Yes, for the most part, you can camp for free on BLM land. However, it does depend on what types of BLM land, and which specific areas. Some BLM lands do cost money to camp, and in some cases you are required to obtain a permit.
Can You Camp For Free on BLM Land?
Probably 95 to 99% of lands managed by the BLM are open to camping, for free.
The BLM does operate developed campgrounds with fire rings, picnic tables, pit toilets, and even running water. Many of these campgrounds are free, but some do cost money. Most of the time, they are very affordable, running anywhere from $5.00 a day to $20.00 a day. On top of that, the BLM honors the Interagency Access Pass, Senior Pass, and Veterans Pass for discounts. Very few BLM campgrounds, if any, accept reservations.
Read our other article, “BLM Camping for Free“.
Just Drive Up and Go
The BLM mostly accepts the policy of just driving into BLM land along established roads and trails, and setting up camp wherever there is an established clearing. As you don’t obstruct traffic on these roads and trails, you’re fine. You don’t have to reserve your spot, and most of the time you don’t have to pay.
If payment is required, you will see a self-serve fee station at the campground entrance. You will know if you enter into a campground because the BLM always places a large, easily visible, sign that says, “[name] Campground”.
You Must Remain on Established Roads and Clearings
Vehicle camping, motorized camping, or RV camping is always limited to wherever there is an established road with an established clearing. You are not allowed to drive your vehicle over plants or animal habitats, nor create your own roads, to get to a desired camping location. See our other article, “Can I Drive My RV Off-Road on BLM Land?”
First Come, First Serve
The BLM does not accept reservations on much of its land. In that sense, there’s no way to pay ahead of time to guarantee a desired camping site. In fact, we’ve not yet seen a BLM campground where they allow you to reserve a site ahead of time.
When is a Permit Required?
Permits usually are required when camping at National Monuments operated by the BLM. For example, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah will require you to stop by at a visitor center or contact station, and obtain a permit (which is free). You leave your copy of the permit inside your vehicle. The purpose of the permit is so that if you cause damage to trees, habitats, natural features, or BLM road signs, the BLM can send the bill to your address.
How Do I Find BLM Lands?
Use BLM maps. Read our other article, “BLM Land Maps – Where to Find Them“.