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Free Camping On Federal Land

Backcountry Camping In Rocky Mountain National Park

RV Camping in Free Government Land :: 1st BLM Overnight

There is dispersed camping in Rocky Mountain National Park as well as many of the other Colorado National Parks.

It is often called wilderness camping, or backcountry camping.

Wilderness camping in Rocky Mountain follows a different set of rules than National Forest campsites. For one, permits are required and there is a fee. You can pick up permits at one of the visitor centers or online.

  • Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
  • Kawuneeche Visitor Center

Pets are not allowed in the backcountry campsites at Rocky Mountain National Park, and you cannot stay at one camp area for more than three consecutive nights. You can find all of the dispersed camping rules here.

Where To Find Dispersed Camping In Washington

Public land, rest stops, parking lots, oh my! Washington has a wide variety of free campsites. Some are best suited for a quick nights sleep when youre passing through, but others are begging for you to settle in for a week or more and enjoy the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Washington earns its nickname of the Evergreen State honestlyit has a lot of trees! If you rely on solar, keep a close eye on our Campendium community reviews to ensure your chosen location has enough sun access to keep you charged up and ready to go.

Where Can You Find Free Dispersed Camping

Free camping, or dispersed camping, is allowed in all national forests, unless noted otherwise. You can find places to camp on the side of main roads, or follow forest access roads to more remote sites. Theres also the option to backpack in for several miles and find a quiet site away from any roads or people. These sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and cannot be reserved in advance. If youre in a pinch you can use the offline maps and campgrounds of The Dyrt PRO to find the BLM land near you.

The general rule is to camp 100-200 feet away from any road, trail, or water source. If a previous campsite is visible, using that site will minimize impact to the area.

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How To Find Free Or Cheap Rv Campsites In State Parks And State Forests

State Parks and State Forests offer yet another opportunity to camp on public lands.

The main difference is that these public lands are run by the individual state, rather than the federal government.

Now, where this gets tricky is that each state will have its own website that houses information about their parks and possibly another one for their state forests . And on top of that, there may be different rules and regulations in each state.

The second complicated part here is if youre unfamiliar with the area youre trying to travel to.

Lets imagine that if youre planning a trip to Michigan and youre from Tennessee, you need to know that the state park or forest is even there to help you find the right website and place to book a campground.

But, the process here is worth the reward! State Parks and State Forests are typically far less trafficked than National Parks and National Forests while still being much cheaper than a traditional campground. You can expect to pay anywhere from $18-28/night in most State Parks and $5-20/night in most State Forests.

A good tip if youre spending a lot of time in one state is that many states have a State Park Pass. This is usually an annual pass that allows free access to all of their State Parks! If you dont have one of these youll typically end up paying a small fee to enter the park as well as nightly camping fees.

The best way to start is by using Google to search for a specific states park system.

Important Rules For Camping On Federal Lands:

Free Dispersed Camping On Federal Land
  • There will be signs indicating that you are not allowed to camp outside designated campsites in many of the higher traffic locations. Never ignore these signs.
  • In certain environments there will be signs about native plants and organisms that you must respect and protect. Examples are the bacterial mats in the deserts, and the alpine tundra plants in the mountains. Never ignore these signs.
  • Never drive your vehicle off of designated roads. You can damage fragile ecosystems and ruin the environment for everyone else as well.
  • Never have a campfire in areas where there is a risk of wildfire. If you do have a campfire, ensure that you put it out completely before you leave the campsite.
  • Leave no trace. There should be NO TRACE that you EVER were there. If you are reading my blog, you should already be highly aware of responsible use of our wilderness areas, but if you need a refresher course, read the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

The Bureau of Land Management manages 247.3 million acres of public lands in the United States which constitutes one-eighth of the landmass of the country. You should have no problem finding an amazing place to camp on BLM land.

There are 155 National Forests containing almost 190 million acres of land. These lands comprise 8.5% of the total land area of the United States, an area about the size of Texas. You should have no problem finding an epic campsite in a National Forest.

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Important Rules About Camping On Blm Land:

Developed Campgrounds

  • When camping in a developed area, please use the specifically marked sites.
  • If you are camping in a developed site and are in a group with more than two vehicles or 10 people, please use a group site or two campsites.
  • Money from fees charged at developed campgrounds are used to maintain these areas for everyones enjoyment. Avoid a citation or fine by being responsible and paying your share.
  • Please respect other campers and keep quiet hours of 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., or those posted.
  • Always build fires in the stove, grill, fireplace or ring provided in developed campgrounds. Do not burn trash or material that produces toxic or hazardous material. Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Use the designated spots for your tent, trailer and other gear. If you leave personal property unattended for more than 24 hours in a day-use area, or 3 days in other areas, it may be considered abandoned and disposed of by BLM.
  • Horses, llamas and other livestock are not allowed in campgrounds or picnic areas unless BLM has provided facilities for that use.
  • Most BLM sites are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Dispersed Camping in Undeveloped Areas

What Can I Expect From Dispersed Campsites In National Forests

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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Boondocking In Undeveloped Campgrounds

Now, this is our type of boondocking! Its also what first pops into mind when most people think about boondocking.

Getting out into the wild, gathering your own firewood, and using battery-powered lights. Maybe firing up the generator a few times to make coffee and generally unplug from daily life literally and figuratively.

If youre relatively new to boondocking or RVing in general, this can be nerve-wracking the first few times you do it. Youre off the grid and need to be self-reliant. It takes some planning but it is absolutely within the reach of any RVer.

When we first started those same intimidating questions were running through our head. What happens if we run down our batteries and get stranded? What if we encounter some less than savory characters in the backwoods of who-knows-where?

If you have these questions, you may enjoy the ebook we put together called The Beginners Guide to Boondocking. In this post we cover the where to go of boondocking but the ebook covers the how to do it piece.

Well go into how to find these types of sites in the next section, you can usually find them in National or State Forests or public land managed by the BLM and boy are they worth it.

These are the sites that Jennifer and I enjoy and the upsides of boondocking in the wilderness are many. Privacy, serenity, uncluttered scenery, wildlife, and truly getting away from it all are at the top of my list.

Pros And Cons Of Dispersed Camping

Dispersed Camping in National Forests – Free Camping on Public Land

When youre dispersed camping, you must be well-practiced in Leave No Trace Principles. For the most part, it will just be you, your tent and the landno bathrooms, no showers, no trash cans. Pack out what you brought in, and pick up any additional trash you find for extra credit.

You also have to accept more risks. While there may be USFS Rangers in the area, outside of a designated campground you lose the safety in numbers factor, especially with regards to the elements and wildlife. If youre camping in bear country, bring your own bear canister and spray. If youre in the desert, bring extra water and appropriate shade. If theres a fire ban, its your responsibility to know about it before you go and to obey it at all times.

That being said, there are lots of benefits to camping on public lands. For one, its free! Theres also a good chance you and your crew will be the only ones out thereyoull have lots more privacy than in a developed campground, and a lot more freedom.

: But with that freedom, comes responsibility.

Youre camping on public landyour land. Its your responsibility to take care of both the land and yourself while youre out there. Happy camping!

Dispersed camping not your thing? You can still find greater privacy camping on privately-owned lands listed on Hipcamp. Search for campgrounds Bookable on Hipcamp near you.

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Your Guide To Blm Camping And Recreation

BLM Camping and Recreation Opportunities Across the US

Fantastic camping opportunities are found on Bureau of Land Management undeveloped public lands, a highlight for any recreation enthusiast who wants open space and solitude to pitch a tent and enjoy the great outdoors. Besides developed campgrounds, national conservation areas, and open-air recreation, the BLM provides dispersed camping for those who want to get away from it all.

BLM lands offer a variety of recreational vehicle and camping types for those looking for adventure. From fully-developed RV parks and campgrounds to true boondocking and dry camping experiences, theres something for every kind of explorer across the United States.

Concerns About Free Camping

Give it a shot! The first time is the hardest. Camping in ways youre not used to is usually more intimidating than it needs to be. Usually, people expect to be nervous, but it only takes a few times before it becomes second nature. If youve come across more free camping resources wed love to hear it and add to the list!

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Where To Find Free & Cheap Rv Sites & Camping On State & Federal Land

As weve said many times, our absolute favorite kind of camping is boondocking and our favorite places to do so are in National Parks, National Forests, State Parks, State Forests, BLM land , and the like.

These sites vary widely depending on where you are. Many National Parks have campgrounds with and without hookups. Most dont have anything but a picnic table and firepit.

They may cost a few dollars or they may be free. The only thing that doesnt change is youll definitely need to conserve your electricity and water to be self-contained.

But man are they worth it, these sites are beautiful.

The problem that comes up with these sites is that if youre not exactly sure where you want to go, it can be hard to find these campgrounds on federal and state land.

This happens because theyre run by different governmental bodies and their respective websites can be frustrating to use to find useful information.

Weve run into this problem for years and we imagine that many of you have as well.

Thats why weve decided to compile a list of these different governmental bodies and a general explanation of the best ways weve found to use their websites and find great free and cheap boondocking spots!

Rest Areas + Truck Stops

Free Dispersed Camping On Federal Land

When driving between destinations, rest areas and truck stops are the most ideal form of free camping because of their ease and simplicity. Rest areas usually lie on long stretches of highway between cities. Rest areas are definitely not a place to pull off at 6pm and chill before hitting the hay however, if youre trying to get for A to B and need somewhere to sleep in your Vans or RV, its perfect.

Since these are just parking lots, this is not suitable for tent camping. Rest areas are usually very quiet places to sleep besides the sound of semi-truck engines running and they give you access to restroom facilities which can be nice.

The difference between rest areas and truck stops is that rest areas are right along the highway and are usually public, while truck stops are a part of large gas stations. Both are usually very well marked on highways so theyre no problem to find. If you know youll be driving on a highway to your destination, you can count on the fact that there will be a rest stop along the way for you to free camp at.

Best for: A place to sleep on long drivesTents: No

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How Do You Camp Responsibly In National Forests

Camping responsibly requires leaving the land as close to the way you found it as possible. When possible, choose a site that has already been used for camping to avoid disturbing another area. Choose an area free of vegetation. If you need firewood, gather fallen branches. Never chop a tree. Dont dig a trench or build a tent platform. Camp and wash at least 200 ft from any water source.

Youll need to bring anything you brought in back out again. Never leave trash or belongings in the forest. If you need to defecate, youll need to dig a small hole. Once you are finished, fill in the hole.

Permits Fees And Limitations:

  • Most BLM campgrounds require a fee to use a campground. These fees help maintain the facilities. Selecting a campsite is usually on a first come first serve basis. However, some campgrounds take reservations which can be made at Please obey all posted rules specific to the campground and keep the following in mind.

  • Fee sites vary in price. Please check the campgrounds website or call the local field office for details.
  • Camping stay limits vary by location but are generally about two weeks within a month period.
  • Pay camp fee within 30 minutes of occupying a site.
  • A campsite is rented ONLY once it has been paid in full with the pay-stub properly completed and displayed on site and the site is occupied by campers.
  • Do not leave personal property unattended for more than 72 hours.
  • Due to adverse weather, many campgrounds are only seasonally available. Make sure to check if the campground is open before planning your trip.

Dispersed Camping

Camping on public lands away from developed recreation facilities is referred to as dispersed camping. Most of the remainder of public lands are open to dispersed camping, as long as it does not conflict with other authorized uses or in areas posted “closed to camping,” or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources.

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Food Storage And Prep

You dont want any wild visitors, so youll need to take care of food and cooking. If you are in a bear country, youll need to store and cook your food at least 200 feet from where you sleep.

If you are camping in an area where bears arent a concern, you should be fine with keeping food stored so its not accessible to bugs and rodents. If you have food scraps, throw them at least 100 feet from your campsite.

How To Camp On Blm Land

Dispersed Camping on Public Lands Explained! (Finding Free & Cheap Campsites)

Like the National Park Service, the mission of the Bureau of Land Management is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

However, the 245 million acres managed by the BLM include wilderness areas, historic trails, landmarks, and primitive public land, is generally a lot more secluded and offers a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of high-traffic recreation areas.

But just because BLM land is generally off the beaten path, so to speak, that doesnt mean its completely devoid of rules and regulations. A few things need to be ironed out before boondocking in the backcountry, heading off the grid in your adventure rig, or appreciating the amenities of a developed site on BLM land.

How to Find BLM Land

The Bureau of Land Management manages one in every 10 acres of land in the United States. So, although most BLM land is located in the Western states, you shouldnt have to venture too far to find the perfect place to pitch a tent.

One of the easiest ways to find BLM land is by leveraging the interactive maps provided by the Bureau of Land Management. Pick your destination, filter the results based on your favorite outdoor activity, or type in a few keywords to narrow your search.

Developed Campgrounds vs. Dispersed Camping

Permits and Fees

Rules and Regulation

When camping in a developed campground:

When camping in undeveloped areas:

Morgan Shannon

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