There’s no doubt about it, the truck camper is a great recreational vehicle. Not only is the truck camper easier to drive and can tow things like boats and Jeeps, but it also gets better gas mileage and in most states doesn’t require annual registration and title fees like other RVs. But the truck camper offers another benefit to the owner that is less tangible and even more important—the ability to go where other RVs can’t. Most of us already know this, of course, which is a big reason why we all bought one. But did you know that many state and national parks prohibit RV travel in ways that can curtail your enjoyment of the park? It’s true. Time and time again, we’ve come across signs that discouraged or prohibited RVs to places that were relatively easy to reach in a truck camper. We know these warnings are posted for liability reasons due to the size of most RVs, but still, its encouraging to know that the truck camper consistently trumps other types of RVs when it comes to getting to those hard to reach places. Let’s look at four examples recently discovered in the Truck Camper Adventure Rig:
1. Big Bend National Park – Boquillas Hot Springs
Narrow, winding roads are usually no problem for the truck camper. The road that leads to Big Bend National Park’s Boquillas Hot Springs is a great example. Even though the dusty, dirt road to this popular destination is only 2 miles long, the homestretch can get a little tricky with narrow one-way sections that descend and snake through a rough, narrow wash to the main parking lot. A sign posted at the entrance prohibits motorhomes and oversize vehicles, including trucks with dual rear wheels, from traveling on the one-way sections of the road. After reading the sign, we briefly considered turning around, but decided to go for it since our short-bed camper is mounted on single rear wheel truck. We’re glad we did. The Boquillas Hot Springs was one of the highlights of our visit, made better by being able to take our truck camper to change in and out of our bathing suits. Another highlight were the stares we got from incredulous tourists who were surprised to see our “motorhome” pull into the parking lot. You can just imagine what they were thinking when they saw us drive in.
2. Olympic National Park – La Poel
If your destination is a tight space with very little maneuvering room, the truck camper can usually get to it. A prime example of this is a little-known gem located in Olympic National Park called La Poel. This day-use area and former campground, nestled on the southern shore of Lake Pleasant, is marked with a large sign at the entrance, warning visitors that the area is “unsuitable for buses, trailers, and RVs.” Again we deliberated on the wisdom of taking our truck camper down into it, but we found the steep and narrow turns easy to navigate even in a “large” hard-side like ours. We’re sure glad we did. La Poel is a hidden-gem, a magical place where you can relax and take in the magnificent views of the lake. With its small beach and a grassy picnic area, there isn’t another place quite like it within Olympic National Park. Unfortunately, the dense tree canopy there prevented us from getting a charge on our solar power system, but hey, you can’t get everything in an idyllic setting. Right?
3. Olympic National Park – Obstruction Point Road
Olympic National Park’s Obstruction Point Road provides yet another example of the truck camper’s prowess to go where other RVs can’t. The sign posted at the entrance to the rugged, 4×4 road warns, “road not suitable for motorhomes or trailers.” No doubt, the sign has kept many truck camper owners away, even the more adventurous types, since we couldn’t locate a single video or blog post showing a truck camper on the road. But after exploring Obstruction Point Road, we found it perfectly suitable for truck campers, including a hard-side camper like ours. During our two-day excursion on Obstruction Point Road, we were rewarded with superb views of Mt. Olympus, the best views of the mountain in the entire park, and were able to traverse some thrilling terrain to reach the main trailhead at the end of the road. Even though the drive is relatively short, its definitely worth doing in a truck camper either as a quick day trip or as part of an overnight hike on the Grand Pass Trail.
4. California’s Bradshaw Trail (BLM)
When it comes to RVs, nothing compares with the ability to travel off-road than a 4×4 truck camper. A great example of this is an overland trip Truck Camper Adventure recently hosted on the Bradshaw Trail. Yes, we know that this southern California 4×4 road isn’t within a national park, but it is on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is only a few miles from Joshua Tree National Park. Classified as a Jeep trail, a sign posted at the entrance to the 77-mile-long road warns that only 4×4, high clearance vehicles should travel on the road. On this scenic trip we took 14 truck campers. While not particularly difficult, the Bradshaw Trail isn’t exactly for novices either. The road passes through several washes, some with steep drop offs, and some sections of the road are covered in deep sand. This means you’ll need a high-clearance, 4WD truck and will need to air down your tires to get the traction you need. Things that most RVs aren’t capable of doing. Yes, a Jeep or a 4WD truck can get along fine towing a tiny tear drop or a small travel trailer, but the towable will require a high clearance to do it. Comparatively speaking, I’d much rather drive a 4×4 road in a rig with two axles rather than a rig pulling a trailer, especially if you need to turn around in a tight spot.
There’s no doubt about it, the ability to go where other RVs can’t is a huge benefit of the truck camper. There are certainly others, like those we’ve already mentioned, but this is the one benefit to us that stands out far above the rest. When I think about the places where we’ve been in our truck camper, all I can do is smile. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve told the wife, while enjoying a spectacular view, “this is why we bought a truck camper.” Is the truck camper for everyone? Of course not. Full-timers who need more living space won’t like what the truck camper has to offer nor will those who have physical disabilities. Yes, motorhome and fifth wheel owners will sing the praises of their palatial accommodations and their ability to camp off-grid for weeks at a time, but these gargantuan, low clearance RVs are severely limited on where they can go. As for us, we’ll take the go anywhere, do anything truck camper any day.
We enjoy the solitude found after traversing a road RVs and Trailers don’t go.
Trail Creek Road outside of Ketchum Idaho is another one with signs discouraging trailers. Since we tow our Jeep, I prefer to unhitch and drive separately when we encounter unfamiliar terrain esp marked with a warning sign. Turns out a long trailer would be a challenge up and down the side of the mountain only when the road narrows which was minimal along the stretch.
We are planning to purchase a truck camper for retirement, so I’ve been doing plenty of research. Our primary reason is – 1. I will always have a truck for multiple reasons 2. We want to be able to pull a fishing boat. Lately, I’ve been looking at Class B vans. I like the idea of a lower profile, better gas mileage, etc. We definitely plan to explore and boondock for the vast majority of our day and overnight camping. Do you think all, or most, of these places could have been accessed with a van without 4×4? So, probably lower ground clearance than a truck…since the trucks I own will always have 4wd.
Most yes, but not all. You need 4WD to get out of deep sand and there’s lots of it on the Bradshaw Trail and lots of other 4WD roads.
Having lived in an RV full-time for 12 years before going ‘off the road’ and moving to a truck camper, we can testify to the frustration we often felt when encountering those “NO RV” signs. Couldn’t complain, as we had chosen that lifestyle. But now we never, ever pass up a road saying, “I wonder where that goes?” It is one of the best parts of truck camping, if not the greatest!
Thanks, Bryan. We agree. 🙂
Your doing a great job here. Learning a lot and find so many cool places to go. We are going Canyonlands in May. I see your picture on that trail. How hard was that trail? Is there boon docking? Where do pick the trail up?
1. I fail to see how a 4×4 F550 couldn’t make a drive that a SRW F350 could, overhead clearance notwithstanding.
2. The pic of your rig at La Poel looks about a foot lower than a Host Mammoth. Did you only bately make it?
3. I also fail to see how a F550’s CG is significantly higher than a SRW F350’s with a lighter camper. There’s a lot more steel down low on the big rig.
An EarthRoamer, which is on a Ford F-550 4×4 SRW chassis with size 41 tires, could do the Bradshaw Trail, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it in a standard long-bed dually with a Mammoth. We had a one-ton, short-bed dually with an Arctic Fox 811 try it and it got a flat tire on one of the inner duals. His rear jack also scraped on a few steep drop offs.
I enjoyed the above about specific spots you have travelled in your truck camper. A quick question would you transit any of those spots with a dually and a “larger” camper such as a Host Mammoth? Thanks
No, not all all. A low-profile hard-side with a SRW truck can do these, but not a long-bed, crewcab dually with a triple-slide out like the Mammoth. It’s a great camper, but not one I would take on rugged 4×4 roads or places with low-hanging tree branches like those found at La Poel.
FULLY agree Melo Mike. That said there is one caution at the top of the list that should be observed by all TC’s the instant you put it in 4×4 drive. That is OFF Camber driving. The instant you load that TC you have significantly raised your Center of Gravity for your truck and that can bite hard. There is a bright spot of mitigation and that would be to install a rear or upgraded Sway bar such as the Hellwig Big Wig. The Sway bar is your lateral control mechanism. without it your truck is a Slinky on 4 wheels. If you are aggressive you can add the Big Wig to the front also. That said it keeps the swing ‘n sway with Sammy Kaye away, it tames that mean lean, but you will lose some of the soft and cushy ride. Cheap price to pay IMO…see ya on the trial!
Yes, Don, I agree a sway bar like the Hellwig Big Wig can go a long ways toward eliminating sway and keeping things even in off-camber situations, but you can’t take it too far, obviously. There comes a point when even a Big Wig can’t resist the forces of a 11,000 truck camper rig tilting too much. 😉
Having had numerous hard side truck campers from half ton size up to an F450, all with air bags, the large multi slide units are not safely suitable for anything rougher than a regularly maintained gravel road. We have always taken the less travelled roads and found the “hippo-hipped” lux TC to be cumbersome and restricted our travel due to the extra height, width, weight, and extreme overhang. The luxurious space was nice but not worth missing out on the remote spots.