The Admin's Blog

By hitekhomeless

Most people do not know that camping is available, many times for free, outside of designated campgrounds on most public land. In general, you can camp anywhere in a national forest unless posted otherwise. Individual forests might have their own restrictions, so it is always best to check with them before setting up camp. The same thing goes for BLM land.

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Camping In The Wild

It is called dispersed camping. When you disperse camp, you are on your own. The only thing provided is an un-designated patch of land. You have to bring everything that you will need and pack out everything that you brought. You will have to deal with your own poo by burying it or packing it out with you. In addition, there will not be any drinking water supplied. There might be a spring or body of water near by. In that case, you will want to filter it before drinking. or cooking.

Reservations cannot be made for dispersed camping. It is first come, first served.

If possible, I suggest scouting out the area before you try to drive your large RV to it. That way, you will know what to expect. It’s no fun driving 10 miles into the forest to find a locked gate and no where to turn your 40′ motorhome or trailer around. If you are in doubt and can’t scout, call the ranger’s office and ask about the conditions.

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Dispersed Camping Guidelines

Each area has it’s own set of rules. It’s best to contact the individual agency for specifics. As an example, here are the guidelines from Colorado’s San Juan National Forest

  • All dispersed campers should follow the ideals of Leave No Trace and practice the concept of Pack It In – Pack It Out.
  • Generally, overnight camping is NOT allowed at trailheads, picnic areas, day-use parking areas or any other areas that don’t allow overnight parking.
  • You may not travel more than 300 feet from a designated road (see MVUM below)
  • When using a dispersed camping area, the general rule is to be a minimum of at least 100-200 feet away from any road, trail or water source.
  • Dispersed campers are only allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days in any 30-day period.

90% of the time, the only dog restriction when you are dispersed camping is that they need to be under your control at all times.

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Finding Dispersed Campsites

We recommend using our website, http://freecampsites.net as we make it really easy to locate dispersed camping in your area. We have maps, gps coordinates, pictures, and user submitted reviews.

Contacting the agency who manages the area you are interested in is also a great way to find campsites. They are on location and know the current conditions.

You can also go out on your own and try to discover “unknown” wild campsites. If you decide to go it alone in a national forest, make sure that you have their most recent Motor Vehicle Use Map. They also show where dispersed camping is allowed along with areas that it prohibited. Why MVUMs? Since the Travel Management Rule for the U.S. Forest Service was implemented in 2005, the forest service has closed many roads to vehicular travel. The rule requires each national forest or ranger district to designate those roads, trails, and areas open to motor vehicles. Designation will include class of vehicle and, if appropriate, time of year for motor vehicle use. A given route, for example, could be designated for use by motorcycles, ATVs, or street-legal vehicles. Once designation is complete, the rule will prohibit motor vehicle use off the designated system or inconsistent with the designations. Designations will be shown on a motor vehicle use map. Use inconsistent with the designations will be prohibited. The rule requires each national forest or ranger district to designate those roads, trails, and areas open to motor vehicles. The MVUM can usually be obtained at a local ranger station. They are provided free of cost. Many times you can download them in PDF form from the individual forest’s website. Learn more about MVUMs: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/ohv/

Google Earth and satellite maps are also a tremendous help. You can use them to zoom in on an area and locate campsites without even leaving your house. Often times, you’ll even see other people camping.

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Other Lands for Dispersed Camping

Most states have lands that are managed by the state’s Fish and Game Commission. These are usually called Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Many allow you to camp. There are a good number of states that allow camping on State Trust Land. State Forests might also be a good bet in your area. There are only a handful of states that have State Parks with dispersed camping. Some utility companies allow it on their land. Privately held conservation lands might also permit dispersed camping. All of these options vary from state to state and each owner might have a different set of rules.

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Enjoy Yourself

Welcome to the world of free camping! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. If you are self sufficient and want a more natural experience then you wont be disappointed.



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Reviewed on April 19, 2017
Outdoor Prof

I've traveled between my life in the West and my family's places in the Midwest for 25 years, and boy do I wish I could have had this kind of information over the years. From your site I've learned much about great spots to camp enroute that I'd never have known about. Who knew there were places to camp in Kansas? Thanks, hugely, for your efforts, this has really improved my migrations around the US.

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Reviewed on March 20, 2017
Jason

By far the most informative site after surfing the web for 2 days.

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Reviewed on March 10, 2017

Excellent information! I've learned a lot from your site. Thank you.

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Reviewed on February 26, 2017
William Rosch

Very helpful...thank you...

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Reviewed on February 15, 2017
Billy

I have 35 foot bus convertered to motor home with solar. Would love to camp close to creeks or river. I am a writer and this would help me. Thanks

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Reviewed on December 15, 2016
Sherry and Jonathan Costanzo

We are biking across the country. This is very helpful thank you

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Reviewed on December 2, 2016
jane dyar

we first discovered dispersed camping when the government shutdown during the time we planned to visit all of utah's national parks....we will never go back to planned campgrounds where possible! looking forward to exploring this site....thanks!

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Reviewed on October 24, 2016
Debra cunningham

Retiring and taking off in my 1999Expedition with a rooftop tent. Utah first.

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Replied October 25, 2016

That's going to be so exciting. Please let us know how your adventures go.

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Reviewed on October 18, 2016
Steve

Thanks for this site. Retiring soon and will become a gypsy.

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Replied October 19, 2016

Best of luck in your retirement. It is going to be a grand adventure. I hope the website helps you achieve all that you desire.

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Reviewed on September 29, 2016
MichaelJ

Excellent post. Very helpful.

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Reviewed on September 23, 2016
james douglas

would like to see New Mexico and Arizona try some fishing.

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Replied September 24, 2016

We have may dispersed campsites listed in Arizona and New Mexico. You can use our filters to show locations near water and with fishing.

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Reviewed on September 3, 2016
Jeaninne

New to this idea and gathering more info. Is dispersed camping under the same seasonal limits as developed campsites? Meaning can I camp after the pay sites are closed for the season?

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Replied September 3, 2016

Hi Jeaninne,

Welcome. When and where you can dispersed camp is dependent upon the location in which you do it. In general, you can camp at any time of the year, weather permitting, on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land. You are normally allowed to stay up to fourteen days in any one location. Camping locations managed by other agencies, like a Wildlife Management Areas, might only allow camping seasonally. The good news is that National Forests and BLM land make up the majority of the land that you can camp on. I hope that helps.

If you enjoy camping and you don't need amenities, you are going to love dispersed camping.

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Reviewed on August 22, 2016
Michael Drake

My wife and I a retiring soon and really like the idea,and or option to try dispersed camping from time to time. This site will come in handy.

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Replied August 22, 2016

Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. Thanks for stopping in. Dispersed camping offers a completely different experience than campgrounds. If you enjoy having an area to yourself and nothing but the sounds of nature, you're sure to love it.

Best wishes to you in your upcoming adventure.

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