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How to Find the Best Free Campsites in the US

Free Campsites

Our tent is from innature.

When it comes to seeking unconventional travel experiences, we always lean towards those outdoor adventures that take us far from the hustle and bustle. In the heart of nature, what we crave most is tranquility, not crowds and commotion (no offense, fellow travelers!). For camping, opting for paid public campsites doesn’t quite align with our vision of a campsite. We’re more than willing to forgo the conveniences typically offered at campsites in exchange for those breathtaking, hidden, and free campsites!

But how do we stumble upon these incredible places? We often take the following measures:

Free Campsites

There are a variety of ways to explore free campsites while on the trail. You can camp for free in car parks, at rest stops, on public land, and on land managed by the Forest Service. Let’s review each of these methods so you can get more in-depth!

Finding opportunities for free camping in BLM

Did you know that you can almost camp for free in any Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest lands? It’s true! They are part of the American public land – so they belong to you. BLM is responsible for managing public lands, which have various uses such as livestock grazing, recreation, energy development, conservation of nature, cultural, and historical resources. While they do develop campgrounds that can be paid for, they mostly offer dispersed camping sites. When camping in BLM areas, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Understanding BLM camping rules

  • Within 28 consecutive days, dispersed camping on BLM public lands is allowed for up to 14 days.
  • BLM dispersed camping sites are usually located along secondary roads and may not be marked, so it may take some effort to find suitable locations. Make sure you have a map to help locate them.
  • All campers should properly handle all waste and not cause any pollution in the surrounding areas.
  • These camping sites typically do not provide picnic tables, showers, fire rings, restrooms, or water and electricity connections, so adequate preparation is necessary.
Free Campsites

Exploring USFS dispersed camping sites

The United States Forest Service (USFS) manages over 193 million acres of land, also allowing dispersed camping. However, before choosing these sites, there are some key pieces of information you need to know.

  • No facilities are provided, so it is necessary to bring your own supplies.
  • Dispersed camping can last for up to 16 days.
  • Always follow the “leave no trace” principle, respecting the environment and natural resources.
  • Make sure to camp within designated dispersed camping areas and only build campfires in designated areas, while paying attention to safety.

Using mobile apps to find free camping sites

Mobile apps are a great way to find free camping on the go. Here are some highly recommended apps:

  • DyrtPro member benefits include a camping road trip planner, free dispersed camping with map layers, offline access anywhere, and discounts on camping and gear.
  • Free Roam(free)You can also use their interactive map on their website.
  • iOverlander(free)You can also use their interactive map on their website.
  • Campendium(Free, iPhone only)Campendium is available both on their iPhone app and on their website.
  • US Public Lands($2.99)
  • OutlyThere are free and paid versions of their app: they also have an interactive map available to you on their website.
  • FreeCampsites.net(Free,Android)Their app and website have an interactive map available to you.
  • Ultimate Public Campgrounds($3.99)This app is $3.99 to use and includes U.S. public campgrounds, Canadian public campgrounds, and U.S. military campgrounds for active and retired military personnel. The U.S. Military Campgrounds app is free to use, but keep in mind that the campgrounds listed in this free app are for military personnel and retired veterans, so you’ll need proof of military service or a military/veteran ID card.

Using Google Maps and Google Earth

When researching camping sites you are interested in, Google Earth and Google Maps can be very helpful. Use satellite views to get a better understanding of the terrain and conditions of the location you are heading to.

Final exploration tips

When looking for free camping sites, remember to be well prepared and respect local regulations and environmental protection guidelines. Make your journey enjoyable and unforgettable! Looking forward to hearing your camping adventure stories!

Free Campsites
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