Finding Free Campsites

If you don't mind camping without facilities and services, and like to stay in places that are more remote and/or quiet, there are plenty of campsites that you can stay in for absolutely free - all it takes is a little research to find the right spot. This guide is most applicable to the natural areas of the western U.S., as other countries and places may have differing land-use laws.

When camping in the backcountry or other dispersed zones, please remember the key principles of Leave No Trace, so our natural areas may continue to be enjoyed by all.

Finding a Good Campsite

When searching for a dispersed campsite, you'll want to keep in mind a few things.
1. Make sure dispersed camping is allowed
Check local rules and regulations for the place your traveling. Laws around camping vary from state to state, and it's important to verify if camping is allowed where you'll be visiting.

2. Find a relatively flat, open spot
An open area is crucial for pitching your tent, and makes for much nicer campsites. Try to find spots that have minimal vegetation, so you will not damage any plants.
How you find your campsite is going to differ whether you're car camping or backpacking. If you're car camping, you'll have access to much larger area, and can check side roads or old logging roads for spots. You may also be able to camp in sno-parks, if it is posted.

3. Plan ahead
Dispersed camping areas can be found by looking at maps, researching online, and by word of mouth. If you're planning to camp on public lands, it's a lot easier to have a spot picked out ahead of time than to search for one in the dark.
Dispersed Camping

BLM/National Forest Camping

BLM land offers some of the best, and easily accessible free campsites. Much of the western U.S. is public land, with a large portion of that being BLM land or National Forest. Unless otherwise specified, camping is almost always allowed on our public lands. Publicly provided maps are a great resource to find available recreation sites.

The BLM maintains a number of primitive campgrounds, most of which are often free-to-use. If you want to find dispersed camping on BLM land, You can have luck by driving on side roads and looking for flat areas or trailheads. Depending on the trailhead, overnight parking/camping may or may not be allowed.

BLM land often intersects with private property, so please be mindful of others rights when you are camping. Property owners are generally good about fencing off their land, and post signage on property boundaries.
Dispersed Campsite on BLM land

Wilderness Camping

Regulations in Wilderness areas vary from place to place. By checking ahead, you can likely figure out if, and where, dispersed camping is allowed. It's important to look for regulations specific to the wilderness you will be visiting due to their variability.

Aside from regulations, finding a campsite in designated Wilderness is similar to BLM land. Wilderness areas are often contained, well mapped, and documented online. Occasionally, Wilderness areas may be tightly regulated and only allow camping for valid permit holders. This is common when the area gets a high amount of traffic, such as the Three Sisters Wilderness in Central Oregon.
Dispersed Campsite in wilderness

National and State Parks

Generally, dispersed camping is prohibited in National and State parks. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but usually you are required to have a permit, and camp in designated sites. Often (in the case of National Parks), back country permits are highly competitive due to their popularity.
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Thanks for visiting our travel blog, Trails And Trekking! We're Lauren and Anders - an adventure loving couple currently stationed in the Pacific Northwest. We're avid hikers, backpackers, and travelers. We're both originally from Oregon, but we've spent the last two years traveling the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We created this blog to share our passion for exploring the outdoors, and to inspire you to get outside.