Like everything else these days, camping is expensive. Most National Parks are $20 a night and a campsite at a state park in California will set you back $35! If I regularly camped at State Parks, National Parks, Recreation Areas or KOA’s I couldn’t afford to live on the road. To save money and seek solitude, I stick to public lands – BLM, National Forests and National Grasslands – where the camping is free and the crowds are nonexistent.
Dispersed camping, also known as boondocking or coyote camping (how appropriate!), means free camping in remote areas without campground amenities like picnic tables, grills or bathroom facilities. Boondocking is not for everybody, especially the bathroom part, but if you’re willing to rough it a bit, there is a ton of free camping out there.
All BLM, National Forest and National Grasslands are open to dispersed camping, unless otherwise marked. Every so often you might see signs that say “No Camping” or “Camp Only In Designated Campsites”, but usually only near cities or National Park boundaries with a potential for overuse.
On most National Forest lands, you can stay at the same site for a maximum of 14 days. The BLM usually imposes a 21-day limit and Arizona and California have Long Term Visitor Areas where you can park a tent, car, van or RV for months at a time.
No matter where you end up camping or how long you stay, always practice Leave No Trace! That means when you drive away from your campsite, there should be no trace that you were ever there: no new fire rings, no trash, no mess. Take only photographs and leave only footprints!
For more Boondocking tips check out my posts Boondocking Part 2: Finding A Sweet Free Campsite and Boondocking Part 3: Leave No Trace. For more cheap road tripping tips: How To Budget For A Killer Road Trip and for a breakdown of the cost of life on the road check out: Oh Canada: By The Numbers and Pennsylvania To Vermont: By the Numbers.
*** This post brought to you by reader request. Got questions about life on the road? Just ask! 🙂
Hey Blonde Coyote, I love your blog, but why the recycled posts lately?
Well, Kendall. I don’t just write for fun, this is how I make a living and some weeks all my time and creative energy goes towards stories that I actually get paid to write. I’ve had a few people asking about free camping lately — over a thousand readers have joined this site since I last posted this Boondocking info back in May and given that a couple dozen people have liked the post since yesterday, it seems like more than a few have gotten something out of seeing it again. If you love TBC and would like to see all new content, all the time, buy a print or two or three! Christmas is coming. Thanks for reading! M
Pingback: The Blonde Coyote: 2012, in review « Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Hey, great blog, I like it 🙂 Greetings from Serbia, Europe. I write a blog about nature and adventures also, but in Serbian language. I hope i will start writing in English soon 🙂 Cheers!
Hi Mark! I’m glad you found me. I checked out your blog for the photos- I can’t read Serbian, but your country looks like a beautiful place! Thanks for reading! M
Thank you very much I am really glad you like it 🙂 I’ll be writing English translations for my texts in near future, for non-serbian readers 🙂
Pingback: Teardrop Upgrades! « Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: How To Plan A Killer Road Trip! Part 1 « Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: How To Plan A Killer Road Trip! Part 3: Copilots « Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Galisteo Love Letter « Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: On the Road, Again: Angel Peak, NM | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Explosions in the Sky: Canyonlands Thunderstorm! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Into the Abyss and Up Again | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Rover Love! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: A Walk In The Clouds: Three 14′ers, One Fine Foggy Day | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Crossing Karmic Paths: On the Road to Paonia | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Teardrop Trouble: Between a Rover and a Hard Place | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: What Would the Blonde Coyote Do? Questions from an Aspiring Nomad | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Hey Blonde Coyote, Will You Plan My Road Trip? | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: Ask the Blonde Coyote: Where the Heck is the Bathroom?! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Pingback: My Own Private Idaho | Travels with the Blonde Coyote
Hello Mary, this is exactly the resource I was looking for. So happy to know about those brown signs and BLM land. In the next year I am going to build my self a home inside a van and next summer (any maybe beyond) I am going to hit the road and see as much nature as possible. I currently live in Seattle in Queen Anne and if I didn’t count on boondocking at least a third of my trip, living on the road would be as expensive as staying in my apartment. Thanks for the resource!