In 2021, almost 57 million people in the US headed out for a camping trip.
You and every other US citizen technically own public lands, but can you camp anywhere on public land?
The simple answer is “no.”
Here’s what you need to know about camping on federal lands.
Can You Camp Anywhere on Public Land Managed by the Federal Government?
While the Department of Interior is working on opening up more areas for public access, you can’t pitch a tent or pull your RV onto just any patch of public land and make it your own for the weekend.
Camping in the National Parks
Around 297 million people visited the national parks in 2021.
In addition to established campgrounds within their boundaries, many parks allow backpackers to pitch a tent in the backcountry, but you may need a backcountry permit.
Check with the park you’d like to visit well ahead of time to make sure you understand the rules for permitting, and where you can set up camp.
Camping on Bureau of Land Management Lands
Nearly 19.5 thousand people utilized BLM lands for camping in 2020.
If you’re asking, “Can you camp anywhere on public land managed by the BLM?” the answer may be more satisfying than the response for NPS lands.
The BLM operates developed campgrounds but allows dispersed camping in most other places.
The agency has a few dispersed camping guidelines, including the following:
- Camping activities can’t interfere with other authorized uses or disturb wildlife
- You can’t camp where signage indicates it isn’t allowed
- You can’t remain in the same location for more than 14 days within a 28-day period
- Use existing sites, where possible
- Pack out your trash
Can you camp anywhere on public land if you’re in an RV?
If you set up camp in an RV, using existing sites is vital.
Your rig can do a great deal of damage by rolling over plants and soft ground.
While generators are usually acceptable, they can disturb wildlife and other campers, so you may want to consider installing solar panels instead.
Camping on National Forest Lands
In 2021, the national forests saw 1.68 million visitors, with many choosing to chill out overnight.
In addition to developed campgrounds, the US Forest Service generally allows dispersed camping if you stick to the following rules:
- Camp at least one mile away from developed areas
- Set up at least 100 feet from a water source and 150 feet from roadways
- Drive on established roads
- Pack it in, pack it out
- Respect wildlife
- Move your campsite at least five miles away after a 16-day stay
So, can you camp anywhere on public lands managed by the USFS?
Specific camping rules vary between national forests, so it’s always best to check with the managing USFS office before you go.
Can You Camp Anywhere on Public Land? Increasing Your Options with Solar
While the answer to the question, “Can you camp anywhere on public land?” isn’t a resounding yes, you have many options.
We at Unbound Solar understand the desire to get away from it all, and the attraction to nature’s peace and beauty.
Check out our camping-friendly solar panels.
With ready-made, environmentally-friendly power, you can head to (just about) anywhere you desire to camp on public lands.