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Camping On Forest Service Land

How To Find Dispersed Camping

How to find Free Boondocking Camping on BLM and Forest Service land

There are several different ways to find great National Forest dispersed camping spots. Below are some of the best methods weve found. Dont limit yourself to just one of these. Depending on where you are and what kind of camper you have, one might work better than another. At a minimum, plan to research using 2-3 different sources before deciding on a dispersed camping area.

S For Camping In National Forests

  • Select your National Forest camping location. The U.S. Forest Service has an Interactive Map To Find A Forest Near You.
  • Determine where you want to camp within the National Forest and which field office has jurisdiction over that location. People frequently ask us this question, Can you camp anywhere in a National Forest? The answer, NO! As an example, we usually camp in the Coconino National Forest so we visit their website to check for any closures, restrictions, alerts and warnings this information will help you find legal camping areas within the National Forest. They will also have detailed maps with the Forest Service Roads like this Motor Vehicle Use Map showing the roads, trails, and areas approved for motorized vehicle use within the Coconino National Forest.
  • Before you go Know the rules for your specific National Forest camping location. Information is available from field office websites, via phone or in person when the office is open. You can also get information from camp hosts and forest rangers who are actually on location within the Forest.
  • Determine if you need to make a reservation. The website allows you to make reservations for federal land camping and more. NOTE: Some areas are considered limited-entry locations and a lottery system is used to provide a fair distribution process for the available permits. You can apply for a lottery and check the status on the website.
  • Rv Camping In The National Forest

    USFS Campgrounds are great RV camping locations for several reasons:

  • Scenic Beauty surrounding the campgrounds
  • Roads reasonably well maintained for almost any size RV
  • Primitive campsites are the perfect companion for RV camping
  • Basic facilities at most campgrounds
  • Most campgrounds are easy to find
  • The campgrounds maintained by the USFS and its contractors are often located in beautiful areas. A short drive from the campground will get you to great scenery, historical sites, and other outdoor recreation areas. The roads to USFS campgrounds are quite well maintained, but often require driving on gravel roads. Sometimes these roads can be wash boarded. Not all roads and campgrounds are suitable for all RV types. Remote USFS campgrounds are often best suited for smaller RVs such as truck campers and tow behind pop-up campers. If you have a larger RV, its best to check with the local USFS Ranger District Office for road conditions, or explore the road before taking your RV.

    All USFS campgrounds are easy to find if you have the Coleman USFS Campground Guide and a decent map. Local USFS Ranger District Offices have maps available, and can give you the latest road and campground status report for the area you wish to visit. They can also provide little known information about the area you intend to visit such as old ranch and railroad buildings, mines, and other points of interest nearby.

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    Will Forest Road 525 Be Closed Down If Land Abuse Continues

    We are looking in to options for how to manage camping and recreation along Forest Road 525 in west Sedona because the use in that area is so high that it is negatively impacting the land, roads, and wildlife.

    One of the options would be designated dispersed campsites along select areas of FR525.

    This would create a registry of campers on a first-come, first-served basis, that easily establishes how long they have been there, keeps people from using the site more than 14 days, and limits the amount of people who impact the area by allowing camping only in those designated numbered sites.

    Other options include closing it down completely to any camping.

    However, we strive to keep areas as open as possible, as this is the publics land to be enjoyed by all.

    What Can I Expect From Dispersed Campsites In National Forests

    Dispersed Camping on Public Lands

    Dirt. Trees. Bugs. Views. What more can you ask for?

    Free camping in National Forests, or dispersed camping, is about enjoying nature without all the fuss and clutter of amenities, like toilets, showers, and fire pits.

    This means you need to arrive fully self-sufficient, and prepared to clean up after yourself thoroughly.

    If youre in bear territory, remember that dispersed camping wont come with bear lockers. Bring odor-proof storage for your food, and store food away from your camp.

    Since youre camping in a place that hasnt been altered for camping, it typically wont be as flat or clutter-free as traditional campsites. If youre pitching a tent, youll probably want a sleeping pad for added comfort.

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    Recreational Vehicle Camping Locations And Information

    RV Camping!what a great way to leave your worries behind and enjoy the great outdoors. The clickable map is the key to finding the best campsites and locations. Each state page has a unique set of RV camping information sources, RV parks, free camping locations, maps, and research tools to help you find the best RV campsites.

    Weve got tips and information about public lands to help you find the best camping locations in every state. Learn about free camping, the rules, and regulations of public lands, official contacts, campgrounds, maps, and boondocking on lands managed by the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and more. State Wildlife Management Areas are another source of RV camping locations, and weve got links to just about all of them. You will find information and links to state, county, and community parks that offer great camping opportunities.

    Winter RV camping season is here, and the cooler weather finds many folks planning winter RV road trips, while many snowbirds are planning their migration back to warmer climates. No matter where and when you like to go RV camping, you can find information about the best RV camping locations nationwide by clicking a state on the above USA map.

    Camping In National Forests

    One of the most incredible things to do with your RV in the United States is to go free camping in our national forests.

    There’s much to choose from with 154 national forests available and 20 grasslands in our country.

    They add up to about 190 million acres of forest land available to access for recreation.

    Visitors can use any of the 4,300 campgrounds in these areas for a small fee. Dispersed camping in national forests usually is free.

    There are so many dispersed camping spots that they aren’t countable.

    The US Forest Service manages these areas as there are regulations and policies to follow.

    Do you want to go camping on national forest land? Yes, yes, you do.

    Let’s show you how you can!

    Also Check: Camping Near Island Park Idaho

    Can You Camp Anywhere In National Forests

    The short answer here is no way. As mentioned above, some restrictions help minimize damage to the camping locations.

    Developed campgrounds exist in national forests. You will have no choice but to park in a designated site at these locations.

    Dispersed national forest camping has different rules than does camping in a national forest developed campground.

    Dispersed camping rules only allow you to stay where there are signs of previous human inhabitation.

    Look for things such as fire rings, bare soil, a clearing that has no grass, and maybe has firewood stacked nearby.

    Meets all the requirements. Previous signs of use, open area on bare soil and an old campfire

    Use your common sense, too. If you see a grassy area that looks like it was fine until someone recently damaged it by staying where they shouldn’t have, it’s NOT a proper site.

    Some popular places are cracking down on campers. People have parked in areas that never were originally a spot.

    In some places, park officials brought in boulders or other blocking aids to keep future campers from causing more impact. They serve to keep people from parking in those spots.

    Please do your part and DON’T create unnecessary impact by damaging virgin wilderness.

    Be Mindful Of Generator Usage

    Forest Service, law enforcement try to deal with trashed campgrounds

    We understand that not everyone has solar. As a matter of fact, we used our generator exclusively when we first started boondocking. You can always look at the local signs to see if quiet hours are available.

    A good rule of thumb is to turn your generator off between the hours of 9 pm and 8 am. Its also kind to your neighbors if you dont run your generator all day. They can really ruin the experience of connecting with nature.

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    Where To Find Usfs Campgrounds

    The majority of USFS acreage lies west of the Mississippi, but national forests can be found in almost every U.S. state. There are a total of 154 designated national forests, and most provide camping opportunities.

    Many national parks are surrounded by national forests. If you cant find a campsite at the popular national park campgrounds, there may be an available site at a national forest location nearby.

    There are two types of national forest camping:

    How To Find Dispersed Campsites

    As previously mentioned, national forests offer campgrounds and remote camping, which they call ‘dispersed camping’. Here are the best ways to find these sites and areas.


    To find dispersed camping areas , we suggest starting with Campendium. Search under ‘National Forests,’ then filter for ‘free,’ and you will find everything available in each state.

    Ranger Stations

    Secondly, you can go to the closest ranger station. They will tell you where dispersed camping is permitted.

    Google Satellite View

    Google Satellite can also be of assistance. By checking out the satellite view of a national forest, you might find clearings down dirt roads in national forest areas. Similarly, you may also see campers pictured in some of those spots. Still, if you choose to go to those places, look for signs stating that camping is allowed and for how long.


    MVUM stands for Motor Vehicle Use Maps. This is a much more advanced way of finding remote sites. Watch our video below to learn how .

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    What Do I Need To Survive Dispersed Camping

    This is a broad question. ‘Survive’ is maybe the wrong word. Remember, there are no hookups or facilities ‘out there’. You need to be able to sustain your amenities for the duration of your stay.

    This means you need RV solar or a quiet RV generator to re-charge your batteries, enough water to last, waste tanks that can support you for your stay, you must manage your garbage, and have enough food to last through your visit.

    The best way to know whether you can make it is to try RV camping in a campground without hooking up.

    Count the number of days you last, and there you go. You can make modifications as needed after that.

    Be aware- sometimes you aren’t allowed to have fires when in a campground or when dispersed camping. Watch for signs or go to the appropriate NF website.

    Discover The Best Free Camping Across The Usa

    Dispersed Camping in the U.S. National Forests

    To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America .

    You should give it a try!

    As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, youre contributing to these lands.

    Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!

    Well send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA . Access the list by submitting your email below:

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    Boondocking Dispersed Rv Camping

    The term dispersed camping is used by the US Forest Service to describe camping outside a developed campground. This type of camping is encouraged by the USFS, but there are some rules and tips you should know. The Boondocking Section has the information you need to know about how to find these great RV camping locations.

    Where You Can Dispersed Camp

    Dispersed camping is allowed in certain locations in national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. To find out where you can participate in dispersed camping, it is best to contact the land manager directly. In the case of national forest land, contact the nearest Forest Service office.

    Do note that dispersed camping is not allowed in developed recreation areas, like trailheads or picnic areas. Use an existing camping site in places like this dont clear any vegetation to make a new site.

    The best Leave No Trace practice is to camp at least 200 feet from a water source.

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    Us Forest Service Campground Reservations

    If you are nervous about heading to a campground and not being able to find a site to park your RV, there are over 1700 Federal public land campgrounds with thousands of RV camping sites that can be reserved in advance. Most of the reservation required campgrounds are in beautiful areas, and the best part is that the reservation system is nation wide. Only one web site is required for all reservations throughout the country, and you can easily plan your RV vacation and stay entirely in USFS campgrounds using this centralized reservation system. Popular campgrounds fill reservations quickly, so try and plan your stay as early as possible.

    When you access the Reserve America Website, you are greeted with a map of the US with campgrounds allowing reservations. You can pick any part of the US by clicking on that region, and you can “drill down” to specific campgrounds that even show a map of the camping area. You specify the dates you wish to stay, and the system will display availability. With a quick click, you can make your RV camping reservation. There is no better way of finding reserve able public lands campgrounds.

    Rv Boondocking Guide For The Us National Forests: A Tutorial To Find The Best Camping Spots Using Free Mapping Tools

    Colorado Hunters Impacted As U.S. Forest Service To Close 440,000 Acres Of Land

    This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item linked from this post, RV Hive may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting the work that goes into developing RV Hive!

    Did you know that theres an easy way to find out where you can boondock in your recreational vehicle for free on U.S. Forest Service land using free mapping tools?

    This tutorial will show you how to find great boondocking sites in National Forests using the interactive U.S. Forest Service Visitor Map and official Motor Vehicle Use Maps developed by the USFS and available for free.

    There are several websites and apps that campers can use to find free boondocking locations, but Ive yet to find one that includes all of the great potential campsite locations that you can easily find using the free tools from the USFS.

    Hence the need for this tutorial, so that youre not limited to the already documented recreational vehicle boondocking sites indicated on popular websites and apps such as Campendium, AllStays, and others.

    Campendium, AllStays, etc are great tools and we use them all the time, but they simply do not include all of the many potential boondocking locations on US Forest Service lands. They are also the same potential sites being scouted by others using these apps and may be already taken by other campers.

    To find a wider range of possible boondocking sites, use the free approach outlined in this tutorial.

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    How To Find Free Camping On Utahs Public Lands

    Public land comprises the majority of the west. With roughly 63% of all Utah land remaining public, there are plenty of opportunities for free camping near Salt Lake City, far into the flat reaches of the West Desert, and throughout the southern red rock. Free camping options throughout Utah offer a way to explore the lesser known parts of the state.

    Thankfully, you wont be hard-pressed to find idyllic free campsites across the Beehive state with little to no work involved. Depending where youre located, free camping might be less than a mile off the highway. For last-minute camping, you can use The Dyrt PROs Offline Maps and Map Layers to find free camping near you. These features will show you public lands where you can camp for free whether or not you have service or wifi!

    In densely populated areas, however, free camping in Utah requires a little more creativity, patience, and route-finding. Almost always, though, the effort it takes to arrive is well worth it.

    How Not To Get Eaten By An Animal

    With the remoteness and wide-open spaces of National Forests come the animals that live there. Any time were out in the woods, we need to be animal-aware. Were in their home now. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has some great safety tips.

    For bears, it suggests: Never run from a bear. Bears can sprint at up to 40 mph and, like dogs, will chase animals that run away. If you are approached or charged by a bear, stand your ground and use your best bear deterrent . Most charges by bears are defensive, not predatory.

    For brown bears specifically: Be bear aware and look for signs of recent bear traffic. Leave when you see crushed plants, scat, or fresh tracks. Avoid surprising bears when you are out hiking by making noise: clap your hands, sing and talk. Travel in groups and make extra noise if you are in a brushy or loud area.

    For surviving mountain lion attacks, the U.S. FWS recommends: Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. If wearing a jacket, take it off and wave it around. Pick up small children. Wave arms slowly, speak firmly in a loud voice, throw rocks or other objects. Try to remain standing while facing the attacking animal. Fight back if attacked.

    Read more: How to Use Bear Spray

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