You can find boondocking on just about all BLM managed lands, as well as on most national forests and national grasslands. Boondocking can also be found in many state parks too. With respect to BLM managed lands, you will need to look at BLM land maps. For national forests and national grasslands, you will need access Motor Vehicle Use Maps. But with state parks, you will need to contact each specific park to inquire.
Where Can I Find Boondocking?
The BLM allows boondocking on all of its “public lands”. Public Lands are those that have no other specific use or designation. The only catch is that you must keep your vehicle on established dirt roads and trails; you cannot drive over plants, bushes, and natural habitats. You must also camp on areas that have been previous used for camping. You can access BLM land maps either from the BLM’s website, or use the “Free Roam app“.
Other types of BLM lands allow boondocking also, but with other specific limitations. Conservation Lands, are typically the national monuments (Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah, Mojave Trails in California, etc.). Wilderness Areas are off-limits to vehicles, but you can hike and tent camp. Developed Recreation Areas have campgrounds with some level of development (picnic tables, pit toilets, kiosk, etc.)
National Forests and Grasslands
Every national forest or grassland allows boondocking, but only in specific areas. You will have to contact a specific forest or grassland to find out where they permit boondocking.
You can also find out yourself by accessing the Motor Vehicle Use Maps. These are maps issued by each national forest and grassland to show the exact boundaries of federal lands versus private lands (inholdings), which roads may be used by street-legal vehicle versus off-road, and from which roads is boondocking allowed.
Each national forest and grassland has its own dedicated website hosted on the U.S. Forest Service’s website. Each forest and grassland will discuss boondocking opportunities within its boundaries.
Most national parks will offer boondocking either within their park boundaries, or know of areas just outside of their boundaries. You will have to contact each park’s visitor center to find out what boondocking opportunities exist. Some National Parks only allow boondocking for tent campers.
Popular Websites for Boondocking
Free Roam is our favorite for finding boondocking places. It lists thousands of boondocking sites across the United States with reviews from other campers. But it also has many tools to help you discover new boondocking sites.
Campendium also has lots of reviews, probably the most of any camping website, along with lots of photos.
FreeCampsites.net has lots of places marked for boondocking, probably the most places of any website, but many of these sites are Wal-Marts, casinos, et al.
Search for “Dispersed Camping” or “Backcountry Camping”
The BLM, national forests, and national grasslands do not use the term, “boondocking”. Instead, they refer to it as “dispersed camping”. Hence, if you visit their respective websites, you will find what you’re looking for when you use their terminology.
National Parks use the term “backcountry camping” instead of boondocking.