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Old 01-20-2008, 11:27 AM   #1
MotoAdventureGal OP
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Camping: National Parks and "Back Country" Camping

Hi folks,

Last summer I made my maiden voyage camping across the USA and surprised myself a couple of times coming across FREE camp sites sponsored by state parks or the NPS. One fabulous one was so backcountry I shared my morning ablutions with a moose!

My question is, of course, how do I get a list of the "free" ones? The two I happened upon were awesome, but accidents. They were just little tent marks I navigated towards on my AAA map, nothing to distinguish them from the regularly overcrowded RV-and-kid-filled others.

Is there a web site / guide / booklet available? I cannot find anything on the NPS web site. (Yes, I'll check the camp-site section of ADVrider before heading out this year).

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Old 01-20-2008, 12:28 PM   #2
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Backcountry camping

For National parks, Ask at the park office. Not all National Parks have Backcountry camping, most of the larger ones do. There are typically Permit only camping so as not to become over crowded. National Forest and National Grasslands is easier. A few years ago I took some time off to climb at various places across the U.S. Finding Free camping in National Forest or National Grasslands was just a matter of exploring. BLM land often has free camping, but the more popular BLM areas are desinated pay sites only.
Parks such as Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosmity, Have free backcountry camping, just ask at the office and do some hiking.
I don't belive the National Park Service has online look ups for backcounrty camping. It's first come first serve and reserving a spot can only be done one day before your night out.
I do alot of this myself, usually climber camping is free and not climber camping is a small fee.
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Old 01-20-2008, 12:29 PM   #3
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Free is good! I never (seldom) pay to camp. It has been my experience that most of the National Forest/NPS camp sites easily assessable by road as well as most state parks charge a fee.

My speciality is camping in graveyards and under bridges.
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Old 01-20-2008, 01:56 PM   #4
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WhiteHorse Press sells the two books that list free camping.Western Edition and Eastern Edition.Some states really have a lot of free sites listed while others are limited.There also is campsites $12 and under in the book and a very rough map at the beginning of each states listing shows the locations.The directions to each site are accurate enough, and they include a description with some information about each location.
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Old 01-21-2008, 11:07 AM   #5
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hey guys,
would you be able to tell me the name of the free campsite books. i've used the search feature on the whitehorse website but came back with nothing.
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Old 01-21-2008, 11:24 AM   #6
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I have a book called Don Wright's Guide to Free Campgrounds. It is published in both eastern & western editions. You can find it at any Camping World (RV) store. It is mainly for the RV types, but I have found it useful for backcountry camping, like on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I think it costs about $20, but pays for itself the first time you camp.
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Old 01-21-2008, 11:24 AM   #7
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With a few restrictions, you can 'disperse camp' most places on USFS and BLM lands. No table, no fire ring, no tent pad, no nothing but you, flora and fauna, and it's free.
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Old 01-21-2008, 12:06 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Lone Rider
With a few restrictions, you can 'disperse camp' most places on USFS and BLM lands. No table, no fire ring, no tent pad, no nothing but you, flora and fauna, and it's free.
I too have disperse camped on a few occasions - found this:

"Dispersed Camping - All National Forest lands are open to camping unless otherwise posted. The advantages to this type of camping are many: peace, solitude, and adventure. There are, however, a few 'drawbacks'. You'll need to have a fire permit, bring your own water or purify water from lakes, streams, or springs. Be sure to make your camp at least 100 feet from all water sources. Since there are no toilet facilities, please dig a hole at least six inches deep for disposal of your human waste." - USDA Forest Service

I generally stop at the forrest services headquarters (or call) as they generally have great ideas as where the best spots are to camp and if there are any restrictions. - I never needed to have a fire permit as I never had a fire.

Also, if you choose to buy the National Parks Pass so that you can visit any of the National Parks without paying an entrance fee, most National Forrest Camp sites are half price!! - worth it in my book, especially if you're going to do the Ironbutt National Parks Challenge

And- never tried it... looks like for RV's, but could help in your search

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Old 01-21-2008, 12:23 PM   #9
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I live in the land of the free.

I'll pay if somebody makes me or if I can't find a way around paying.

I camp where I want. I don't normally make a fire so I don't get found. I have guilted myself into paying a few times where I was sure that I would get caught and ended up not making contact with anybody...I really wanted to fish my $20 out of a self pay box one time.
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Old 01-21-2008, 11:16 PM   #10
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as others have said it's free to camp in the NF and BLM land as long as it does not say you can't. no need to go to a pay campground unless you need a toilet and picnic table.

park service pass is also key as the most amazing western land is park of the park service and worth seeing!
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Old 01-22-2008, 07:12 PM   #11
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Many thanks to all

Thanks to everyone for your input. I'm a novice camper so I wasn't too inclined to just pitch a tent any 'ole place. Plus being a girl, most often alone, I didn't want to be bothered unnecessarily.... But I'm glad to know about the BLM and USFS 'disperse camping' as well as the books. Come to think of it, I think both places I happened upon were USFS.

And Geode, I will post where I found those campsites when I figure out where I was--I'm also a novice GPS user and gummed up my waypoints.

I have this very bad habit of riding until I've run out of light, then I start searching for camping. Listening to everyone I guess if I want free I need to plan a little better.
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