How to find en route one-niter boondocking campsites – Part 2
By Bob Difley
In Part 1 last week I wrote about the basics of finding one night boondocking sites when on the road in unfamiliar territory by having the Forest Service and BLM providing some help and information.
This week is about finding campsites when this help is not available, and you are trying to find a scenic, private, and quiet boondocking campsite in a place where you have never camped before.
Both Part 1 and Part 2 are from my ebook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands.
Since you are on the road with an ultimate destination or tight timetable, the ideal spot would be one not too far off the main road (which in national forests and on BLM land would be a quiet two-lane road, not a major noisy freeway), and with a large turning radius so that you do not have to unhitch just for one night. That is the trick. I have found the following to be the best—and easiest—way to find a spot with a minimum of fuss and lost time.
First, we slow down so that we don’t sail right on by a likely campsite. I watch one side of the road and Lynn the other. When one of us spots a side road, we slow down and pull off to the side of the road and walk down the road for a couple hundred yards (we’re usually due for a leg stretcher by this time and welcome the walk) to see if we can find a likely spot. If so, we retrieve our rig and settle in. We have found good campsites along most of our regularly traveled routes and those spots become daily destinations while enroute.
If we can’t find a suitable spot from the above search, and if we find the area particularly scenic, we may walk further in, or go back and unhitch our toad and drive in a ways hoping to find a good spot (you may not want to go to this step if you are towing a trailer or fifth-wheel). But we don’t take too long for the search. If we find nothing , we return, but don’t hitch up again, and continue on down the road with Lynn taking the lead looking for another side road. When she pulls over, I follow, park the motorhome, and jump in the car and off we go to look for another spot.
Usually following this procedure we will find something in short order. However, we have been in new territory where we could not quickly find a suitable campsite. This will happen, but only once the first time you go through an area. This factor would become part of your notes for next time. Our backup—and sometimes our primary choice—would be to first locate any designated campgrounds in the area we are passing through so that if we don’t find a spot we head for one of them, or if we pass one, check it out before continuing.
Often, if there are forest service campgrounds in the area we will head there first, as they are among our favorite campgrounds and are inexpensive, ranging from $0 if there is no water or other amenities, to seldom as much as $20/night (which with our Interagency Senior or Annual Pass [see Federal Recreation Passes below] will cost us half that).
For Class B, Class C, small motorhome, and truck camper users that are not towing it is safe enough to drive down the access road as long as you make sure that you can see far enough ahead to determine whether there are any obstacles, such as fallen trees, rock slides, low overhanging branches, and washouts that could hinder turning around. Or grazing cattle (yes, the NFS and BLM grant grazing permits and you might not like the smell of cattle in your campsite).
Sometimes you can spot campsites from the road. Along rivers or streams where the paved road crosses are good places to look for campsites that anglers have previously established. Those of you that are towing travel trailers or fivers, though you have a bit more flexibility in backing up and turning around than a motorhome with a toad, it is probably best to park on the side of the road and walk in to check for a spot rather than unhitch and have to hitch up again if you find nothing.
And now a request. To those of you who have purchased the Amazon/Kindle version of my BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands book–and hopefully liked it and found it useful–I would greatly appreciate if you would post a short review on the book’s Kindle page. Reviews from readers help others decide whether the book will fit their needs, and readers’ comments are often relied upon more than what the author says. So if you post a review, I thank you.
For more RVing 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).