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  1. Default Where to park your car when camping in NF?

    If I camp in National Forests, where can I leave my car? Can I leave it on the side of the road and then walk into the forest to set up the camp? I'm afraid that while I sleep police can see the car and declare it an abandoned vechicle and tow it away! Does anyone have experience with that?

    Or do I have to esentially put my tent right next to the car?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default A few different options

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There can be several options for camping in a national forest, so it depends upon what form of camping you are talking about.

    First, National Forests have regular campgrounds where there is an obvious place to park, usually within your site. They also may have hike in campgrounds/campsites where there is a short path from a parking area.

    Some National Forests also have Dispersed Camping Sites. These are like traditional camping spaces, in that they will usually have a clearing and often a fire ring, however they will usually be pretty well separated from other sites, are pack-in/pack-out (no garbage) and usually will not have water or toilet facilities. These sites usually either have parking available at the site, or a designated parking spot that's a short walk away. Personally, this is my favorite option because you get all the advantages of having a private area to camp, without the work and environmental impact of hiking into the woods and forging a new campsite.

    The final option would be backcountry/dispersed camping. Many National Forests allow you to set up camp most anywhere in the forest. However, there are restrictions in every case. Ususually, you are required to stay a certain distance away from things like roads and rivers, and in these cases parking isn't always as easy or as obvious. If you are going to go this route for camping, then you should really check with a ranger before you head out to start camping. They will be able to tell you the exact rules and regulations for where you can camp, fire restrictions or permits, and other rules you will need to follow. They will probably be able to direct you to a good area and tell you where you can legally park.

  3. Default

    Thank you, Michael

    In terms of camping, I am talking about very bare-bones, just a place to put my tent. I don't need anything else, I don't need a fire. I don't carry an ice cooler, or lounge chairs, or all the other contraptions that seem to be considered "neccesities"by many campers. I don't care for electrical hook-up either and I'm fine with washing in a sream and no toilets.

    I'd like to get a list of addresses of the national forests in the US, perhaps with phone number for the ranger. Do you know where I can obtain that? Or a detailed map of them would be good. But since I have GPS, an adress I can punch in is more useful.

    How do I find those Dispersed Capsites? They do sound like a great option.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Forest Maps

    Here is a link to all of the USFS maps (listed by Forest) -- you can also backtrack through the links to get the headquarter addresses for each national forest. Many states also have state and regional forests as well.

    The USFS is divided into 10 regions. Here is the regional map

    If you click on any region, you can drill down to a variety of planning tools. As an example, if you click on Region 5, you could go the "Forest Offices" link and get to the list of all of the USFS forest offices in Region 5 -- click here to see this list. Do the same thing for each area that you are planning to camp in. Each region also lists those forests on a map, which makes planning even easier -- here is the one for California.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Contact NFS

    Your best bet really is to look at the National Forest Services website. They should have information about each of the forests, including contact information for ranger stations.

    Dispersed Campsite availablity really depends upon the individual forest. Not all the forests have them. Because there are so many different National Forests and the policies for each are not necessarily the same, you really need to contact someone at each forest you are considering to get the best information.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-29-2009 at 10:24 AM. Reason: fixed link

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    209

    Default More about maps

    Quote Originally Posted by daminescu
    How do I find those Dispersed Capsites? They do sound like a great option.
    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael
    Dispersed Campsite availablity really depends upon the individual forest. Not all the forests have them. Because there are so many different National Forests and the policies for each are not necessarily the same, you really need to contact someone at each forest you are considering to get the best information.
    daminescu,

    to give you an idea of what Forest Service maps show you, here are some examples from my map* of the Santa Fe National Forest, where dispersed camping is allowed. These maps show where recreation sites* are located, and various travel restrictions and closures*.

    Here is an example showing restricted and closed areas.*

    Here is an example showing an area with no restrictions.*

    I hope all that helps you a little. As Michael already mentioned, you should contact someone at each forest (or ranger district) you want to visit.


    *Click on photo for close-up view.
    Last edited by howard; 01-29-2009 at 08:49 PM. Reason: minor correction

  7. Default

    Every campground I've ever seen has had designated parking areas. Sometimes they're right by the camping spot, other times it's group parking within walking distance. If you're camping legally, you'll have a parking spot.

    If you're just planning to bivouac by the side of the road -- either on public or private land -- you may run into trouble.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default dispersed

    In National Forest Lands many times you can legally camp just off the road, or even a just a short hike into the forest. I've done some camping in National Forest lands where I have just parked on the shoulder of the road, and everything was perfectly legit. However, talking to a ranger will give you some good ideas about where you can do this legally and safely as well as any other regulations that you might need to take into account.

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