No campsite reservation and you are are headed out tonight? Want solitude and great views? No problem! Disperse camp! If you are like us, you may not always plan ahead and book designated campsites. Plus campsites can be crowded, noisy, and don’t offer solitude in most cases. If you aren’t familiar with dispersed camping, it basically means camping outside of a designated campground. Keep in mind this means no services are available like trash, potable water, bathrooms, and so on. If that doesn’t scare you away, here are some pointers for finding spots that are peaceful and available, even up to the last minute!
BLM land is one the best perks of living in the USA! While you can camp in designated BLM campgrounds, we usually find ourselves dispersed camping in undeveloped areas. We prefer the dispersed option for peace and solitude whenever we can, plus a nice perk is it’s free! BLM allows camping for up to 14 days before you have to move (in most cases). Check out the BLM website for more information or to find locations.
Unlike National Parks, National Forests have less restrictions on camping, and they have an official policy on dispersed camping. We always call the ranger station closest to the area where we want to disperse camp just to get the scoop on local regulations and obtain a permit if needed. Some National Forests have restrictions on dispersed camping, so it’s always good to check first. We often find good spots to camp in National Forests by using the satellite feature on Google or Apple maps to see what the terrain looks like and find to pull-offs.
This app is filled with recommendations for places other people have camped. Keep in mind, just because they are in the app doesn’t mean they are legal per se, but people generally will disclose it if they aren’t or tell you if they ran into any trouble staying there.
This is a great community driven website where users post places they’ve stayed. You can search by location on their interactive map.
While we don’t like spending money on apps very often, we did decide to purchase the All Stays App after spending some time on the road. It runs about $10 and allows you to search recommended spots to stay with everything from resorts to primitive camping. It tends to have a few more listings than other free apps, so the small investment was worth it.
You can search on the Campendium website for free camping by state or by National Forest Land options.
Pack it in, pack it out! Dispersed camping means there are generally no facilities, so be prepared to bring what you need and pack out what you use. This also means properly disposing of human waste. If you need pointers, check out the National Forest website for more information.