A primitive survival shelter as is common in survival training.
With regards to modern survival training, I often hear folks make excuses as to why they don’t get out and train more often. The biggest excuse is of course location. It can be hard to find a suitable spot to put your survival skills to work. Places like parks, campgrounds, and state parks can often be filled with other occupiers. This can suspend the disbelief, and also make it seem pretty weird when you’re slabbing piles of mud over a stick hut in broad daylight as people drink beer and cook hot dogs over fires with their children running around. In order to cater to our readers from across a wide range of locations in America, I will highlight my seven favorite locations to practice survival. These locations span from the East Coast to the West Coast, and could be closer to some of you than you thought!
GW National Forest is one of many of Virginia’s gems.
7- George Washington National Forest (Virginia)
Nestled within the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains, this is an awesome place for East Coasters to visit and practice their skills. The thing I like about this National Forest is that it is relatively safe to navigate without worry of large predators but still can give you a serious survival challenge. Navigation through the National Forest is easily mapped, and there are a number of gorgeous sights to be seen, such as Crabtree Falls. It’s easy to avoid the more traveled portions and utilize your stealth skills. In a SHTF scenario stealth will be of utmost importance, so it’s good to practice your route selection, camouflage, and movement techniques. This National Forest comes with some restrictive gun laws, which is its major disadvantage. I like to bring my guns with me on survival challenges, but one should be skilled in the arts of survival voiding firearms, because that could be a reality in a number of situations. Virginia has a wet climate, but its temperature ranges are generally survivable. So you won’t have to worry about freezing to death most times out of the year in this beautiful piece of National History.
Green Mountain as seen from the sky. A beautiful sight to behold!
6- Green Mountain National Forest (Vermont)
One thing you will notice is I have a tendency to recommend National Forests for survival training. The reasoning behind this is simple- they tend to be less frequented than National Parks, the rules and regulations are less strict, and with most National Forests gun play is allowed. For our Northeastern readers, you may want to give Green Mountain a try. The Northeast is notorious for its liberal gun policies, with most states making it a serious pain in the butt to even own firearms much less shoot them on public land. With Vermont this is not the case, as it is the most gun friendly state north of the Mason-Dixon. Green Mountain will offer up survival challenges typical of the northeast. Cold, wet climate with variable terrain, frequented by moose, bear, and other large wild creatures. This is definitely a place to bring your gun. While hunting without a permit brings heavy prosecution nationwide, killing an animal in self defense is in fact legally permissible. While it is not as big of a problem in some states, there are in fact some places where I won’t go without a gun, as it’s just asking to have your face eaten off.
There are few places more rugged and beautiful than Prescott’s Forest.
5- Prescott National Forest (Arizona)
Prescott and the surrounding areas offer some of the most beautiful sites in America. From soaring, rock strewn mountains to lush lowland forests and saguaro cacti desert highlands, it offers a serious challenge to those who wish to really rough it. An awesome offroad trail called Senator Highway runs through the length of its center, and there’s even an awesome little town called Crown King in the far south, where all manner of apocalyptic offroad vehicles frequent the local saloon. This place is as cowboy as it gets in America, with folks dirt biking up and down the trails with loaded AR 15’s and shotguns on their backs. There are bullet holes in every sign, and be warned, this place has seen its fair share of weirdness in its years. A gun is absolutely necessary for a journey into this land. Its risks are far and wide, from dehydration, unpredictable climate, big cats and poison snakes, to suspicious mountain folk, this is a place that will offer many unique challenges and sights. It is truly a beauty to behold, and epitomizes the American West.
Olympic Forest is the closest thing to a fairy tale I’ve seen!
4- Olympic National Forest (Washington)
Since I like to avoid states that have harsh gun restrictions, Olympic National Forest is the perfect location to practice survival. Spanning much of Washington’s Olympic Pensinsula, this gorgeous piece of land will offer visually stunning vistas reminiscent of a Jurassic Park movie. With massive hemlock trees, billions of ferns, and a thick layer of moss covering any and all acceptable surfaces, this place is nothing short of amazing. Shooting is allowed anywhere where there is a back stop, and those come aplenty as the Olympic mountains and its surrounding foothills dominate this landscape. There are centuries old rumors of Bigfoot in this area, so be wary! More likely you will run into the huge Roosevelt Elk that permeate this forest. Make no mistake, it is their forest, and they will have no qualms with letting you know! Some of the challenges associated with this place are navigation, fire starting, shelter building, and temperature control. Though it rarely drops below freezing this portion of America is wet, very wet! You will be soaked to the bone in no time, and it’s highly advisable to take some wet weather gear with you on this awesome journey.
Iconic Pike’s Peak can be seen from Woodland Park.
3- Woodland Park ATV Trails (Colorado)
If there were any overall state that I would recommend for some of the best survival and navigation challenges in America, it’d be Colorado. Our nation’s Fourth Infantry Division uses this state as their training ground, making them the most lethal mountain Infantry our country has to offer. Sorry 10th Mountain. Olympic Athletes use Colorado Springs as a base camp to conduct their conditioning training as well, as the high elevation helps strengthen their cardio to a world class degree. The Woodland Park ATV trails are no different. Rugged, beautiful, and a generally awesome place to camp and offroad. Their location in the Rocky Mountains promises a plethora of sights and challenges. From avoiding big cats and rattlers to discovering old mining caves and hidden gems, Colorado itself has so much to offer the budding survivalist. It is also a very outdoor friendly place, where groups of hikers and campers are readily available to help you should you lose your way. Some of the challenges you will face here are temperature control, as it can get oppressively cold during the winter and sweltering hot during the summer, injury avoidance as navigating the terrain has many obstacles such as fragmenting shale rocks, rock slides, dangerous animals, and even occasional flash floods of fires, and keeping hydrated. This place will smoke you on foot, and by the time you are finished with your long trek you will undoubtedly be parched for a drink. Shooting is permissible as long as you follow federal law and do not shoot across roads or bodies of water and have a backstop. Make sure you carefully tend to any fires, as wild fires are all too easy in this dried up location.
A Forest Reserve in Virginia.
2- Forestry Reserve Lands.
Take some time to research it online and you will likely find many State Forests in your particular state. These places are often used by hunters during season, so be wary of safety concerns regarding that and wear the proper protective equipment. Some of these lands are reserved for logging, and and as such are used less sparsely for hunting. These kinds of places are convenient because their location is much easier to access than National Forests multiple states away. You may very well have one of these Reserves in your back yard and not know it! These are perfect locations to hunt, trap, build temporary shelters, camp, and practice your field craft. Most hunters these days aren’t entirely surprised to see a group of guys with AR 15’s rolling through the woods together, and will tend to just steer clear of you or even offer up some friendly small talk. The advantage to using these locations is that you get to train on the terrain of your local area, which gives you a huge advantage in a SHTF scenario and perhaps will even unlock different locations for you to bug out to. For this reason I give State Forests and Reserve lands the number two spot on where to practice survival!
Deer in someone’s Back 40.
1- Your Land Or A Friend’s Land
Let’s be honest, sometimes federally or state owned lands just simply cannot offer you the full scope of training you wish to have. Whether it be tactical drills, base building, fires, or movements through terrain, some places are more restrictive in that category. You also always run the risk of coming across people who are not open minded to what you are doing, and that can create problems for you such as possible law enforcement intervention. The best places on the planet to practice real world survival techniques without having to worry about legalities are your own personal land. You can run any number of crazy drills, set traps, and have large fires without worry. You also get the added benefit of knowing each and every piece of your own land, which is likely your end of the world location as it is. If something apocalyptic goes down the best bet is to stay in locations you already have mapped out. Your resources can be pooled in these places, and it’s easier to defend from intrusion because you know the little details about the place that others probably don’t. Bugging out in a random direction runs many risks unless you are a true blue Type A survivor. So, in essence, training on your own plot of land is the best option, but also knowing how to navigate unknown environments will come in handy as well should you ever have to leave.
These were just my personal preferences, if you have any sweet training spots by all means let us know! There are countless options in our beautiful nation, so any and all advice is welcome!
“Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum”–Tommy