Solo Camping in a 2021 Chevy Trailblazer | New Roads

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2020-09-18 | Chevy New Roads Magazine

Base Camp

Going on a solo backpacking adventure can be restorative, but it takes good planning and a ready companion like the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer ACTIV.

The Tonto National Forest boundary begins among the saguaros, those giant, many-limbed cacti found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. Thickets of cholla cactus and creosote bushes dominate the landscape. Here, just east of Phoenix, Gila monsters and western diamondback rattlesnakes seek out shade beneath rocks. The buzzy chatter of cactus wrens—Arizona’s state bird—fills the air. Harris’s hawks watch for cottontails from their perches while mule deer keep a careful eye out for mountain lions.

 

In the upper half of the Tonto, black bears and elk flourish among juniper, oak, and 100-foot ponderosa pines. The northern forest boundary butts up against the Mogollon Rim, a striking rock escarpment that marks the edge of the Colorado Plateau. End to end, the Tonto contains nearly 3 million acres of five converging ecosystems and a 6,000-foot change in elevation. With 900 miles of trails and 2,600 miles of roads to explore, this is exactly the kind of country open to exploration with the Chevrolet Trailblazer ACTIV. A right-sized, versatile SUV, the Trailblazer has the rough-road ability and storage capacity to let you gear up for your next best adventure.  

The Details Matter

3 DRIVE MODES

FOR DIFFERENT ROADS/

CONDITIONS

FOR DIFFERENT

ROADS/

CONDITIONS

155/174

HORSEPOWER/

LB.-FT.

OF TORQUE

HORSEPOWER/

LB.-FT. OF TORQUE

54.4 CU. FT.

CARGO CAPACITY

Breaking Trail

Few people know the particular thrill of listening to the night begin. Dusk has its own soundtrack: the playful yips and howls of coyotes across the desert, the first “who-whos” uttered by a great horned owl, and the delicate scratching of pack rats in the sand. Solo camping gives you the opportunity to sit and count shooting stars beneath the Milky Way with a trusty dog at your side, no cell reception or human noise to distract you from your well-deserved silence. That kind of solitude is priceless. It’s also easy to come by, if you know where to look.

 

As more people gravitate toward the outdoors, traditional designated campgrounds have become less of a nature getaway and more of a community gathering place. National forests offer a respite from overcrowded campgrounds, allowing you to truly leave civilization behind—including the loud music from two campsites over. With dispersed camping, you can pitch your tent almost anywhere you’d like, with just a few restrictions on the proximity to water sources, cliff bases, and roads and trails. Dogs are welcome in most national forests, and each campsite can be occupied for up to 14 days. There are no permits or fees required, just seemingly endless dirt roads and remote wilderness waiting to be explored. Pick a quiet forest road and follow it as long as you’d like, keeping an eye out for flat, open areas. The Trailblazer’s available all-wheel drive is perfect for access roads like these, and its three drive modes let you get the traction you need depending on the road. You can cruise in Normal mode on pavement, switch to All-Wheel Drive mode for lower-traction surfaces like gravel, or even have a bit of fun in Sport mode if you take the curvy road home.   

Gearing Up

National forests have fewer amenities than the Trailblazer, and rougher living than is generally found at designated campgrounds. There are no toilets or showers, no potable water, no electricity or grills. But the solitude is worth the lack of luxuries, and there are few meals as delicious as those cooked over an open campfire.

 

Solo dispersed camping requires a little extra preparation, and plenty of room for gear. Because there is no potable water, you’ll need to bring plenty for you and your dog. If there’s a nearby water source, bring a water filtration system. Because there are no toilets, you’ll need to being a trowel for digging a “cathole.” You’ll still pack some of the same gear you’d use at the designated campground with your friends, too: a tent, sleeping mat and bag, and lighting.

 

With the Trailblazer’s maximum 54.4 cubic feet of storage space, you can load up a cozy camp chair, a book and an extra blanket for fireside reading, a telescope or binoculars, and a field guide for birding. Bring the cast-iron skillet and a coffee percolator. Stock a cooler with dinner and breakfast ingredients. Treat yourself to s’mores for dessert. Pick up firewood and a shovel for putting out your fire.   

Hit the Trail

There are trails for all skill levels in the Tonto. For a reliably good day of birding and wildlife-viewing, head to the lower Salt River just south of Saguaro Lake, where you’ll find a great diversity of bird life, from purple-crowned Costa’s hummingbirds to prehistoric-looking great blue herons. Bald eagles nest nearby and can be seen year-round, as can other birds of prey such as zone-tailed hawks, ospreys, and peregrine falcons. Through spring and summer, vermilion flycatchers make this oasis their home. The males are unmistakable: You’ll easily spot the vibrant red birds performing aerial acrobatics while hunting insects near the river. Other desert specialties, like Lucy’s warblers, curve-billed thrashers, and gilded flickers, are abundant. So, too, are reptiles, so watch your feet and keep an ear out for rattlesnakes. Bighorn sheep, javelinas, and bobcats are just a sampling of the native land mammals—the lower Salt River even supports a herd of wild horses. Black bears and mountain lions also inhabit the area, but you’re unlikely to cross paths with either. If fishing is on the itinerary, the river holds rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish. Spend enough time by the water and you might be lucky enough to see a river otter.

 

Experienced hikers can challenge themselves on the Three Sisters Summit in the Superstition Wilderness at the southern edge of the Tonto National Forest. The trail gains 2,500 feet of elevation in 3.5 miles as it approaches the massive three-pronged rock formation known as the Three Sisters. Marvel at ancient saguaros, some reaching 40 feet, and otherworldly geological features along the trail. Take the turnoff to stand on the smooth, wave-shaped rock inside the Wave Cave for one of the best views of the Superstitions. Plan your hike for early morning or evening and bring adequate water and snacks. This trail requires route-finding ability and some scrambling, but to stand on the summit of Three Sisters—or any peak—and know your own body got you there is a worthy reward.


Whenever you venture out, it’s always a good idea to leave a rough itinerary with an emergency contact. As a solo camper and hiker, you are responsible for your own safety. Having a Chevy vehicle with available OnStar is a great way to ensure that you’ll have help available at the push of a button. Portable GPS units can also allow you to track and share a map of your hike, and generally provide a great second level of safety. You can even keep your pup safe with a specialized GPS unit made specifically for dogs. If you and your dog become separated, this tech allows you to track him in real time though an app on your phone.

 

One of the greatest joys of solo adventure is the freedom to choose your own itinerary: Want to hit the trailhead before dawn to catch a mid-hike sunrise, or sleep in and linger for that second cup of tent-side coffee? Practice orienteering with a topographic map and compass, or take a leisurely stroll down a popular trail? It’s entirely up to you: your trip, your time, your adventure. So, go on and gas up the Trailblazer, grab the pup, and take a couple days off, just for you.

 

STORY: CASSANDRA POWERS / PHOTOGRAPHY: SHAYD JOHNSON / ILLUSTRATION: MATTHEW ALLEN

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  • EPA estimated with 3.6L V6 engine.

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  • EPA-estimated 53-mile range based on 106 MPGe combined city/highway (electric); 367-mile extended range based on 42 MPG combined city/highway (gas). Your actual range may vary based on several factors, including temperature, terrain and driving technique.

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  • Read the vehicles Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See the Owner’s Manual for more information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and iTunes are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See your vehicle Owner’s Manual for more information.

  • Connected services include navigation services and Remote Access Plan. Services subject to Terms and limitations. Certain services require working electrical system, cell reception, and GPS signal. OnStar links to emergency services.  See onstar.com for details. Availability subject to change.

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  • EPA-estimated MPG city/highway: Sonic Sedan with 6-speed manual transmission 27/38; with 6-speed automatic transmission 26/34; Sonic Hatchback with 6-speed manual transmission 26/35; with 6-speed automatic transmission 26/34.

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  • Premier shown seats seven. Standard on L, LS. Available on LT.

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  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google, and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android(TM) 5.0 Lollipop or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

     

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints.  Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint.  See the Owner's Manual for more information.

  • Read the vehicles Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment 3 System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Read the vehicles Owner's Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

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  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Read the Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity to some devices.

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  • The system wirelessly charges one compatible mobile device. Some phones have built-in wireless charging technology and others require a special adaptor/back cover. To check for phone or other device compatibility, see my.chevrolet.com/learn or consult your carrier.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

     

  •  

    Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • To avoid the risk of injury, never use Recovery Hooks to tow a vehicle. For more information, see the Recovery Hooks section of your Owner's Manual.

  • The system wirelessly charges one compatible mobile device. Some phones have built-in wireless charging technology and others require a special adaptor/back cover. To check for phone or other device compatibility, see my.chevrolet.com/learn or consult your carrier.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Go to my.chevrolet.com/learnAbout/bluetooth to find out which phones are compatible with the vehicle. Full Bluetooth feature functionality varies by device, model and software version.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android™ 5.0 or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Includes Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, IntelliBeam automatic high beams on/off, Following Distance Indicator.  Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • The system wirelessly charges one compatible mobile device. Some devices require an adaptor or back cover. To check for phone or other device compatibility, visit my.chevrolet.com/learn for details.

  • Always use safety belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See the Owner’s Manual for more information. 

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices.

  • Chevrolet Infotainment System functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices. Map Coverage available in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

  • Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Requires available 3.6L engine and Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow

  • Requires available 3.6L engine and Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow

  • Requires available 3.6L engine and Trailering Package. Before you buy a vehicle or use it for trailering, carefully review the Trailering section of the Owner’s Manual. The weight of passengers, cargo and options or accessories may reduce the amount you can tow.

  • Chevy Safety Assist: Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, Following Distance Indicator and IntelliBeam. Read the vehicle Owner’s Manual for more important feature limitations and information.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android 5.0 or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android, Android Auto, Google, Google Play and other marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Always use safety belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See the Owner’s Manual for more information.  

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Google and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires the Android Auto app on Google Play and an Android compatible smartphone running Android 5.0 or higher. Data plan rates apply. Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.

  • Vehicle user interface is a product of Apple and its terms and privacy statements apply. Requires compatible iPhone and data plan rates apply. Apple CarPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc. Siri, iPhone and Apple Music are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

  • Always use seat belts and child restraints. Children are safer when properly secured in a rear seat in the appropriate child restraint. See your vehicle Owner’s Manual for more information.

  • Read the vehicle Owner's Manual for important feature limitations and information.

  • Standard on Extended Cab and 2WD Crew Cab Short Box models.

  • Standard on 2WD Crew Cab Long Box and 4WD Crew Cab models.

  • Available on Extended Cab models.

  • Available on Crew Cab models.

  • Equipment from independent suppliers is not covered by the GM New Vehicle Limited Warranty. GM is not responsible for the safety or quality of independent supplier alterations.

  • The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price excludes destination freight charge, tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Click here to see all Chevrolet vehicles' destination freight charges.

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