Free Camping on Public Lands

Free Camping on Public Lands

No reservation? No money? No problem! Dispersed camping is more accessible and fun than you might expect.

Would you believe us if we told you there are literally hundreds of free camping options all across the country? Let’s start this one by saying, we do not condone illegal camping. With the increased attendance to our country’s national parks, illegal camping is becoming a huge issue, inside and outside of parks. Having worked in campgrounds for the National Park Service, we’d like to make legal options accessible and easy to find for all!

So what do you do when you are unable to secure that coveted reservation at a popular campground? Or what about when you’re on that 5 week road trip and don’t want to shell out cash every night for a space to park your van?

Find a Free Campsite

Here in the US, dispersed camping in national forests and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is typically free and accessible. “Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping means no services; such as trash removal, and little or no facilities;  such as tables and fire pits, are provided…Typically, dispersed camping is not allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads.”

The best way to clarify local regulations and find out where it is the legal to disperse camp is to check online with US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, or call/visit your nearest forest service or BLM office/visitor center/ranger station. Rangers are always happy to help.

Check a Map

Generally, public lands are marked in green on maps. Do some research before you go and figure out what public lands are close to your destination.

Keep in mind there are going to be areas that are closed to camping for a variety of reasons. It could be a sensitive ecological habitat, a research area, or simply an area that has been overused. Watch out for posted signs prohibiting camping in these areas. Please respect our public lands to ensure they are available for everyone’s adventures long into the future!

Leave No Trace

Something to keep in mind when disperse camping is to always abide by the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles. Please visit the Leave No Trace website if you are unfamiliar with LNT ethics. Because these areas lack facilities, it is vital that you leave it exactly, if not better, than you found it. Learn how to find an appropriate location to camp, and always appropriately deal with waste. Yes, even the waste created by your own body! Because there aren’t established fire rings, it is important to check with your local forest service office and obtain the appropriate permits if you wish to have a campfire.

Keep an Open Mind

My boyfriend and I once flew across the country, drove over 10 hours to a dispersed camping spot, only to arrive and find that the road had been washed out by seasonal floods. Dispersed camping doesn’t always go as planned. Popular spots fill up, rivers flood, and seasonal closures affect accessibility. Learn to appreciate the journey and become a better camper and planner because of the obstacles. In our case, we googled the nearest ranger station and managed to grab a ranger who was locking up the building (it was after 5pm). He directed us to another fantastic dispersed camping spot only a couple of miles away. It is still, to this day, our favorite free camping spot, and the only time we’ve ever spotted an elusive ring-tailed cat!

When you wake up to the tranquil sounds of nature, alone and unbothered by crowds that typically come with campgrounds, you will realize that these sites are worth the bit of extra work it takes to find them.

So on your next adventure, travel off the beaten path, sleep under the stars, and this time, do it for free!

Helpful websites:
Free Campsites – Use this site to plan an entire road trip route… it will show you free or low cost campsites all along the way!
Campendium – Compilation of free campsites; organized by state.

Helpful apps:
Free RV Campground and Overnight Parking Lite – O Mecha Online, LLC
ReserveAmerica Camping – Active Network, LLC
RV Parks & Campgrounds – ParkAdvisor, LLC 

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona and a definite “must see.” The Canyon is comprised of two separate slot canyon sections called “Upper Antelope Canyon,” or “The Crack,” and “Lower Antelope Canyon,” or “The Corkscrew.” We toured Lower Antelope Canyon and it was spectacular!

Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding. Rainwater, sometimes from far upstream, runs into the basin above the slot canyon sections, rushes into the narrow passageways, and erodes the walls with the sand and debris picked up along the way. Over time the passageways have eroded, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges creating the ‘flowing’ shapes in the rock.

In order to tour the canyon you must go with a guide since it’s on Navajo land and is deemed a Navajo Tribal Park.

You can see from the photos, how truly beautiful it is. It’s totally worth the trip.

Lower Antelope Canyon


Lower Antelope Canyon Tours

How to Sled in 100 Degree Weather

How to Sled in 100 Degree Weather

As we raced down the steep, sandy mountain…no. As we sped down…no. Ok, as we scooted down the steep sandy incline, expecting a scene similar to Clark Griswold rocketing through the woods and buildings in the movie Christmas Vacation, we were sorely disillusioned by the amount of manual force involved with sledding in sand. To be fair, we did not purchase the wax offered to us at the gift store that was supposed to turn our otherwise sluggish “sled” into a lightning fast, land speed record setting, Olympic winning machine. Instead, we scooted, but our day was filled with laughter, sunburn and awe at the beauty of the mountainous gypsum landscape. Oh, and we found a Yeti/Bigfoot print. ?
Bigfoot Print at White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is one of the world’s great natural wonders. Encompassing 275 square miles of desert, these great dunes of glistening white gypsum create a great big playground. While Lindsay and I mainly hiked and sledded down the hills, there are numerous other activities including back-country camping, photography, and activities that need either a permit or reservation like weddings, ranger programs and commercial photography and video.

We had a blast at White Sands National Monument and hope you add it to your bucket list. We’re glad we did!

Operating hours vary by season, so it’s best to call the visitor center when planning your trip. Their number is 575-479-6124


Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

We found Yeti / Bigfoot! More on that in a minute. ?

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park, was established in 1940 and is a great basecamp for hikes to the surrounding alpine lakes such as Evelyn Lake, Ireland Lakes, Emeric Lake, Booth Lake and Vogelsang Lake. At 10,000ft elevation, it is the highest of the High Sierra Camps and a fun destination in itself.

Lindsay and I left from Yosemite on a 3 day adventure to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and back. The hike was a 26 mile loop beginning and ending at the John Muir Trailhead, across from Dog Lake parking area. The first couple of miles followed the John Muir Trail along the Lyell Fork of the Tuloumne River. At Rafferty Creek Junction, begins a 1,200 ft ascent to Tuolumne Pass. We stopped to camp before Tuolumne Pass where we enjoyed dinner wine and pop rocks. Yea, we wanted to really hear those pop rocks pop!

Pop Rocks and Wine

Because Pop Rocks REALLY pop with wine!

The next morning we packed up camp, left no trace, and pushed forward! We had no idea what lay ahead. Literally, we didn’t know what a High Sierra Camp consisted of. We were just happy to have permit for a trail! On the way we experienced some of the most amazing scenery we have ever seen, and we’ve seen some beautiful sights. 

Of course, our adventure wouldn’t be complete without a Bigfoot/Yeti sighting! You can see in the snow where the Yeti left a footprint! After seeing this we were hopeful to find the man himself, Mr. Yeti! After all, we were on Yeti Nother Adventure. Now, if you look at the next image you’ll see the real deal. When he saw us, he stood motionless. Motionless for 2 days! You can tell it’s Bigfoot because the picture is blurry. How many times has Bigfoot been photographed and not been blurry?

Yeti/Bigfoot Sierra Nevada

He’s just a blurry kind of guy. We were also impressed with how well he was camouflaged! He blended in with the rock perfectly.

So the hike continued through more beautiful scenery past lakes, wildflowers, bald eagles, and marmots. It just didn’t end. As we were walking along, I mentioned to Lindsay that I thought Vogelsang HSC was an actual camp with tent cabins and possibly food that didn’t need to be re-hydrated, but that was just speculation. I was probably just hungry and hoping for an oasis. About 10 minutes later we looked up only to see tent cabins in the distance. It IS a camp! And there may be REAL FOOD!

Not only did they have real food. They had the most amazing food imaginable. Fresh Salmon with a creamy dill sauce, over a bed of wild rice and asparagus. This, a salad and homemade bread.
Vogelsang High Sierra Camp


Oh, did I forget dessert? Dessert was amazing!

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp Dessert

The next morning we did some fly fishing and exploring. We were in constant amazement of the beauty that surrounded us. After a seated breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, orange juice and coffee, we packed up our campsite and headed back to the trail for the long, downhill hike back to the car.

This was probably one of the best three day getaway’s we’ve ever been on. I can’t describe anticipating re-hydrated food only to find gourmet seated meals. It was a fun treat. There will be plenty more times to enjoy our re-hydrated food.