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Boondocking, BLM, Dispersed Camping Newbie Needs Advice


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Hi, I am a new member here and I am on a journey to go full time next spring while still taking 2 to 4 week trips this year. I have camped in several national parks and so this is not new for me. When I go to the national parks, I tend to go before dawn and around twilight times for hiking and photos. The rest of the time I really don't want to be involved in the traffic and all that goes with that during peak seasons. My long term goal is to follow the sun and my ideal temps are between 40 and 70. This desired climate range will determine when and where I spend my time.

 

Let me briefly describe what I am trying to learn and ultimately do, so that others with experience can point me in the right direction. I am setup and accustomed for extended stays for dry camping. I can go anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks before needing to find a town for supplies/food, etc. It would be nice to be able to get some type of a signal with my Verizon MiFi to check emails, etc.

 

My goal is to explore, hike, and photograph the beautiful land that we have in this country. I am drawn to the landscapes in CO, WY, MT, ID, UT, NM areas. For example, I am getting ready to take a multi-week trip to the Rocky Mountain State Park, then briefly through Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and meet a friend in Glacier National Park. I have identified some camping sites in and around these areas, and I am sure it will somehow work out. But, in the future, I want to really focus on staying outside of these parks and only going in when I want during sunrise and sunset times or exploring the less traveled BLM, National Forest, etc. lands.

 

I have no personal experience with boondocking and dispersed camping on BLM land. I don't even feel that I really have a handle on all my options just yet. Is it reasonable to think that I could move between BLM land in the areas I mentioned full time? My plan is to start with BLM land in CO and as close to the Rocky Mountains National Park area because I have a friend that lives there. Then as I get more experience and when the weather starts to turn cold, I can move on to the warmer climate and avoid the snow and bad weather.

 

Are there any resources geared towards a beginner? I have found the BLM website, but there is so much information that it is a little overwhelming at first. Any insights, pointers, and things I should be thinking about is much appreciated.

 

If you need more info from me, please ask.

 

Thanks

 

Tim

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In my experience it is a little harder to get information about BLM lands than it is for the Forest Service. Start with the State Office. Here is a link to Colorado BLM. From there move to the appropriate Field Office's webpage and see what information is available. You may have to order or pickup maps. Map ordering information is at the bottom of the Colorado webpage. Here is a link to the Colorado camping page. Here is a link to Colorado Maps for BLM..

 

Dispersed camping is also permitted in most National Forests. The areas where you can camp in a vehicle and how far you can move that vehicle off the traveled roadway are shown on the Travel Maps and Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) for the Individual National Forest. Here is a link to a website that has links to many of the MVUMs. If you don't see a particular Forest listed, go to the website for that Forest and search that site for MVUM. Here is a link to Colorado Maps for the Forest Service.

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We've camp hosted for USFS and BLM enough to have seen the changes in the past 10 years. It is not okay to just drive up a USFS road , find a flat spot 10 feet off the roadway and setup. It used to be but not anymore. It used to be that you could setup anywhere, 10 feet off the road, that wasn't posted.... now you must check with the local office to that district to see where it is permitted...and they can change the area at any time. (double check that 10 foot requirement).

 

In other words, you can check online but that is not going to be the current information. You can check at the local office but just because they tell you it's okay today, doesn't mean it will be okay tomorrow. They are restricting long term boondocking. Too many people living in there and not vacationing there. Which brings me to another issue. Theft. Ten years ago it was less common to have problems with your stuff being taken... generator, propane etc Now you need to keep your stuff locked down and out of sight. Too many opportunists. I'm just being blunt to how it is.

 

I don't login to skp's very often, just happened to see your question. This has probably been discussed dozens of times over the last few years here and other places... just search "boondocking".

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This is incredibly helpful, thank you. I have my work cut out for me to learn all this, but I know that once I get a few experiences under my belt along with the help and support from the group here, I will be just fine.

 

 

In my experience it is a little harder to get information about BLM lands than it is for the Forest Service. Start with the State Office. Here is a link to Colorado BLM. From there move to the appropriate Field Office's webpage and see what information is available. You may have to order or pickup maps. Map ordering information is at the bottom of the Colorado webpage. Here is a link to the Colorado camping page. Here is a link to Colorado Maps for BLM..

 

Dispersed camping is also permitted in most National Forests. The areas where you can camp in a vehicle and how far you can move that vehicle off the traveled roadway are shown on the Travel Maps and Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) for the Individual National Forest. Here is a link to a website that has links to many of the MVUMs. If you don't see a particular Forest listed, go to the website for that Forest and search that site for MVUM. Here is a link to Colorado Maps for the Forest Service.

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Thank you for the info. I am sure I am one of many that has asked this and similar questions. I am definitely searching on "boondocking" and combining that with the practical and first hand tips the group provides here. I simply want to know what I am getting into and what is and is not reasonable for doing the things I want to do. For example, if it is not reasonable to think I can move from one BLM/FS land to another following the sun, then I would rather know that now than after I convert to full time. Thanks again for your help.

 

Tim

 

 

We've camp hosted for USFS and BLM enough to have seen the changes in the past 10 years. It is not okay to just drive up a USFS road , find a flat spot 10 feet off the roadway and setup. It used to be but not anymore. It used to be that you could setup anywhere, 10 feet off the road, that wasn't posted.... now you must check with the local office to that district to see where it is permitted...and they can change the area at any time. (double check that 10 foot requirement).

 

In other words, you can check online but that is not going to be the current information. You can check at the local office but just because they tell you it's okay today, doesn't mean it will be okay tomorrow. They are restricting long term boondocking. Too many people living in there and not vacationing there. Which brings me to another issue. Theft. Ten years ago it was less common to have problems with your stuff being taken... generator, propane etc Now you need to keep your stuff locked down and out of sight. Too many opportunists. I'm just being blunt to how it is.

 

I don't login to skp's very often, just happened to see your question. This has probably been discussed dozens of times over the last few years here and other places... just search "boondocking".

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Tim,

 

Whilst we are far from FT'rs just yet, and continue to learn from others all the time, but we are very avid boondocks/dry campers for well over a decade and a half, having invested heavily last year into solar and upgrading our 13 year gas rig in preparation to go FT soon.

 

We are very much into being off the cord, and seek dispersed off the beaten track so to speak locations besides or near lakes, mountains, and the sea = we are water based activity fanatics as well as enjoy walking miles and biking.

 

There is one couple who are FT'rs for several years whose travels we follow all the time, called Mark and Emily Fagan - they have wonderful articles and stunning photos of locations they rarely pay for a CG. Check out Roadslesstraveled.us. They are unusually currently on the East side but spend most of their time in Utah and surrounding areas out west.

 

Another couple of folks blogs that are good to read are GoneWithTheWynns - Nikki and Jason = they have a wild camping section and a fabulous interesting blog to follow. They try to be off cord at every opportunity and Jason photographer and now videographer.

 

Technomadia.com (Cherie and Chris) who contribute here on Escapees have a great website as well and tend to do a lot of boon docking as well as volunteering locations for lighthouses etc and they tend to travel often it appears of late with another couple Nina and Paul of WheelingIt.us

 

These folks above are out there doing what you are thinking of doing, so you might get tremendous mileage from their blogs/website over time. We for sure have gleaned untold information from their write ups over the past few years.

 

Hope some of the above helps in your info gathering quest.

 

FTW.

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We have followed the blog of Nina's (& Paul) for many years and have gotten a lot of hints on places to boondock. She shows good pictures of the area and gives road reports. They travel in a 40' motorhome so if they can go there just about anyone else can fit. She also gives reviews of the places they've stayed (click on that sections at the top of her posts - arranged by state) and good information on hiking, pubs and restaurants.

 

It takes a little time to get comfortable with boondocking but after a while I think you'd love it. In 16 years of doing it we never had a thing stolen but then, we don't leave valuable outside......just chairs and our BBQ. We also never felt unsafe.

 

http://wheelingit.us/

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Another source we often used is http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/list/nflist.htm. They visited all the national forest campgrounds and rated their facilities.

 

Yes, you can go from BLM to Forest Service land and and back again. But they often have guidelines within each as to how far you must travel between sites if you stay with the same brand and how long you must stay away from one site before you can return to it. You probably want to spend some time checking out places that interest you to find out what their limits are as they are not universal.

 

Linda Sand

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Yes, don't limit yourself to BLM. In many of the scenic areas you're interested in, there are many more boondocking (dispersed camping) opportunities in the National Forests. Pick an area, find the nearest National Forest and stop at a local ranger station and ask for their Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). some of the forest service areas have the MVUM's online for downloading.

The National Forests are quite different than the National Parks, no crowds except in a few popular weekend areas. The National Forests are just hundreds of thousands of acres of remote land set aside for multi-uses. In general you're allowed to camp (up to 14 days) along any of the developed roads, unless specifically prohibited, and in accordance with the local rules. I take my toy hauler & atv out into some very remote areas of several different National Forests, where I don't see another person for days.

 

DSC_0007.JPG

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Since your looking for places in Colorado this site has all of the MVUM's for Colorado. http://www.staythetrail.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&layout=category&task=category&id=18&Itemid=222

National Forest stays in most areas are 14 days in that forest before having to move on to another forest. There are many areas where it could be more than 14 days before any official might pick up on the fact you have been there longer much less even find you. The maps in the link above are generally considered off road trails so weekends may be busy but other wise the forest during the week is generally very quiet. Being off road trails doesn't mean they are not motor home / camper accessible, these are the only areas I camp in, the only so called campground I have ever been to is to dump and take on water. Most areas we can get phone signals, where we can't we know where to ride to on the ATV's to get a signal. Even then you generally are not far from a small town / major highway where you can get a signal. Rocky Mountain National Park the west side you very close to Grand Lake / Granby where you can get a good signal, the east side you will be near Estes Park again good signals there.

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Please don't accept the earlier comment about "not just being able to drive up a NF road, find a flat spot and set up camp" at face value. As just stated in the last couple of replies, most, if not all NF's now have MVUM's (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) which show which roads are open to "Disbursed Camping". Disbursed Camping is the term the NF's use for camping (boondocking) in a non developed area.

 

There are restrictions though. Be sure to look online and most importantly, stop by a NF office when you arrive and pick up a free paper copy of the MVUM's. Don't expect a lot of help from the NF office as to just where to stay. I find that much of the office staff doesn't go out into the NF. They live in the area and just work in the office. While most times the staff is very friendly, they are not experienced with disbursed camping or are told not to encourage disbursed camping.

 

Some NF's specify you must park within 30' of the NF road. For many folks, that means you can't park your rig perpendicular to the road, you will need to be parallel. Even so your parking spot could be very dusty. On the other hand many NF's allow parking within 300' of a road, so you can get back away from the dust and traffic.

 

Other restrictions, such as no more than 14 days in the same NF. Others state 14 days and you must move xx number of miles.

 

There are also lots of BLM and NF campgrounds which are lightly used and are either free or available for a nominal sum, $5 to $10. If you are over 62 you can, for $10 buy a senior pass which gives you 1/2 off of camping fees and other perks.

 

The BLM areas generally allow parking/boondocking in most remote areas for free.

 

Here is link to a lady who spends almost all of her time boondocking in NF's and BLM areas. While she doesn't go into detail on how she finds spots, if you read back through her blog you will learn how she finds spots and many examples of great spots to boondock.

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I appreciate you sharing your insights and experience. The Sue's RV Blog looks very good. Thanks for pointing that out.

 

 

Please don't accept the earlier comment about "not just being able to drive up a NF road, find a flat spot and set up camp" at face value. As just stated in the last couple of replies, most, if not all NF's now have MVUM's (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) which show which roads are open to "Disbursed Camping". Disbursed Camping is the term the NF's use for camping (boondocking) in a non developed area.

 

There are restrictions though. Be sure to look online and most importantly, stop by a NF office when you arrive and pick up a free paper copy of the MVUM's. Don't expect a lot of help from the NF office as to just where to stay. I find that much of the office staff doesn't go out into the NF. They live in the area and just work in the office. While most times the staff is very friendly, they are not experienced with disbursed camping or are told not to encourage disbursed camping.

 

Some NF's specify you must park within 30' of the NF road. For many folks, that means you can't park your rig perpendicular to the road, you will need to be parallel. Even so your parking spot could be very dusty. On the other hand many NF's allow parking within 300' of a road, so you can get back away from the dust and traffic.

 

Other restrictions, such as no more than 14 days in the same NF. Others state 14 days and you must move xx number of miles.

 

There are also lots of BLM and NF campgrounds which are lightly used and are either free or available for a nominal sum, $5 to $10. If you are over 62 you can, for $10 buy a senior pass which gives you 1/2 off of camping fees and other perks.

 

The BLM areas generally allow parking/boondocking in most remote areas for free.

 

Here is link to a lady who spends almost all of her time boondocking in NF's and BLM areas. While she doesn't go into detail on how she finds spots, if you read back through her blog you will learn how she finds spots and many examples of great spots to boondock.

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Now I could get into riding that ATV to backcountry locations to explore and create some very unique photos!!!

 

 

Yes, don't limit yourself to BLM. In many of the scenic areas you're interested in, there are many more boondocking (dispersed camping) opportunities in the National Forests. Pick an area, find the nearest National Forest and stop at a local ranger station and ask for their Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). some of the forest service areas have the MVUM's online for downloading.

The National Forests are quite different than the National Parks, no crowds except in a few popular weekend areas. The National Forests are just hundreds of thousands of acres of remote land set aside for multi-uses. In general you're allowed to camp (up to 14 days) along any of the developed roads, unless specifically prohibited, and in accordance with the local rules. I take my toy hauler & atv out into some very remote areas of several different National Forests, where I don't see another person for days.

 

DSC_0007.JPG

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I checked out their blog and it looks like a great resource. Thanks for suggesting it.

 

Tim

 

We have followed the blog of Nina's (& Paul) for many years and have gotten a lot of hints on places to boondock. She shows good pictures of the area and gives road reports. They travel in a 40' motorhome so if they can go there just about anyone else can fit. She also gives reviews of the places they've stayed (click on that sections at the top of her posts - arranged by state) and good information on hiking, pubs and restaurants.

 

It takes a little time to get comfortable with boondocking but after a while I think you'd love it. In 16 years of doing it we never had a thing stolen but then, we don't leave valuable outside......just chairs and our BBQ. We also never felt unsafe.

 

http://wheelingit.us/

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Does the black dog let you ride with him? He apparently believe it is his ATV.

 

Yes, she won't let me out of the garage with the ATV before jumping up on her seat, and is reluctant to get down, except when we come up on any body of water. Her 2nd favorite activity is swimming.

 

DSC_0014.JPG

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I got a chance to visit all of the blogs and websites you mentioned and every one of them are wonderful. Thank you very much!!

 

 

Tim,

 

Whilst we are far from FT'rs just yet, and continue to learn from others all the time, but we are very avid boondocks/dry campers for well over a decade and a half, having invested heavily last year into solar and upgrading our 13 year gas rig in preparation to go FT soon.

 

We are very much into being off the cord, and seek dispersed off the beaten track so to speak locations besides or near lakes, mountains, and the sea = we are water based activity fanatics as well as enjoy walking miles and biking.

 

There is one couple who are FT'rs for several years whose travels we follow all the time, called Mark and Emily Fagan - they have wonderful articles and stunning photos of locations they rarely pay for a CG. Check out Roadslesstraveled.us. They are unusually currently on the East side but spend most of their time in Utah and surrounding areas out west.

 

Another couple of folks blogs that are good to read are GoneWithTheWynns - Nikki and Jason = they have a wild camping section and a fabulous interesting blog to follow. They try to be off cord at every opportunity and Jason photographer and now videographer.

 

Technomadia.com (Cherie and Chris) who contribute here on Escapees have a great website as well and tend to do a lot of boon docking as well as volunteering locations for lighthouses etc and they tend to travel often it appears of late with another couple Nina and Paul of WheelingIt.us

 

These folks above are out there doing what you are thinking of doing, so you might get tremendous mileage from their blogs/website over time. We for sure have gleaned untold information from their write ups over the past few years.

 

Hope some of the above helps in your info gathering quest.

 

FTW.

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Who said RVing is easy?

 

But it doesn't have to be overwhelming. It's not like you need to know everything there is to know "now". There's no test, and if you're going to go full time, now is a good a time as any to start learning to "take it down a notch". ;) Set a limit of "x" amount of time to spend each day on your research and such and give yourself a day off on the weekend. Don't forget to revel in today while planning for tomorrow.

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But it doesn't have to be overwhelming. It's not like you need to know everything there is to know "now". There's no test, and if you're going to go full time, now is a good a time as any to start learning to "take it down a notch". ;) Set a limit of "x" amount of time to spend each day on your research and such and give yourself a day off on the weekend. Don't forget to revel in today while planning for tomorrow.

I think the comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

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Actually, I am getting really organized and going to put the information to good use. I load all of my notes in a program that can search on every word so in the future I will be able to find all this excellent info. It is a lot to take in, but I am feeling pretty good.

 

Thanks!!

 

Are you getting overwhelmed with all the links you've been given? :) Who said RVing is easy?

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