volcano crater? There’s a reason many describe Holua as a moonscape. It’s remote, rocky, the weather can change quickly, and it’s out of cell phone service. The majority of the vegetation you’ll see is hardy scrub scrapping it out on top of the old lava flows. Only a few miles further, though, and you’ll find yourself in a lush landscape fed by plenty of rain. Holua is a challenge in part because it requires gear for a variety of conditions.

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

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Six hours away from the hustle and bustle around Denali, this coastal section of the Alaskan frontier can only be reached by boat. It’s a little different from other dispersed campsites in that there are actual cabins, but given the arctic weather you’ll likely be grateful for the shelter. Be sure to pack your maps and trekking compass to navigate the fjords, as you can’t count on your phone. Don’t forget your wag bags, either. There are no toilets in the cabins, and you want to leave this site pristine.

Inyo National Forest, California

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Part of the fun of Inyo is trying to find the small hot springs hidden throughout the park. You may run into other campers out here, even at the dispersed sites— this is California after all. That said, you should still have plenty of privacy, especially if you really strike out on your own. In addition to picking up a map and a permit, study it carefully to make sure you don’t wander into a restricted area. There are quite a few in Inyo due to the number of different agencies with jurisdiction over the lands around here, not to mention pockets of scientific research. Practicing your triangulation skills on your trekking compass can keep you in the clear.

Hercules-Glades Wilderness Area, Missouri

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Missouri might not conjure up the same image of untamed wilderness as, say, Alaska, but you can definitely get away from it all in Hercules-Glades. Much of the hiking is quite difficult, with steep elevation gains, rocky scrambles, stream crossings, and limited blazes along the trail. You will definitely need to pack in water and ways to filter or sterilize what you find along the way. You’ll be rewarded with dramatic rock formations and a waterfall ( in the right season). As always, don’t forget your permits and a solid plan before you head out!

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