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How To Find Dispersed Camping

How To Choose A Campsite

Find Dispersed Campsites Using Outly

When choosing a campsite, the goal is to pick a spot that will allow for a great camping experience while minimizing any impact on wildlife, plants, or any other vegetation. Here are some tips to pick out the perfect campsite:

  • Setup your camping area at least 100 feet away from water sources, trails, or roads.
  • It is ideal to setup camp in a spot that has obviously already been camped in to avoid impacting additional surrounding areas.
  • If camping in a pristine area with multiple tents, spread out tents to avoid creating a heavier impact on a smaller area.
  • When setting up a tent, make sure to check for objects like rocks or branches and clear them out of the way

What Is Dispersed Camping And What Does It Require

But first, you need to make sure you are ready for dispersed camping. Dispersed camping means setting up camp anywhere youd like on public land. Its the opposite of designated or developed camping . You will find no amenities and no marked sites. A trail-rated or 4×4 vehicle is recommended, but far from always necessary. There are lots of dispersed spots to find with easy access. But you have to be self-sufficient to a great extent when it comes to food, water, shelter, gas, etc, as well as packing everything in with you .

If you are not sure if you’re ready yet, I suggest starting out with some primitive camp sites or camping with friends. We started out in very primitive designated camp sites that usually had a vault toilet and maybe a fire ring and grill. It felt like dispersed camping, but the campgrounds were easy to find via Google or local camping books and we always had easy access to the sites. .

How To Find Free Camping Sites Using Google Maps And Caltopo

I often hear families express a wish to go camping in the wild , but that they dont know where to go. The biggest concern seems to be how to easily distinguish public land from private land . I realized that its always my husband or our friends finding our spots, so I did my homework and I have turned it into an easy step-by-step guide for you . You will learn how to use the backcountry map, CalTopo, and what to look for when using Google maps when finding potential camp sites.

easy step-by-step guide: how to find wilderness camp spots using Google and CalTopo.

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Toms Best Spring Road

Location: Dixie National Forest, near Bryce Canyon National Park

For convenient boondocking and dispersed camping near Bryce Canyon, look no further than Toms Best Spring Road.

Also known as Forest Road 117, Toms Best Spring Road is lined with countless campsites, many ideal for even the biggest RVs and trailers.

Luckily, the gravel road is almost always in decent condition. RVs and trailers as well as passenger vehicles will be fine here. Although several flat, spacious campsites are located just off the highway, I recommend driving a bit further in to find something more private.

RVs and trailers should probably stick to one of the campsites off of Toms Best Spring Road itself but I do encourage other campers to explore the various spur forest service roads to find a little more privacy.

Dixie National Forest is absolutely stunning. And the abundance of trees coupled with the higher elevation means its usually much cooler here than many other top Utah dispersed camping areas.

One quick gripe it does get busy here. Its also very dry during the summer. Dust can be an issue if youre parked just off the main road. Youll likely also hear the hum of RV generators at all hours, unless you venture in deep on a back road.

What I Like:

What I Dont Like:

More Info:

Toms Best Spring Road is part of Dixie National Forest.

Call the Powell Ranger District for more information: 676-9300

Essential Tips When Free Camping In Canada

How to Find Free &  Dispersed Camping in California ...

When free camping in Canada, please keep the following advice in mind:

  • Always be respectful of wildlife, other campers, the environment and local residents. Free camping is a privilege, not a right
  • It only takes one person to ruin a free campsite for everyone else. Dont be that person. If you are asked to move on, you should. Where there are signs stating no camping or no overnight vehicles, do not stay there
  • Leave your campsite in the same, or better, condition than when you first found it. The easiest way to do this is to take all of your trash home with you and avoid damaging the local environment. Always follow Leave No Trace principles
  • Buy the relevant fishing license if you plan to go fishing. Each province and territory has their own licensing system and regulations. Salt water areas are usually licensed differently than fresh water regions.
  • When driving at dawn and dusk, pay special attention to hazards on the road. Large animals are more likely to be around at this time and a collision can be deadly for both you and the animal

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How To Find Dispersed Camping In Arizona

Fall is the time of year when snowbirds begin to flock south in their RVs in search of warmer weather. Dispersed camping in Arizona is the choice for many that make the annual pilgrimage. With nearly 42% of the state being public land, dispersed camping in Arizona is easy.

Dispersed camping, known as boondocking to RVers, is permitted across the state and not limited to the desert area many visualize when they think of dispersed camping in Arizona.

While most associate the town of Quartzsite, located in the Sonoran Desert, when someone mentions dispersed camping in Arizona, dispersed camping opportunities also exist along the lofty north rim of the Grand Canyon, the forested flanks of 12,637-foot Humphreys Peak, and the Chiricahua Mountains just north of the US-Mexico border. The reality is, dispersed camping in Arizona is a year-round opportunity as there are many climates and ecosystems to enjoy among the thousands of dispersed campsites available.

Dispersed camping in Arizona is a blast. Its free, easy to find dozens of campsites all throughout the state, and the camping areas are close to amazing recreation areas and hikes. Nick the Rambling Man

USFS Dispersed Camping Yes, Arizona does have trees!

How To Find Free Camping In Canada

We use a variety of methods to find free camping in Canada. Besides word of mouth and generally being observant, most used resources are:

  • Backroad Mapbooks Mentioned already, we find these guides invaluable for navigation and sourcing free camping in Canada. They are also useful for locating hiking trails
  • The Milepost Primarily a travel planner and map for Alaska, the Milepost is also indispensable for travel in northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory. Every highway mile is described in detail, with camping suggestions
  • Provincial/Territorial Park websites The first stop for finding free camping in provincial or territorial parks should be the relevant websites to double check rules and regulations
  • This is a website with an user generated database of free campsites around the world. Free to use, we have found a mixture of excellent and less than good sites on here
  • iOverlanderAnother helpful website, iOverlander features user suggested campsites plus water and shower locations. We find it especially helpful for the latter

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How Can I Go To The Bathroom While Camping In The Backcountry

When camping for free, youve got to get creative when nature calls.

For #1 , Leave No Trace principles recommend peeing directly into a large body of water. However, they dont recommend peeing in small bodies of water because it wont properly dilute.

If you are up in the mountains, try peeing on rocks to deter animals like mountain goats from digging up the area.

For #2 , its necessary to have a trowel to bury your business. No shovel? No problem. Use a nearby rock or push dirt back into place with your foot.

For all bathroom visits, make sure you are at least 200 feet from any water source.

Read REIs complete guide to going to the bathroom in the outdoors to learn how to leave as little of an impact as possible.

America The Beautiful Annual Parks Pass

How To Find Boondocking Sites (Off Grid Dispersed Camping)

If you visit national parks frequently in one year, its worth it to get the Annual Parks Pass. The pass covers entrance fees to National Parks, day-use fees, and also gives some discounts on campgrounds.

The pass covers the owner plus up to 3 adults in the same vehicle . As Ontheluce calculates, entrance fees would add up to $185 for Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Zion, Mesa Verde, and the Grand Canyon.

The pass costs:

  • Free US military pass
  • Free for residents with permanent disabilities

The pass does NOT cover any backpacking fees or permit costs though. You still need to apply and pay for these, even with the Annual Pass. Read more about the prices and what the pass covers here.

Beautiful camping spot in Yosemite with a view of Vogelsang Peak. A permit is definitely required!

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Other Public Lands In The United States And Canada

While national forests and BLM land are the most common places to find free camping, other types of public lands in the United States and Canada offer up pockets of campsites in different states and regions. State parks, city parks, and county parks sometimes maintain free camping areas. So do entities like water management districts, trust lands, conservation areas. Smaller US federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation have a few campsites, too.

Stay limits, access, amenities, permitting requirements, and the types of camping that are allowed at these sites vary greatly. Reading reviews on Campendium, and contacting the agency that manages these free campsites, will help to determine whether they are right for you.

Be A Better Camper Every Time

I once awoke floating in a field because I didnt understand local tides. It was an unpleasant lesson, but one that I wont soon forget. Mistakes are an inevitable part of learning something new and also valuable lessons that make us better campers.

But when you wake up, unzip the tent, and lie back to enjoy the rising sun, disconnected from the frantic pace of modern civilization, youll realize the extra effort is worth the hassle.

When you sink into the mellow rhythm of nature, surrounded by open spaces and wild places night after night without any wallet-pinching worries, youll be hooked.

So dont wait. Its time to get off the beaten path, live outside, and enjoy nights under the stars. Best of all, its time to do it all for free.

5 Favorite Free, Beautiful Camp Spots

After a year on the road, a wandering adventurer shares her favorite five dispersed campsites. Read more


By Mallory Paige

Gear Editor Mallory Paige credits a childhood exploring the Rocky Mountains for her love of the outdoors. She recently spent a memorable year motorcycle camping across North America and is now enjoying introducing her baby girl to all manner of adventure.

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Free Camping In Texas: Yes It Exists

If you are looking for an outdoor adventure in a state where you can experience multiple ecoregions, try the Lone Star State. Camping in Texas can be a truly diverse experience as you can find yourself in areas running from prairies to deserts to mountains to marshes and everything in between. Even better? Free camping in Texas can be bountiful if you know where to look.

Whether you are on a budget or want to extend your camping experience as long as possible, the state of Texas is an excellent place to explore. Heres what you need to know about free camping in Texas.

See a map of all free camping in Texas.

Slither Away: Boise Idaho

How To Find Dispersed Camping In Arizona

This one is more funny than anything, but while traveling in Boise, Idaho, we parked near the city zoo one night. At around 5 a.m. we woke suddenly to someone rapping on our window.

I dove deeper under the covers and made Ben go and check what was going on . At our window, was a park ranger clad in a wide-brimmed hat and a tan vest.

Howdy, he greeted us with more energy than was necessary at that hour of morning. Just wanted to let you know you may want to move your vehicle as were about to release snakes in the vicinity in a snake and raptor avoidance training. Upon hearing this, I shot out of bed, we wished him a good day, and we got the eff outta there!

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How To Camp For Free On Your Road Trip Any Time Any Place

Knowing how to camp for free its pretty much the ultimate road trip hack.

Between gas, food, and admission to attractions along the way, travel isnt cheap. Finding ways to make your money go further means your trip can go a little further, too. Free camping might not be the most glamorous option, but its got a certain romance of the open road appeal to it. Heres our advice on how to camp for free anytime, anywhere.

How To Find The Best Dispersed Campsites In The United States

You just cant beat dispersed camping

Imagine waking up to total silence except for the wind in the trees, some birds singing, and maybe even a trickling creek if youre lucky. Youre the only one around to appreciate your own little personal slice of heaven. Better yet, camping here is completely free.

Sounds great, doesnt it? Well, this is exactly what you get when dispersed camping on public lands far from the hustle and bustle of developed campgrounds.

Lets dive right in heres how to find the best dispersed campsites in the United States!

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Tell Someone Where You Are Going

Have you ever seen or read the memoir 127 Hours? We dont mean to scare you, but this guy didnt tell anyone where he was hiking and nearly died out in the wilderness.

Even if its a last minute visit, its important to share with at least one other person where you are going, who youll be with, and how long youll be staying. If you can, provide them with GPS coordinates of your campsites.

Not very good at remembering to fill people in? If you have an Apple phone, turn on the Find My Friends app for your loved ones and friends.

This will automatically update them with your recent coordinates, so you dont have to!

Dispersed Camping Free Rv Camping In National Forests

How to Find A Dispersed Campsite

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Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission on the products or services you purchase using the links. There is no additional cost to you and the earnings help keep this website running. Read the Affiliate Disclaimer for more information.

If youve watched any of our videos on or , youve probably heard us talk about dispersed camping or boondocking. If your reaction to any of those words is What the heck is that?, dont worry youre not alone. In this post, well explain why we love dispersed camping so much, and how you can do it too. By the time youre done reading, youll be an expert at finding free dispersed camping sites.

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Find Your Free Camp Site

In the United States, you can camp on Bureau of Land Management areas and in national forests across the country. You can also find free camping opportunities in some Wildlife Management Areas , state forests, and grasslands.

Certain high-use areas or sensitive habitats are marked with no camping signs. Other environments have specific ways to minimize damage, like avoiding the living biological crusts of desert environments or fragile plants of high alpine areas. But the majority of public lands are available for respectful use. Below is my favorite strategy to find an epic camp spot.

Scour Google Maps. Look for the green areas on Google Maps that signify public lands. This is a rough demarcation of national forests and other public areas, so be sure to respect private land at the fringes. Take note of whats available in the region you plan to explore. Use the Google Earth mode and zoom function to get an idea of roads and landscapes.

Use a paper map. Some wild spaces dont show up on Google Maps. And once youve gotten off the beaten path, cell service may not be available. This is where paper maps come in handy. Choose one of the options listed below or stop by the ranger station for a local map. These will help you identify roads, trails, potential obstacles, and water sources.

Look up rules and regulations for the area you plan to visit.

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What You Need To Know About Free Camping In Montana

Even though Montana is the fourth largest state, it ranks 43rd in population, making it an ideal place to spend time in the great outdoors.

Thanks to the open spaces and fresh air, there are plenty of options for free camping in Montana. The views are stunning, with public lands that are filled with rivers, mountains, and forests. Heres everything you need to know about free camping in Montana.

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