How to find en route one-nighter boondocking campsites
By Bob Difley
Experienced boondockers can usually find a good boondocking campsite when they head into a national forest or onto BLM land where millions of acres are available for dispersed, non-campground, camping.
It becomes more difficult finding a suitable boondocking campsite for a single night when on the road traveling through unfamiliar territory.
The following excerpt is Part 1 from my ebook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, on how to find these en route one-nighters. I will post Part 2 next Saturday, September 22nd.
Since boondocking campsites are not easy to find, locating one while traveling from point A to point B will take more time than would locating a campground in your campground directory. However, once you have located a good boondocking campsite, it is yours from then on and is just as easy to include on your travel itinerary as a designated campground. And if you stumble upon other good campsites, maybe when you weren’t yet ready to stop for the night, add it to your list for next time around. (The campsite in the photo above was several hundred yards off US 191, on a good quality gravel road south of Edgar in Apache-Sitgreaves NF in East Central Arizona.)
If you are traveling through a national forest or on BLM land, your job becomes much easier, since you are permitted by law to drive on any roads authorized for motor vehicles and camp anywhere where dispersed camping is authorized. See forest service maps available online for each individual forest. This rule was changed in 2011 from a “camp anywhere” rule primarily to protect the forests from off-roaders. Many FS and BLM roads can be quite primitive, like they haven’t been used since settlers in Conestoga wagons pulled by a team of oxen passed through on their way to the Oregon.
Many of these were not built according to strict regulations that would enable them to be used by logging and cattle trucks and fire equipment–and therefore able to support large RVs, so chances are these are the roads that will not be authorized for RV travel and camping. If you do camp in an unauthorized area, you are vulnerable to a fine and time in the slammer (though that would be drastic punishment and used only for flagrant offenders).
Plan ahead and locate the FS or BLM office (see Links) that serves the region and arrive before they close so that you can inquire about road closures, forest fire activity, whether a fire permit is needed, pick up maps, and get a list and directions to designated campgrounds that will fit your rig—and if you are lucky–easily accessible boondocking campsites (both the FS and BLM refer to them as “undesignated”) along your route.
Next week Part 2 will show how to find campsites when FS or BLM offices are not available and you are on your own in finding suitable–and scenic, private, and quiet–overnight boondocking campsites.
For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.