14 days is the popular answer to how long you can boondock on BLM land. However, this is not always the rule. Officially, there is no single answer that applies nationwide. Each BLM State Office and Field Office is free to establish its own camping limits. Many offices use the 14-day limit, but some go as low as 3 days, while others don’t specify any limit at all.
How Long Can You Boondock on BLM Land?
The Bureau of Land Management does not specify how many days you can boondock on BLM lands. Instead, they defer that responsibility to each individual state office, field office, or national monument. Some offices do not actually specify a maximum limit. But most of them do, and most adopt the more familiar 14-day limit.
In order to find out for certain what the actual time limit is, you have to contact the field office or national monument that governs the land you’re interested in camping on.
So Why Does Everyone Say There is a 14-day Limit?
The 14-day limit was a popular choice for several BLM offices because it represented an even number (a two week period). Many camping bloggers and YouTubers got confused thinking that this was a national policy, and began publishing this information as if applied everywhere. It got picked up on social media and it just grew from there.
However, very few bloggers and YouTubers bothered to check the actual BLM regulations on camping. It turns out, the BLM is very clear in its rules that it defers this responsibility to each individual state office, field office, or national monument…
On all public lands, no person shall:
(a) Camp longer than the period of time permitted by the authorized officer; orCFR Title 43 § 8365.1-2 Occupancy and use
(b) Leave personal property unattended longer than 10 days (12 months in Alaska), except as provided under § 8365.2-3(b) of this title, unless otherwise authorized.
Many state offices began adopting the 14-Day rule. This probably created the belief that there was a single national rule. However, there is not. Each camper still needs to check with a local field office or visitor center to make sure they know what the camping rules are.
The BLM Rarely Enforces Time Limits
The BLM doesn’t seem too concerned about people boondocking on their lands for too long. BLM officers rarely keep track of which campers came in, and which have stayed too long. They just don’t have the manpower to canvass hundreds of thousands of acres, day after day. They instead spend most of their time policing bigger threats, such as illegal hunting, illegal mining, marijuana farming, etc.
In fact, the BLM rarely patrols their “public lands”. These are lands not otherwise designated for any specific use.
Will You Get in Trouble for Boondocking Too Long on BLM Land?
No. Many boondockers camp in the same site on BLM land for weeks at a time. Sometimes even months. They rarely get questioned by BLM officials. If you were to get questioned by BLM officials, it would be because someone else filed a complaint about you. That might be for making a public nuisance, for shooting your guns in a reckless manner, lighting off fireworks, or cutting down trees. As long as you keep to yourself, you could camp in the same place for months and never be bothered.
The only time when you might get questioned for staying too long is if you are camped in a developed campground. In that case, it would usually involve a campground host telling you that you’ve worn out your welcome.
Should You Ignore Time Limits?
No. You should always be aware of how long you can boondock at any given piece of BLM land. You should always keep track of how long you’ve been there. And, you should always keep a watch out for BLM rangers and officials, just so that you’re aware if any of them are monitoring you.
If you are boondocking in an area that is very crowded with other campers, then be courteous and move out after the official time limit, or 14 days. That would be the polite thing to do. However, if you’re camping on BLM land, and there are very few other boondockers around, then feel free to stay longer.