Finding information on dispersed camping (boondocking) campsites in the National Forests and on BLM land is sometimes daunting. It takes a bit of effort through multiple menu dropdowns to track down the information you need. But here is some help in getting there.
In order to find information on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land you will need to visit each district individually. For instance, California is broken down into three different districts: California Deserts, Central California, and Northern California. You will need to pay camping fees to boondock in BLM campgrounds and in Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA), which you can buy at any of the campgrounds or LTVA. An LTVA fee covers camping at all LTVA locations and is very reasonable.
The BLM website is not the most intuitive website to use for obtaining camping information. Even using the search feature does not return adequate results. An easier way to contact regional district offices and field offices is to use the links and email addresses found here. Many individual websites have boondocking specific to a particular region, such as RV Travel’s free camping website.
You can find information on BLM LTVA camping permits here.
The National Forest Service (FS) requires fees for developed campgrounds, which are payable at the campground. But for boondocking, you are permitted to camp free in “dispersed camping areas” that can be identified on free Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) that are available on the FS’s website, at regional or district forest service offices, or from Rangers. The FS website also explains the rules for boondocking, which for instance – depending on conditions – could require a permit to build a campfire. However, the permits are free but require that you have a bucket, shovel, and water at the campfire site. You can find FS locations and descriptions of campgrounds at the U.S. National Forest Service Campground Guide and general information on camping in the national forests on the U.S. Forest Service website.
Besides FS and BLM land, the FWS (US Fish & Wildlife Service), USACE (Army Corps of Engineers), Bureau of Reclamation, State Parks, and State-owned lands offer boondocking opportunities also. Arizona, for example, has a permit available for a nominal fee allowing boondocking on State lands.
For general, and extensive, information about boondocking on public lands visit the RV Camping website.