The Zen of Boondocking Part XII – More public land camping options

author image

April 23, 2011

By Bob Difley

In last week’s post I wrote about camping on public lands other than the two big entities, the BLM and National Forest Service. This is a continuation, since I ran out of space last week. But it does indicate just how much area in this country is available for boondocking–if you know where to look.



In National Parks you can camp only in a designated campground. National Monuments are less restricted, have fewer facilities, and may allow boondocking in certain areas. Check at the visitor center or online whether the park allows dispersed camping before making camp. Many monuments also have primitive campgrounds (photo – Craters of the Moon, near Arco, ID).


Eighteen NRAs are managed by the NPS, with the FS managing several more and the BLM managing one. It depends on the NRA itself whether dispersed camping is allowed. Most have designated campgrounds, some with partial hook-ups, some without, but with amenities like dump stations and drinking water. NRAs are often found within National Forests and on large reservoirs with lots of recreation possibilities.

One of my favorites, the Sawtooth NRA in central Idaho, has lots of dispersed campsites on the edge of the forests bordering the Salmon River that flows through the valley. East of the town of Stanley, the hub of the NRA, dispersed sites also lie along the Salmon River, several with hot springs bubbling and steaming into the cool river.


Don’t bypass local harbor districts before checking for camping possibilities. The Port San Luis Harbor District in San Luis Obispo County in central California allows primitive camping along the shoreline of San Luis Bay (photo). Beach swimming, fishing, restaurants, boating (commercial launch ramp), and a fishing pier with fresh fish outlets offering the catch of the day from the resident fishing fleet compliment the sunsets and bay and ocean views.


These type camping facilities are not always easy to find and local knowledge here can be helpful. When passing through small towns in the mid-west, south, and east especially, ask about local campgrounds or dispersed camping areas. The police and fire departments are good sources of such information, as would be the chamber of commerce or visitor center if they have one. Several times while traveling I found small town parks that allowed overnight stays for travelers passing through and camping areas outside of town that the locals used but didn’t appear in any campground guides.


Following are some other alternatives to staying in pricey full hook-up campgrounds. Most of us have to watch our outgo since our income may be fixed or we got hammered by the nation’s economic problems of the last few years, so any creative ways that we can reduce our camping fees will be welcome. In addition to the many camping opportunities mentioned above, here are some additional possibilities.


Some of these trail heads, especially on FS and BLM lands, have parking lots large enough to accommodate your rig without denying others a parking space. Usually such a parking lot will be good for two to three nights of boondocking, especially when you plan on using the trail. It isn’t quite like being off in the woods by yourself as trail hikers will be coming and going, but weekdays should be less busy than weekends and the nights should be quiet after the hikers leave.

Bottom line–there are many boondocking opportunities if you keep your boondocking antenna up and look at all possibilities.

Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.

Leave a Reply


  1. mlrzjo , [url=]dmtsdqxhjiea[/url], [link=]mgafjgcolbrd[/link],

  2. That’s an ingenious way of tihnking about it.

  3. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this blog. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own website now

  4. I really appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank God I found it on Google. You’ve made my day! Thank you again..

  5. of course like your web site but you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll surely come back again.

  6. That is the right blog for anybody who wants to find out about this topic. You understand so much its virtually hard to argue with you (not that I truly would want…HaHa). You positively put a brand new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, just nice!

  7. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  8. As a Newbie, I am permanently exploring online for articles that can be of assistance to me. Thank you

  9. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  10. I’m so happy to read this. This is the type of info that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

  11. Blogs generally need lots of good, interesting and fresh content. I think that the best way to accomplish this is through a mixture of content curation and content creation. Ever since the latest Google updates, sites that use good curation strategies have managed to rise to the top. If you want to take a look at a good curation tool then check this out…

  12. I have been reading out many of your stories and it’s clever stuff. I will definitely bookmark your website.

  13. pretty good post. i just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that i have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

  14. Posts like this brighten up my day. Thanks for tkaing the time.

  15. GaryM

    Bob, as usual – good stuff. We have been putzing around Montana for a bit. It is so good to be out and about again. Thanks for your great blog.
    Not wanting to get off topic but Pat – you are right. It is always a great time to remind everyone that this is our country and we must clean up after our pets and ourselves. This weekend other campers just let their pets run wild. The people somewhere on our right let their dog dump in our camp. Then somewhere on our left, there were 5 dogs at one camp. Those were allowed to run free and enter our camp. My dog is very protective and always on leash but she will try to go after the intruders. It is very difficult to not make her the bad guy for doing what needs to do to protect us when no one else cared what their critters did. We finally had to move to protect our dog. Otherwise we had a beautiful time in the wonderful Paradise Valley.

  16. Pat

    Not sure if this is the place to post this…but PLEASE people, please pick up after yourselves and your pets! We’re running into more folks who just don’t seem to care. This morning I while walking our pup I picked up beer and pop cans, and other trash. Even campground owners seem to turn a blind eye. I guess they don’t want to offend their income source! Let’s be a good example to all and keep the camp grounds clean! Makes it more fun and attractive for all! Thanks for letting me rant!

  17. Pat

    As always, good stuff Bob! Did you mention Corps of Engineer sites? I think some of the Miss River lock and dams have dry docking/primitive camping available…but you have to want to go there as at least one I know of is a bit remote. If you did, sorry, I need to re-read your series as my internet has been spotty as of late.