Hotel – $$$$
Hotels or motels are a more expensive form of lodging, but require the least gear, have the smallest setup time, and are comfortable. You can simply check in, shower, change to street clothes, and relax. This is a great option for your first dual-sport trip, if you want to explore new towns, aren’t cost conscious, don’t have camping gear or if you want a simpler experience with more comfort with less gear and less planning time.
Hotel hopping allows you to keep the bike light, but it will also lighten your wallet. You should include restaurant meals in your budget in this case.
Hotel in McAllen, TX. The parking garage was perfect for truck parking while we spent a few days in Mexico. Be sure to ask permission before parking.
We like to plan 3-5 day trips that link multiple hotels together. Sometimes a single hotel will be used for two nights if the riding in that area is especially good. And sometimes the hotel will require a 2 night minimum.
An example loop ride in Colorado would be Buena Vista to Lake City to Crested Butte to Buena Vista. Some of our favorite lodging options on this route are the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs (includes access to spa with overnight stay), the Lake City Resort (simple, but clean), and the Old Town Inn in Crested Butte (available with no multi-night minimum). This route tackles four major passes, two of which are on the continental divide.
When selecting hotels, don’t be afraid to try local single-owner establishments. Many are well cared for as their owners live on or near the premises. As always it’s good to seek advice from TripAdvisor, ride reports, and other feedback to guide your choice.
Another often overlooked option is State Park Lodges and National Park Lodges. The cost of these hotels varies widely from $99/night to upwards of $300/night, but they are often in unique settings, well maintained, and regularly updated. We especially like Arkansas’ Queen Wilhelmina Lodge and Magazine Mountain Lodge. These properties also have cabin and camping options. Book early as these fill up quickly during peak season.
Rustic Cabin – $$$
The Lower-48 is sprinkled with rustic cabins of all types for rent. Cabin rentals are often cheaper than hotels and closer to your dirt-focused route, but they do require more planning.
Check with your rental to check for specific amenities. These vary from luxurious private showers, turn-down service, and a wonderful restaurant on-site to minimalist wooden structures with a cement floor and a cot. Fortunately the prices usually match the service level, so there is something for everyone.
Food options are usually limited due to the rural or scenic location, and some rentals supply a structure, bed, and mattress, but no bedding. With this in mind, you may want to pack a sleeping bag and small camp stove along with your favorite camp-meal.
In East Texas I especially like the KOA located in the town of Rusk. They have a clean bathhouse and a view of the rolling countryside. Similar accommodations can be found at Shadow Mountain Campground just outside of Mena, AR or the Thunder Lodge in Buena Vista, CO. In Moab, UT we like the ArchView RV Resort for a quick cabin pit-stop. Archview also has tent and RV spots and a Shell gas-station. Many RV parks and tent campgrounds also offer minimalist-cabin options.
Fixed Location Camping – $$
If you enjoy camping but like more amenities than you can carry on two wheels, fixed location camping may be for you. French press for coffee, check. Dual burner stove for gourmet camp dinners, check. Hot water on demand shower system, check. By establishing a central camp in a good riding area you can spend multiple days riding different trails and roads from the comfort of your well-appointed base. We usually set up our site with a tarp to block the sun or rain, a sleeping configuration that has varied from a tent to an RV, and a good spot to set up the cooking area and fire pit.
The wonderful thing is that you get to pick the campsite and enjoy the view. Securing the campsite can be tricky as good dispersed sites fill up quickly on the weekends. Reserved sites in a campground can be costly and directly offset by neighbors on both sides, but many campgrounds do a good job of shielding you from your neighbor. Many national forests with good dual sport riding have areas where dispersed camping is available.
Base-camp set up in Taylor Park, CO.
Early in our camping career we set up a tent base-camp, but we recently upgraded to a larger enclosed trailer. It’s outfitted with a murphy bed and storage for the usual camping items to make packing and unpacking quicker. Watch for more blog posts on our enclosed trailer build.
Bike based camping – $
One of the most intense ways to experience the countryside is to be consumed by it in sight, smell, touch, and sleep. Also, some of the BEST camp spots are only accessible by foot or motorcycle. You won’t see any toy-haulers down these roads.
You will need some specialized gear to carry your camping gear on your bike and some form of rack mounted on your rear fender. Tank bags and front fender bags are a plus too. More on that in our gear section.
Manufacturers have mad significant advances in lightweight backpacking gear allowing you to take many luxuries into the wild. I just received a small, plastic french-press for my birthday for this type of travel. Remote camp sites are often available for free or minimal cost.
A few vistas in Utah are on my list and will require this type of travel. Watch for blog posts on those in the next few months.
Winging it – Free to Moderately Expensive
Depending on your personality, this can perhaps be the most relaxing way to travel. You-Are-Ready-For-Anything.
All you need is a pit stop once a day to refill your over-size gas tank, top off the camel-bak, and feed that hunger for road-side tacos. Generally you’re ready to camp, negotiate a cheaper room rate at a really nice hotel since it’s getting dark and they have pity on you, or barter with a local inn keeper so you can park your bike in his lobby. Yes, these all happen more than you’d think.
I’ve traveled several times this way in central Mexico, but on only one trip in the US. This guy really did it right by finding someone new to stay with every night.
We’ve had great experiences with these sites but are very careful about the rentals we select. This can be a great way to find lodging next to National Parks.