Campgrounds provided on public lands offer a wide variety of RV camping and outdoor recreation opportunities. There are campgrounds set up for small RV campers and tents, while others can accommodate the largest RV combinations. You can find public land campgrounds that offer amenities from full RV hook-up campsites, to primitive, no facility designated camping areas. Not all campgrounds are suitable for all types of RV camping units. Campgrounds are located in every area of the country
The USA RV Camping Map has links to each individual states public lands administrators website. It's the easiest way to find RV camping resources for every state.
Dispersed RV camping, commonly called "Boondocking", is defined as camping outside designated campgrounds. This type of camping is encouraged by BLM (Bureau of Land Management), USFS (US Forest Service), FWS (US Fish & Wildlife Service), and USACE/COE (US Army Corps of Engineers), but not in all locations, and there are some specific rules. Boondocking - Dispersed Camping has information to help you learn the rules of boondocking, and how to find great RV camping sites.
Staying in USDA Forest Service Campgrounds offers you great RV camping locations. There are over 4300 developed campgrounds in our National Forests available for RV camping, and we have the information about finding them all. There are National Grasslands managed by the Forest Service as well, and primitive camping is allowed.
The National Park Service (NPS) Campgrounds are located in the most scenic and historic locations. Great RV camping is available at parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Parks just to name a few. Popular parks require camping reservations, and there is little opportunity for dispersed RV camping. There are exceptions.
When you think public lands campgrounds, don't forget state parks. These parks are located in beautiful surroundings and are great destinations for RV camping. The State Parks Locater Map gives you easy access to all 50 state park campground systems.
BLM (Bureau of Land Management) managed lands are located throughout the western USA, BLM lands offer great RV camping locations from deserts to mountains to ocean. Developed campgrounds, and almost unlimited dispersed camping opportunites await you.
USACE - US Army Corps of Engineers, often referred to as COE, administers over 450 lakes throughout the USA. These water based recreation areas are great destinations for RV camping, and you can find out where they are in the USACE/COE Campgrounds section.
The campgrounds administered by the USFS- USDA Forest Service, BLM - Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service - NPS should be taken advantage of by RV campers. Campground conditions and amenities vary widely too. From hot showers and flush toilets, to fire rings and nothing else, you can find a campground right for you and your family.
You need to do some homework before heading off onto public lands. These areas are still wild, and in some cases difficult to reach. Road conditions can go from great to horrible quickly with changing weather conditions. Stay informed of changing weather conditions and plan accordingly. Campgrounds can be built on the side of a hill, so don't forget to take some old boards to help you get leveled up once you find your camp site. Take the time to read the rules of the campground posted near the entrance. Very often you will discover that bears and other wildlife also like staying in the area you have chosen, and you may need to take precautions to avoid unnecessary wildlife meetings.
Plan your public land RV camping trip carefully. You can get great information about campgrounds and road conditions from the USFS, BLM, and NPS offices that administer the area you wish to visit. Ask questions and ask for advice from these folks as they know the area better than just about anyone. Tell them the type and size of RV you are camping with, and you will get directions to campgrounds just right for you and your RV.
Campfires are permitted unless posted otherwise. Many of the hosted public land campgrounds have firewood available at a reasonable fee. Many more un-hosted sites may have firewood available near the campground. Some campgrounds don't allow collecting firewood, but these usually have firewood available nearby. If you want a campfire, don't forget to take your hatchet and bow saw along. If you own a chain saw, this can speed up building your campfire wood pile. Pay close attention to fire restrictions. Fines for having a campfire during a fire ban can be painful to your wallet, but the much worse scenario would be your fire getting out of hand. As Smokey says "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires".
The USFS often requires having an ax, shovel, and bucket in your campsite when having a fire. Don't leave a campfire to smolder all night. The wind might come up and scatter hot ashes. Use your shovel to bury your fire before retiring for the night. Fireworks are not permitted.
If your RV has a generator, we suggest that you run it only as much as necessary. Your fellow campers will appreciate your consideration. Don't forget to bring a bucket or water jug. Hauling water back to your campsite from a distant water pump or spigot in a pan isn't my idea of fun. Always pick up your campsite when getting ready to leave. From the condition of a few campgrounds we've been in, it would appear that the previous camper thought someone was going to follow them around and pick up their trash for them...which we did. Please be responsible and keep your campsite picked up, and leave it better than you found it.
If you like to fish, don't forget that you must comply with all state fishing rules for the state you are in. Hunting is also allowed on most public land, but again you must comply with local laws. Firearms and target practice is allowed on public land too. Be considerate of your fellow RV campers and find places to practice well away from your campground. There is a good chance you will meet the local law enforcement official if you are target shooting too close to a campground.
A good Internet RV camping information source in the western USA is www.publiclands.org. This site lists western states recreation opportunities. Most Forest Service and BLM campgrounds are listed, but there are just too many possible campgrounds for them all to be listed. There are state campgrounds listed here as well.
One other information resource is the www.recreation.gov website. This is a huge website with information about just about every state and Federal public land campground. The problem we see is that it is difficult to wade through all the information presented. It's a great site if you know where you are going, but trying to find new places can be less than fun.
With a bit of planning, you can find some of our nations best RV camping locations. Once you find your campground site, sit back, relax and enjoy!
USFS (US Forest Service) - Describes USFS policies and rules about RV camping. Information about camping, campgrounds, regulations, and tips on how to find great free RV camping sites.
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.
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.
BLM (Bureau of Land Management) - Located throughout the western USA, BLM managed lands offer great camping locations. Developed campgrounds, and almost unlimited dispersed camping opportunites await you.
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.
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.