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Traveling in a Van? Here Are 6 Stellar Places to Park

Three prominent van dwellers share their favorite spots to set up camp

Living out of a van takes adventure to a whole new level. (Woods Wheatcroft / Aurora Photos)
35-39 Years

Three prominent van dwellers share their favorite spots to set up camp

Van life isn’t a science. It’s an art. Luckily, we contacted three bona fide masters about their favorite places to visit, and they were happy to oblige.

Goosenecks State Park, Utah

Photographer Alison Turner spends most of her days on the road. When she wants to get as far from civilization as possible, she and her rescue dog, Max, head for southern Utah’s Goosenecks State Park, which looms high above the San Juan River. “We love it for the peace, beauty, and the feeling of being in nature and away from people,” says Turner. “Also, Max can be free to explore without restrictions.” Visitors take note: pets are welcome at Goosenecks, though dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet.

Stanley, Idaho

An executive producer of Powder Productions and a former Powder magazine editor, John Sifter recently lived and worked in a 2009 Dodge Sprinter for 13 months with his now-wife, Janna Irons. His fondness for Stanley has not changed. “You can drive down the highway for a few miles and soak in natural hot springs with rock-strewn pools on the Salmon,” says Stifter. “The stunning Sawtooths, the soothing Salmon River, natural hot springs, and two bars of service just east of town make it one of our favorite van sites.”

Brooklyn, New York

“Head to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn,” says Stifter, “and park on one of the side streets near McCarren Park. You can stealthily park long-term there and take advantage of the a robust farmers’ market and running track.” McCarren is one of the borough’s favorite outdoor hangouts and offers clean public bathrooms, easy subway access to Manhattan, and loads of museums, bars, and restaurants to check out. And with all the stylish Brooklinites walking around, the people watching is not bad.

Bend, Oregon

“My favorite spot of all time is Phil’s Trail,” says Erik Gordon, whose mobile coffee shop, Carabiner Coffee, began in a 1971 Volkswagen bus named Ol’ Blue. “It’s about 15 minutes outside of town and a great spot for mountain biking or trail running. I love waking up there, sharing a cup of coffee with some of the locals, and getting the beta on the trail conditions. There’s a public bathroom right next to the trailhead. Since it’s only 15 minutes from downtown, you can bike into town and have fun in the river, go climb at Smith Rock, or grab a beer from the ridiculous number of breweries in Bend.”

Crested Butte, Colorado

“Dispersed, or free, camping exists nearly everywhere throughout the Rockies,” says Stifter, noting Colorado’s abundant Forest Service and BLM land where you can find van-life nirvana. A favorite high-alpine spot is right outside the mountain biking mecca of Crested Butte, in Gunnison National Forest, which you can access via Forest Service Road 12 toward Lake Irwin or Kebler Pass. “You’ll be among wildflowers, big peaks, mountain meadows, and trails galore,” says Stifter. What’s more, the site is only 45 minutes to Elk Avenue, Crested Butte’s main thoroughfare, with access to great bars and restaurants, as well as reliable cell service.

Ventura, California

Park in Ventura for the surfing and the fish tacos. “As far as beach towns go, this one is as laid-back as they come,” says Gordon. “It has one of the best longboard breaks within 200 miles, and with all the Patagonia employees lurking in the streets, you’re bound to bump into a free pair of boardshorts somewhere.”

Filed To: Camping / Travel / Road Trips / Colorado
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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