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Camping on BLM Lands

RV Camping - Bureau Of Land Management (BLM)

The BLM - Bureau of Land Management has over 400 campgrounds, almost all suitable for RV camping. BLM manages vast land areas that are often little used, but these vast lands also offer solitude and outdoor recreation opportunities to RVers willing to explore.

The USA RV Camping Map on our home page has links to each individual states BLM information page. BLM manages lands in the western USA and Alaska and does not have offices in all states.

Finding BLM RV Camping Locations

The BLM Website will get you to information about it's developed campgrounds. The website will guide you by state to the various BLM Field Offices, and each Field Office has links to it's campgrounds. There are a few BLM campgrounds that allow reservations, and you might try searching for them at ReserveAmerica.com.

Finding BLM RV Camping Locations

All the information about RV camping on BLM administered land is available on line. Links to each BLM Field Office are available through the BLM web site. You can purchase official travel maps for each BLM area you intend visiting through their websites. Good detailed maps can help you find BLM campgrounds that appeal to your type of RV camping. If you travel in the western US, the individual state Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas is our personal choice. Each state atlas is divided into two sections. A shaded relief road section, and a recreation section with roads and public land boundaries. What we like about the Benchmark maps is that roads shown into public lands are suitable for vehicle travel, and you can feel pretty safe heading up a mapped road that you do not end up at a dead end. The different land administrators show up in different colors so you can determine which government agency to contact for information if you need to.

You can get a great feel for the type of RV camping area to look for quickly by using the shaded relief section. You will soon find areas that look interesting to you, and getting campground information from the BLM website will get you to some great RV camping sites.

Another favorite is the state series of the DeLorme Atlas And Gazetteer. These map books are available for every state. They offer a higher degree of detail than the Benchmark maps, but do not have the type of shaded relief that that we feel makes determining desirable RV camping areas easy. Most experienced back country RVers rely on these maps, and the high level of detail makes back country navigation much easier. You need to be ready to explore ahead as some back country mapped roads may not be suitable for you or your RV. Public Land RV CampingIt's a good idea to remember to take elevation into account when selecting a campground. High mountain areas will mean very cool nights and warm days, so you need to pack accordingly. I can't tell you how many times we've helped RVers with kids that forgot to bring warm enough clothing on their camping trip. It's easy to forget if you are from a low elevation, that the mountains can be cold in July with snow. BLM campgrounds are usually quite primitive with only a picnic table and campfire ring. Often there is no trash bin so you may need to pack your trash home. Pit toilets are usually on site, but water is another item you need to be sure to take with you. The BLM has a very wide variety of locations to camp at. BLM has areas in the Colorado San Juan Mountains, and campgrounds in the Mojave Desert of California. BLM campgrounds offer you a wide selection of great RV camping options. Pick and use your research tools carefully, and you will find some great camping sites.

RV Camping at LTVA's (Long Term Visitor Areas)

The BLM has LTVA's - Long Term Visitor Area's that are a major destination for RV camping. These camping areas hold thousands of RVs each year, and the most popular are near Quartzsite, and Yuma Arizona. With warm days and cool nights, a party atmosphere, and all the needed supplies available, RVers camp in the desert for months at a time if they desire. The Bishop California BLM Field Office also offers a $300 Summer Season LTVA Permit that covers 4 developed campgrounds along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Cost for these LTVA's is based on length of stay requested. A multi month permit good at any BLM LTVA is $180, and you can stay or move between LTVA's as you wish with this pass. A shorter 14 permit is also available for $40. Near the LTVA's are 14 day limit areas that allow you to camp for free on BLM public lands. These areas are plainly marked, and you can get information about specific locations of the LTVA's through the appropriate BLM Field Office. Permits can be purchased at the entrance station to each LTVA.

Some individual BLM Field Offices offer LTVA passes for campgrounds in their areas as well. For example, the Bishop California Field Office offers an LTVA permit that covers 4 campgrounds. LTVA permits will likely become more widespread throughout BLM managed campgrounds, so checking with the BLM field office for the area you are interested in extended duration RV camping.

The BLM LTVA's large areas offer some opportunities to get away from the crowd, but not many. Even though the LTVA's are very large, so many RVs utilize these areas that getting away from other folks can be a challenge. When you do get your little isolated spot, there is no guarantee that someone won't come up and set up camp right next to you. With so many people in close proximity, you will find all kinds of people to visit with and share experiences. Campfires erupt most evenings, and you will soon find that you fit right in with your neighbors.BLM RV Camping

LTVA's don't come with a thing. You are camped right out in the desert on what is called desert pavement. This smooth, flat, rocky surface is perfect for setting up camp with your RV. Small washes separate folks somewhat so you don't get the feeling of being in a parking lot. Water, dump and trash are available.

Official BLM LTVA Rules For RV Camping

The following 35 LTVA Supplementary Rules are issued by the Bureau of Land Management.

1. Permit Requirements and Fees

You must have a permit to use a designated LTVA between September 15 and April 15. The permit authorizes you to camp within any designated LTVA using those camping or dwelling unit(s) indicated on the permit between the periods from September 15 to April 15. There are two types of permits: Long-Term and Short-Visit. The long-term permit is valid for the entire season or any part of the season. The short-visit permit is valid for 14 consecutive days, and may be renewed an unlimited number of times for the cost of the permit. LTVA users must pay the cost of the fee indicated on the LTVA permit, in U.S. funds only, before or upon arrival. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will not refund permit fees.

2. Displaying the Permit

To make it valid, at the time of purchase, you must affix your short-visit permit decal or long-term permit decal, using the adhesive backing, to the bottom right-hand corner of the windshield of all transportation vehicles and in a clearly visible location on all camping units. You may use no more than two secondary vehicles within the LTVA.

3. Permit Transfers

You may not reassign or transfer your permit.

4. Permit Revocation

An authorized BLM officer may revoke, without reimbursement, your LTVA permit if you violate any BLM rule or regulation, or if your conduct or that of your family, guest, or pets is inconsistent with the goal of BLM's LTVA Program. Failure to return any LTVA permit to an authorized BLM officer upon demand is a violation of these supplementary rules. If BLM revokes your permit, you must remove all of your property and leave the LTVA system within 12 hours of notice, and you may not enter any other LTVA in Arizona or California for the remainder of the LTVA season.

5. Unoccupied Camping Units

Do not leave your LTVA camping unit or campsite unoccupied for a period of greater than five days unless an authorized BLM officer approves in advance.

6. Parking

For your safety and privacy, you must maintain a minimum of 15 feet of space between dwelling units.

7. Removal of Wheels and Campers

Campers, trailers, and other dwelling units must remain mobile. Wheels must remain on all wheeled vehicles. You may set trailers and pickup campers on jacks manufactured for that purpose.

8. Quiet Hours

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. under applicable state time zone standards, or as otherwise posted.

9. Noise

Do not operate audio devices or motorized equipment, including generators, in a manner that makes unreasonable noise as determined by the authorized BLM officer. Outdoor amplified music is allowed only within La Posa and Imperial Dam LTVAs and only in locations designated by BLM and when approved in advance by an authorized BLM officer.

10. Access

Do not block roads or trails commonly in public use with your parked vehicles, stones, wooden barricades, or by any other means.

11. Structures and Landscaping

  • a. Fixed fences, dog runs, storage units, windbreaks, and other such structures are prohibited. Temporary structures of these types must conform to posted policies.
  • b. Do not alter the natural landscape by painting rocks or defacing or damaging any natural or archaeological feature.

12. Livestock

Boarding or keeping livestock (horses, cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) within LTVA boundaries is prohibited.

13. Pets

Pets must be kept on a leash at all times. Keep an eye on your pets. Unattended and unwatched pets may fall prey to coyotes or other desert predators. You are responsible for clean-up and sanitary disposal of your pet's waste.

14. Cultural Resources

Do not disturb any archaeological or historical values including, but not limited to, petroglyphs, ruins, historic buildings, and artifacts that may occur on public lands.

15. Trash

You must place all trash in designated receptacles. Public trash facilities are shown in the LTVA brochure. Do not deposit trash or holding-tank sewage in vault toilets. An LTVA permit is required for trash disposal within all LTVA campgrounds. You may not change motor oil, vehicular fluids, or dispose of or possess these used substances within an LTVA.

16. Dumping

Do not dump sewage, gray water, or garbage on the ground. This includes motor oil and any other waste products. Federal, State, and county sanitation laws and county ordinance specifically prohibit these practices. Sanitary dump station locations are shown in the LTVA brochure. You must have an LTVA permit for dumping within all LTVA campgrounds.

17. Self-Contained Vehicles

  • a. In Pilot Knob, Midland, Tamarisk, and Hot Springs LTVAs, you may camp only in self-contained camping units. The La Posa, Imperial Dam, and Mule Mountain LTVAs are restricted to self-contained camping units, except within 500 feet of a vault or rest room.
  • b. Self-contained camping units must have a permanent, affixed waste water holding tank of 10-gallon minimum capacity. BLM does not consider port-a-potty systems, systems that utilize portable holding tanks, or permanent holding tanks of less than 10-gallon capacity, to be self-contained.

18. Campfires

You may have campfires in LTVAs, subject to all local, state, and Federal regulations. You must comply with posted rules.

19. Wood Collection

Do not collect wood within LTVAs. You may not possess native firewood (i.e., mesquite, ironwood, palo verde) within LTVAs. Please contact the nearest BLM office for current regulations concerning wood collection.

20. Speed Limit

The speed limit in LTVAs is 15 mph or as otherwise posted.

21. Off-Highway Vehicle Use

Motorized vehicles must remain on existing roads, trails, and washes.

22. Vehicle Use

Do not operate any vehicle in violation of state or local laws and regulations relating to use, standards, registration, operation, and inspection.

23. Firearms

Do not discharge or otherwise use firearms or weapons inside or within 1/2 mile of LTVAs.

24. Vending Permits

You must have a vending permit to carry on any commercial activity. Please contact the nearest BLM office for information on vending or concession permits.

25. Aircraft Use

Do not land or take off in aircraft, including ultralights and hot air balloons, in LTVAs.

26. Perimeter Camping

Do not camp within 1 mile outside the boundaries of Hot Springs, Tamarisk, and Pilot Knob LTVAs and within 2 miles outside the boundary of Midland LTVA.

27. Hot Spring Spa and Day Use Area

Food, beverages, glass containers, soap, pets, and/or motorized vehicles are prohibited within the fenced-in area at the Hot Springs Spa. Day use hours are 5 a.m. to midnight.

28. Mule Mountain LTVA

You may camp only at designated sites within Wiley's Well and Coon Hollow campgrounds. You may have only one (1) camping or dwelling unit per site.

29. Imperial Dam and La Posa LTVAs

Do not camp overnight in desert washes in Imperial Dam and La Posa LTVAs.

30. La Posa LTVA

You may enter La Posa LTVA only by legal access roads along U.S. Highway 95. Do not create or use any other access points. Do not remove or modify barricades, such as fences, ditches, and berms.

31. Posted Rules

You must observe and obey all posted rules. Individual LTVAs may have additional specific rules in addition to these supplementary rules. If posted rules differ from these supplementary rules, the posted rules take precedence.

32. Other Laws

If you hold an LTVA permit, you must observe and obey all Federal, state, and local laws and regulations applicable to the LTVA.

33. Campsite Maintenance

You must keep the LTVA and, specifically, your campsite, in a neat, orderly, and sanitary condition.

34. Length of Stay

Between April 16 and September 14, you may stay in an LTVA only 14 days in any 28-day period. After your 14th day of occupation at an LTVA, you must move outside of a 25-mile radius of that LTVA.

35. Penalties

Under 43 CFR 2932.56(b), if you knowingly and willfully violate or fail to comply with any of the supplementary rules provided in this notice, BLM will revoke your LTVA permit. You may also be subject to issuance of a citation and/or arrest with a fine under 18 U.S.C. 3571 and/or imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 3581, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1733(a)).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

The purpose of the LTVA program is to provide areas for long-term winter camping use. The sites designated as LTVAs are, in most cases, the traditional use areas of long-term visitors. Designated sites were selected using criteria developed during the land management planning process, and environmental assessments were completed for each site location. The program was established to safely and properly accommodate the increasing demand for long-term winter visitation and to provide natural resource protection through improved management of this use. The designation of LTVAs assures that specific locations are available for long-term use year after year, and that inappropriate areas are not used for extended periods. Visitors may camp without an LTVA permit outside of LTVAS, on public lands not otherwise posted or closed to camping, for up to 14 days in any 28-day period. Authority for the designation of LTVAs is contained in Title 43, Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 8372, Sections 0-3 and 0-5(g). Authority for the establishment of an LTVA program is contained in Title 43, Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 8372, Section 1, and for the payment of fees in Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 71. The authority for establishing supplementary rules is contained in Title 43, Subpart 8365, Section 1-6. The LTVA supplementary rules have been developed to meet the goals of individual resource management plans. These rules will be available in each local office having jurisdiction over the lands, sites, or facilities affected, and will be posted near and/or within the lands, sites, or facilities affected. Violations of supplementary rules are punishable by a fine not to exceed $100,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months. The following are the supplemental rules for the designated LTVAs and are in addition to rules of conduct set forth in Title 43, Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 8365, Section 0.1 through 1-7. The following supplemental rules apply year-long to all public land users who enter the LTVAS.

Great RV Camping Locations

If you intend to utilize these LTVA's or any other public lands that don't supply power and water hookups, check out RV Boondocking Basics. This book will help give you a good foundation for camping at BLM public campgrounds and LTVA's without RV hookups.

With a bit of research, you can find some of the best RV camping locations and campgrounds. BLM public lands offer every type of RV camping opportunity. The outdoor recreation possibilities you can discover will make your RV camping experience memorable for you and your family.

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Federal Public Lands
RV Camping Information

USFS (US Forest Service) - Describes USFS policies and rules about RV camping. Information about dispersed camping, and tips on how to find great free RV camping sites.

USACE/COE (US Army Corp of Engineers) - USACE (perhaps better know as COE) manages water recreation areas throughout the USA. Information about finding USACE lakes, RV camping possibilities, and rules and policies for use of these water based recreation areas is included.

NPS (National Park Service) - General information about RV camping and campgrounds in US National Parks. Campgrounds are located in the most historic and scenic places in the USA, and the NPS offers some of the best places for RV camping in America.

RV Camping

Free Overnight RV Parking Ideas

Here's a list of places to consider when looking for a free overnight RV camping or parking location. We always recommend asking for overnight RV parking permission when looking for a free spot to spend the night. The smaller your RV, the better chances you will have finding places to stay if you choose not to ask permission. If you don't ask permission, you end up "sneaking" into places and hoping nobody bothers you or issues you a trespassing ticket before you move on.

Be smart and Be Safe...Ask Permission.

  • Truck Stops - Asking permission is usually not a requirement Be considerate of the big rigs!
  • Walmart - Not all stores allow overnight RV parking in Washington due to city ordinances. Check store for policy.
  • Nightclubs - Had one too many or just pretending?
  • Grain Elevators - Ask where you can park your RV out of the way for the night.
  • Fraternal Organizations - VFW, Elks etc. may allow members free overnight RV camping.
  • Cemetery - Sounds creepy to us, but we've also heard they may have water available.
  • Fairgrounds - State and County facilities may allow RV camping when not otherwise in use.
  • Parks - City, County, State, and Community parks often have free RV camping.
  • Churches - You can almost make "reservations" by calling ahead for permission.
  • Hotel Parking Lots - Assuming a nightclub/bar is inside, had one too many or just pretending?
  • Truck Terminals - Parking areas for large trucks might allow you free RV camping permission.
  • RV Dealers - Pretty brave to us, but you could fit right in.
  • Cracker Barrel - These nationwide restaurants usually allow free overnight RV parking.
  • Movie Theaters - Too tired to drive home after the late show?
  • Highway Rest Areas - All rest areas allow a few hours of free RV parking, but noisy.
  • Drive In Movies - Got a small RV, park in the back row and enjoy the show. Fell asleep by accident right?
  • Vehicle Repair Shops - Need to see the repairman first thing in the morning?
  • Big Box Retailers - Kmart, Best Buy, Sams Club often allow free RV camping.
  • Roadside Parks & Picnic Areas - The early day version of the rest area.

As you can see, there are a lot of free RV camping and parking possibilities. If you are not asking permission, it's best to keep a very low profile. If your RV has slide outs, jacks and TV antennas, don't use them so as not to draw attention to yourself. Consider your surroundings carefully and if you feel uncomfortable with the area, move somewhere else.