Is Camping Free In National Forests? An Answer For Every NF


So, Is camping free in National Forests? Free camping in National Forests is also known as dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is allowed in all National Forests unless otherwise expressly noted. Generally, free camping is available outside of developed areas at least one mile from developed campgrounds and 100 feet from any natural water source.

Below you will find general information on dispersed camping (free camping) in pretty much every National Forest. They are listed in alphabetical order by state, and the page is also searchable if you have a particular National Forest in mind.

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Alabama

Conecuh National Forest

The Conecuh National Forest offers dispersed camping rules that fall under the general guideline of all Alabama National Forests. Alabama National Forests have a very helpful brochure that details a lot of guidelines on camping within the forest, that document can be found here. For more details on dispersed camping in the Conecuh National Forest, it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages where you plan to go camping.

Talladega National Forest

According to the front page of the district website which is linked above, you may disperse camp in the National Forest unless otherwise posted. They do not require permits for dispersed camping except during the gun deer hunting season.

Tuskegee National Forest

According to their district website which is linked above, you may disperse camp for free pretty much anywhere in the National Forest except during gun deer hunting season. During their gun deer hunting season, all camping must be done in one of their designated 14 hunting campsites. The campsites are designated, but still not developed. A free permit is required to obtain a designated campsite.

Bankhead National Forest

According to the Bankhead website linked above, dispersed camping is allowed in the general forest and its wilderness, but during hunting season (November 15 to January 31) a free camping permit is required for non-hunters camping in the forest.

Alaska

Chugach National Forest

Chugach National Forest has many dispersed camping areas. There are 19 dispersed camping areas geared towards backpackers listed on their website here. Beyond those designated dispersed camping spots, their websites have a dispersed ethics page that says that they allow dispersed camping throughout the forest unless otherwise posted. You can find that verbiage and other ethics here.

Tongass National Forest

The Tongass National Forest has a huge list of designated dispersed camping areas in the forest that you can find on their website here. There is no shortage of dispersed camping in the Tongass National Forest. They list 8 main dispersed camping areas with links to many more sub-areas within the main areas with links for additional dispersed camping information in that particular area.

Arizona

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest offers very open dispersed camping. They allow dispersed camping anywhere in the forest outside of recreational areas at no charge and no permits are required to camp in the wilderness areas of the forest. They have 5 dispersed camping area districts that they list on their website with more information on each dispersed camping area. All of their dispersed camping information can be found here.

Coconino National Forest

The Coconino National Forest provides a lot of detailed information on dispersed camping in the forest. For the most part, the forest is open to dispersed camping except that there are a few areas that are specifically closed to dispersed camping. They also have a few designated dispersed camping areas. Designated and closed areas can be found on their website here.

The guidelines provided by the forest are pretty standard for leave no trace principles and respecting private property. Dispersed car camping can also be done up to 300 feet away from the road. For full guidelines on dispersed camping in the Coconino National Forest click here.

Coronado National Forest

The Coronado National Forest allows dispersed camping in most areas outside of developed areas with no charge and no permit required. They have several designated dispersed camping districts that can be found on the dispersed camping page on their website here.

Kaibab National Forest

The Kaibab National Forest has three ranger districts, and all three allow dispersed camping. Free dispersed camping is allowed pretty much anywhere in the forest 1 mile away from developed recreation sites and for up to 14 days within any 30 day period. For more information on dispersed camping in the Kaibab National Forest, visit their dispersed camping page here.

Prescott National Forest

The Prescott National Forest offers dispersed camping on most of its land with a few exceptions. In the forest close to the city of Prescott, only camping in designated dispersed campsites is allowed. In those designated dispersed spots, a 7 day limit per 30 day period is established, unlike the rest of the dispersed camping areas which carry a 14 day limit per 30 day period. For more information on dispersed camping in Prescott National Forest visit their website page here.

Tonto National Forest

The Tonto National Forest allowed dispersed camping in most places within the forest’s boundaries. The forest has 5 ranger districts with each having their own designated dispersed camping areas. Visit the Tonto National Forest dispersed camping page on their website for more information located here.

Arkansas

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest provides a recreational area directory pamphlet that contains information on dispersed camping within the forest. It says that dispersed camping (or primitive camping) is allowed anywhere in the forest unless otherwise specifically posted. There is no permit required for dispersed camping or having a campfire in dispersed camping areas. Their recreational area directory pamphlet can be found here.

Ozark-St. Francis National Forest

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest like most National Forests allows dispersed camping in most areas of the forest. A few exceptions are if a sign specifically prohibits it or if it is a wildlife food plot. In addition, you may camp in one spot for 16 days within a calendar year. You must move at least 5 miles away to reset the clock.

Other guidelines for dispersed camping in The Ozark-St. Francis National Forest are pretty standard such as leave no trace principles and being outside of developed recreational areas. For their full list of dispersed camping guidelines click here.

California

Angeles National Forest

The Angeles National Forest has pretty standard rules when it comes to dispersed camping. Pretty much throughout the entire Angeles National Forest provided you follow the basic dispersed camping rules of stay limits, leave no trace, and being away from developed recreational areas. In addition, campfires not located in developed recreation areas require a California fire permit, which can be obtained online here.

It would seem as The Angeles National Forest does not openly advertise dispersed camping much since their level of annual visitation is so high based on its proximity to Los Angeles and other heavily populous cities. The best information you can get on dispersed camping in the Angeles National Forest is here where it links you to rules and regulations in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Most likely since the same rules and regulations apply to the Angeles National Forest for the most part.

Cleveland National Forest

The Cleveland National Forest allows dispersed camping in all three of its ranger districts. They do not allow campfires to be made outside of designated and developed recreational sites. Permits are required for most dispersed camping in Cleveland National Forest. For more information on dispersed camping visit their camping page here.

Eldorado National Forest

The Eldorado National Forest has a nice publication providing information on dispersed camping in the forest. Their rules are pretty in line with most dispersed camping regulations except they impose a dispersed camping 10 day stay limit per district per calendar year. They also have a few areas where dispersed camping is off limits because of their proximity to private land or high visitor uses. To read their full dispersed camping publication click here.

Inyo National Forest

The Inyo National Forest is located in Inyo County, the entire county is dominated by public land available for dispersed camping. Some high use recreational locations are off limits to dispersed camping in the forest. There is also quite a bit of land owned by the city of Los Angeles and that land prohibits camping. The dispersed camping limit in The Inyo National Forest Is 28 days in a 6 month period in any of the ranger districts. For more information on dispersed camping in Inyo National Forest click here.

Klamath National Forest

The Klamath National Forest allows open dispersed camping provided you follow the basic dispersed camping etiquette of leave no trace. The stay limit is 14 days in one spot and 30 days total within a calendar year. There are several districts you have to choose from, for full information on dispersed camping in Klamath National Forest click here.

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Area

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Area allows dispersed camping in its wilderness areas. The desolation wilderness area requires a permit. Within the Lake Tahoe basin, itself dispersed camping is prohibited. Many National Forest land surrounds Lake Tahoe and so free dispersed camping is plentiful nearby. For more information on dispersed camping in Lake Tahoe, click here.

Lassen National Forest

The Lassen National Forest has three ranger districts that allow dispersed camping within them. They provide a Q and A document describing some rules and regulations when it comes to dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is allowed pretty much anywhere that is not posted otherwise. You can find out more information on dispersed camping in Lassen National Forest here.

Los Padres National Forest

The Los Padres National Forest offers dispersed camping with some special closures. Areas that are open and closed can be found on their recreation page here. For the most up to date information on dispersed camping in the Los Padres National Forest, it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area that you plan on camping in.

Mendocino National Forest

The Mendocino National Forest follows the basic same dispersed camping rules as most forests do. You may openly disperse camp pretty much anywhere that is not expressly posted as prohibited. Dispersed camping in one spot in the forest is limited to 14 days at a time. Mendocino National Forest even has 3 designated dispersed campgrounds. For more information on dispersed camping in Mendocino National Forest, click here.

Modoc National Forest

The Modoc National Forest allow dispersed camping in most of the forest. Their stay limits are 14 days in one spot and 30 days total per calendar year in the forest. You will need to get a permit online for having a campfire while dispersed camping. For more information, including dispersed camping areas in their 4 ranger districts, click here.

Plumas National Forest

The Plumas National Forest follows the same guidelines and regulations as the Inyo National Forest. The basic premise is to leave no trace as can be seen on their website. They also provide information on their 4 dispersed camping districts which can be found here.

San Bernardino National Forest

The San Bernardino National Forest offers dispersed camping in its wilderness areas and in general forest areas. Unfortunately, campfires are not allowed in dispersed or wilderness areas in the San Bernardino National Forest. Dispersed camping must be done away from highways and other developed areas.

You also must camp at least 200 feet away from springs, water, meadows, trails, and roads. Additionally, they want you a quarter mile away from developed areas like campgrounds, trailheads, and picnic areas. Of course, you are also expected to follow leave no trace principles. Wilderness areas generally will require a free permit in the forest. For complete information on dispersed camping in the San Bernardino National Forest, click here.

Sequoia National Forest

The Sequoia National Forest allows dispersed camping in many of the forests areas including around the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Do not confuse this National Forest with Sequoia National Park since the park does not allow dispersed camping. Dispersed camping in the National Forest does have some off limits areas, but they are posted.

Dispersed camping is free in Sequoia National Forest, but they do require you to obtain a free campfire permit if you are going to have a campfire. They also provide some additional rules that should be simple to follow. For full information on dispersed camping in the Sequoia National Forest, click here.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest allows almost all of the forest to be open for dispersed camping. The forest has 5 wilderness areas that offer open dispersed camping. One area off limits to dispersed camping is on Lewiston Lake. For complete details on dispersed camping in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, click here.

Sierra National Forest

The Sierra National Forest allows plenty of dispersed camping and outlines its rules and regulations clearly. Like most other forests, they do not allow dispersed camping within the vicinity of developed recreation sites. You must set up camp at least one mile away from developed campgrounds and at least 100 feet from water sources. For full details on dispersed camping in the Sierra National Forest, click here.

Six Rivers National Forest

The Six Rivers National Forest offers dispersed camping in most of the forest unless otherwise posted. Dispersed camping is free in the forest, but comes with a 30 day per year limit and a 14 day limit in any one spot. In addition, you must set up camp at least a quarter mile away from developed sites. The Six Rivers National Forest provides a nice brochure on camping within the forest that includes dispersed camping, you can find that here.

Stanislaus National Forest

The Stanislaus National Forest provides a nice document containing its rules on dispersed camping. They impose a 21 day stay limit per year per ranger district. They also list 4 very specific areas where dispersed camping is not allowed, so you should check out their document before going camping in the Stanislaus National Forest. Other information they provide is pretty standard leave no trace principles.

Tahoe National Forest

The Tahoe National Forest does not have much public information about dispersed camping available on their website. What they do say about it is that dispersed camping is available in the Tahoe National Forest, but dispersed camping is not available on all forest land. There is also a limit on dispersed camping of 14 days per ranger district. What they want you to do is specifically contact them to inquire about available dispersed camping locations. This information can be found on their camping page here.

Colorado

Arapaho National Forest

The Arapaho National Forest offers dispersed camping in most of the forest’s land. Their rules are pretty standard on following leave no trace principles and not trespassing on private land. They limit dispersed camping to 14 days before you must move at least 3 miles, in addition, there is a 28 day stay limit in a 60 day period. Dispersed camping is prohibited in their developed areas such as trailheads and picnic areas. For full details on dispersed camping in Arapaho National Forest, click here.

Grand Mesa National Forest

The Grand Mesa National Forest offers a nice document with comprehensive information on dispersed camping in the forest. The dispersed camping document for the Grand Mesa National Forest can be found here. In the document, they provide information on all basic leave no trace principles that should be followed when camping anywhere. In addition to that, they display their stay limits which are 14 days in one location, then you must move at least 3 miles. In total, you may stay in the forest for up to 28 days in any 60 day period. 

Gunnison National Forest

The Gunnison National Forest follows the same rules as the Grand Mesa National Forest. They have a combined document that details all dispersed camping information that can be found here. Leave no trace principles are highlighted in the document as they should be. They also have stay limits of 14 days in one spot and 28 days total in any 60 day period.

Pike National Forest

The Pike National Forest offers dispersed camping in many places in the forest, but they do note that in some areas, dispersed camping is allowed in designated sites only. Developed sites such as picnic areas and trailheads are off limits to dispersed camping. Like most other forests, in Pike National Forest, the camping limit is 14 days in one location. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Pike National Forest, click here.

Rio Grande National Forest

The Rio Grande National Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest area for a maximum of 14 days in any 30 day period. For full information on dispersed camping in the Rio Grande National Forest, they want you to contact their district office. Most likely they will want to help control the environmental impact of dispersed camping. They have 11 dispersed camping areas that they list on their website, so there is plenty of room for some free dispersed camping. For more information on dispersed camping in Rio Grande National Forest, click here.

Roosevelt National Forest

The Roosevelt National Forest offers dispersed camping on most of the forest. The Roosevelt National Forest follows the same rules as the Arapaho National Forest. They limit dispersed camping to 14 days in any one location and a 28 day limit total in any 60 day period. Like most other forests, you may not disperse camp in developed areas such as trailheads and picnic areas. For full information on dispersed camping in the Roosevelt National Forest, click here.

Routt National Forest

The Routt National Forest offers dispersed camping in most areas of the forest. They do not expressly list dispersed camping rules and regulations on their websites, instead, they ask that you contact the ranger district where you plan on going camping. Most likely the rules are pretty standard with things such as leave no trace, stay limits and camping outside of developed areas. For more information on dispersed camping and contact information for the Routt National Forest, click here.

San Isabel National Forest

The San Isabel National Forest offers many places in the forest where you may disperse camp. 

They follow the same rules as the Pike National Forest. They note that there are some areas in the forest where dispersed camping is allowed in designated sites. They place high importance on leave no trace principles as they should, so be sure you are familiar with those principles. For full information on dispersed camping in the San Isabel National Forest, click here.

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest offers dispersed camping in both designated areas and in undesignated areas. They do note that some areas are closed to dispersed camping including some seasonal restrictions that may be in effect. They prefer that you contact the local ranger district office before heading out on a dispersed camping trip in the San Juan National Forest. In addition, there is a 28 day stay limit in any 60 day period in the entire forest with a 14 day stay limit in any one location. For full information on dispersed camping in the San Juan National Forest, click here.

Uncompahgre National Forest

The Uncompahgre National Forest allows dispersed camping in certain areas in the forest. They provide a nice and easy to read one page document detailing their rules and regulations when it comes to dispersed camping. You may find that document here. Most of the document covers leave no trace principles that should be followed when camping anywhere. They also impose a 28 day total stay limit in the forest within any 60 day period.

White River National Forest

The White River National Forest provides dispersed camping with emphasis that it may be done backpacking and by just driving up forest roads. They encourage the use of established sites rather than creating new ones. The White River National Forest ranger districts also provide free motor vehicle maps that are extremely useful if you want to disperse car camp. White River National Forest has a dispersed camping stay limit of 14 days. For complete information on camping in the White River National Forest, click here.

Florida

Apalachicola National Forest

The Apalachicola National Forest allows dispersed camping in may of the forest’s land. There is one exception that needs to be noted. During the general gun season camping is only allowed in designated campsites. There is also a 14 day stay limit per month in Apalachicola National Forest. Other rules and regulations provided are basic leave no trace principles. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Apalachicola National Forest, click here.

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest allows dispersed camping in much of the forest’s land. One exception to keep in mind is that during the general gun season in Florida you may only camp in designated campsites within the forest. Ocala National Forest also limits dispersed camping to 14 days per month within the forest. For complete information on dispersed camping in Ocala National Forest and some leave no trace principles, click here.

Osceola National Forest

The Osceola National Forest offers dispersed camping in most of the forest’s land. One rule to keep in mind is that during the general gun season in the state of Florida, the forest limits dispersed camping to designated campsites. In addition, Osceola National Forest also has a stay limit of 14 days per month. For more information on dispersed camping within the Osceola National Forest, click here.

Georgia

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest offers dispersed camping in multiple locations throughout the forest. It is allowed in both general forest areas and designated wilderness areas provided you follow basic leave no trace principles. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest also makes you take note that areas of the forest can be closed off to dispersed camping at any time, usually intended to prevent critical damage to certain forest areas or for dangerous areas. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, click here.

Idaho

Boise National Forest

The Boise National Forest notes that dispersed camping is available in a majority of its land. Most of the rules provided by the Boise National Forest is basic leave no trace principles that everyone should follow when camping anywhere. One thing to keep a note of with the Boise National Forest is that they say that camping length limits and the distance you can drive off road varies by ranger district so they encourage you to contact the ranger district where you plan to camp in before heading out. For complete details on camping in the Boise National Forest, click here.

Caribou-Targhee National Forest

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest has three ranger districts that all allow dispersed camping in many of the areas of the forest. Each ranger district has its own special rules and regulation so it is advised that you contact the specific ranger district before heading out on your dispersed camping trip. For example, in the Palisades Ranger District, they say that camping is free and available in many undeveloped sites, but there is a 16-day stay limit in one spot. Additionally, select areas have a camping stay limit of only 5 days.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest

The Clearwater National Forest has opened most of the forest to dispersed camping. The Clearwater National Forest has a stay limit of 18 days in one dispersed camping location. In order to reset the clock on this 18 day stay limit, one must move at least 5 miles away from the original campsite. Additionally, you may not return to the same campsite for at least 45 days. Some popular dispersed camping areas may have additional rules posted. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Clearwater National Forest, click here.

Idaho Panhandle National Forests: Coeur d’Alene, Kaniksu, and St. Joe National Forests

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests offers dispersed camping throughout the forests. Rules for dispersed camping in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are pretty standard, but it is highly recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you plan on camping on prior to your trip. For contact information and some primary dispersed camping areas in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, click here.

Payette National Forest

The Payette National Forest allows dispersed camping almost anywhere in the forest that is not posted otherwise. Dispersed motorized camping has additional restrictions in order to minimize harm to the delicate environment. Luckily, motor vehicle use maps are provided to ensure there is no confusion on where one may disperse car camp. Most areas in the Payette National Forest have a stay limit of 18 days within a 30 day period. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Payette National Forest, refer to their frequently asked questions page here.

Salmon-Challis National Forest

The Salmon-Challis National Forest allows dispersed camping in most areas outside of developed campgrounds within the forest. You may only camp up to 300 feet away from the open road in order to protect the forest. Other leave no trace principles must be followed. You may find the dispersed camping areas within the Salmon-Challis National Forest here.

Sawtooth National Forest

The Sawtooth National Forest offers plenty of dispersed camping outside of developed campgrounds. The Sawtooth National Forest also provides a really nice document with their dispersed camping rules and regulations. The Sawtooth National Forest has imposed some special stay limits in certain dispersed camping areas. For example, north and south of Galena Summit there is a 16-day stay limit. In the Salmon River Corridor, there is a 10-day camping limit. They also provide contact information in their document for any other concerns or questions one might have regarding dispersed camping within the Sawtooth National Forest.

Illinois

Shawnee National Forest

The Shawnee National Forest permits dispersed camping within the forest except for developed recreation areas, natural areas, on lakeshores, near streams, or on designated trails. Dispersed camping is free and available at any time of the year. However, if you are horse camping then the Shawnee National Forest does not allow you to camp in designated wilderness areas. The dispersed camping stay limit in the Shawnee National Forest is 14 days. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Shawnee National Forest, click here.

Indiana

Hoosier National Forest

The Hoosier National Forest allows dispersed camping throughout the forest away from developed campgrounds. You may roadside camp in Hoosier National Forest provided you do not block the road and are not over 125 feet away from the road since it can cause damage to the forest. The Hoosier National Forest also has certain areas that are designated as not open for dispersed camping. For example, any trailheads or specifically at Hickory Ridge Fire Tower site. For complete information on dispersed camping in Hoosier National Forest, click here.

Kentucky

Daniel Boone National Forest

The Daniel Boone National Forest offers dispersed camping in many areas of the forest. There are some specific areas with more rules such as at Cave Run Lake and Laurel River Lake where camping is prohibited within 300 feet of the water’s edge. Another specific rule is In the Red River Gorge, where dispersed camping within 300 feet of any road or trail is prohibited. For full details on the rules and regulations of dispersed camping in the Daniel Boone National Forest, click here.

Louisiana

Kisatchie National Forest

The Kisatchie National Forest has five ranger districts that allow dispersed camping. They are Calcasieu, Caney, Catahoula, Kisatchie, and Winn ranger districts. Rules and regulations for dispersed camping in the Kisatchie National Forest are pretty standard, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you plan on camping on prior to your trip. For more information and contact information for Kisatchie National Forest, click here.

Maine

White Mountain National Forest

The White Mountain National Forest provides a nice brochure on backcountry camping that you can find here. There are a lot of special rules set in place in the White Mountain National Forest so you need to pay close attention to their provided document. One example of a specific dispersed camping rule set in place is that there is no camping allowed in the alpine zone of the forest, which is where trees are 8 feet tall or less. For full information on dispersed camping in the White Mountain National Forest, click here,

Michigan

Hiawatha National Forest

The Hiawatha National Forest offers many dispersed camping sites. Most of the Hiawatha National Forest dispersed camping sites require a reservation done through Recreation.gov. There are a few exceptions to this such as the Big Island Lake Wilderness, Hovey Lake, Haymeadow Creek, and the Indian River sites. The dispersed camping stay limit in Hiawatha National Forest is 16 days at a time, then you move at least 1 mile away for another 16 days in total. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Hiawatha National Forest, click here.

Huron-Manistee National Forest

The Huron-Manistee National Forest allows dispersed camping almost anywhere that is not posted as “closed” or posted with “no camping”. They stay limit for dispersed camping in Huron-Manistee National Forest is 16 days in one location. You may move at least 5 miles away and begin another 16 days. A permit is not required for dispersed camping and most dispersed camping spots are marked with a sign. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, click here.

Ottawa National Forest

The Ottawa National Forest allows dispersed camping in the general forest area for up to 16 days at a time in one spot. After this, you may move at least 5 miles away and camp for another 16 days. There are 5 main dispersed camping areas in the Ottawa National Forest. Remember to always follow leave no trace principles. For more information on dispersed camping in the Ottawa National Forest, click here.

Minnesota

Chippewa National Forest

The Chippewa National Forest offers over 100 maintained dispersed recreation sits in the forest. Additionally, most of the general forest land is open for backcountry and primitive camping. There are 5 primary dispersed camping areas in the Chippewa National Forest and they provide a detailed map for locating some maintained dispersed camping sites. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Chippewa National Forest, click here.

Superior National Forest

The Superior National Forest offers free dispersed camping in general forest areas. Generally, you may not disperse camp in close proximity to developed areas like developed campgrounds, trails, trailheads, and roads. The Superior National Forest provides a helpful brochure on dispersed camping that can be found here. For full details check out the dispersed camping page on the Superior National Forest website.

Mississippi

Bienville National Forest

The Bienville Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest. It is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you are planning to camp on prior to your trip for the most up to date information on dispersed camping in the Bienville Forest. For contact information on Mississippi National Forests, click here.

Delta National Forest

The Delta National Forest offers 57 primitive campsites dispersed throughout the forest. These dispersed campsites require a camping fee and a reservation. For more information and a detailed map, visit the Delta National Forest Campsites page here. Camping is allowed only in designated campsites in the Delta National Forest.

Desoto National Forest

The Desoto National Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest. It is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you are planning to camp on prior to your trip for the most up to date information on dispersed camping in the Desoto National Forest. For contact information on Mississippi National Forests, click here.

Holly Springs National Forest

The Holly Springs Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest. It is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you are planning to camp on prior to your trip for the most up to date information on dispersed camping in the Holly Springs Forest. For contact information on Mississippi National Forests, click here.

Homochitto National Forest

The Homochitto Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest. It is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you are planning to camp on prior to your trip for the most up to date information on dispersed camping in the Homochitto Forest. For contact information on Mississippi National Forests, click here.

Tombigbee National Forests

The Tombigbee Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest. It is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you are planning to camp on prior to your trip for the most up to date information on dispersed camping in the Tombigbee Forest. For contact information on Mississippi National Forests, click here.

Missouri

Mark Twain National Forest

The Mark Twain National Forest allows dispersed camping anywhere in the forest outside of designated campgrounds and developed areas. Leave no principles are highly encouraged in the forest. The Mark Twain National Forest has 6 ranger districts that all have dispersed camping opportunities. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Mark Twain National Forest, click here.

Montana

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest offers many dispersed camping opportunities in the forest. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has a stay limit of 16 days in one camping location within a 30 day period. There is also strict food storage requirements in effect to protect bears. For more information on dispersed camping in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, click here.

Bitterroot National Forest

The Bitterroot National Forest offers dispersed camping on most general areas of the forest. The Bitterroot National Forest offers free maps that detail dispersed camping campsites and forest roads where you may camp. For most of the forest’s roads you may camp up to 300 feet away from the road itself. For more information on dispersed camping in Bitterroot National Forest, click here.

Custer Gallatin National Forest

The Custer Gallatin National Forest allows dispersed camping in most general forest areas. They provide a motor vehicle use map that shows what locations you may disperse car camp. You may not disperse camp in the vicinity of developed recreation areas. The stay limit in Custer Gallatin National Forest is 16 days, after that, you must move at least 5 miles away and may not return to the original campsite until at least 7 days have passed. For more information on dispersed camping in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, click here.

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest allows open dispersed camping in some areas. There are also some areas that allow dispersed camping in only designated dispersed campsites. Luckily, the Flathead National Forest provides a detailed motor vehicle use map to help locate these sites. The dispersed camping page on the Flathead National Forest website also lists all areas that are closed to dispersed camping.

Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest offers 5 dispersed camping areas within the forest. They are the Castle Mountains, Elkhorn Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Rocky Mountain Range, and the Snowy Mountain Range. Rules for dispersed camping in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest are pretty standard. For more information contact the ranger district you plan to camp in. You may find their dispersed camping areas here.

Kootenai National Forest

The Kootenai National Forest has two primary areas for dispersed camping. They are the Fisher River Area and the Koocanusa Area. The rules for dispersed camping in the Kootenai National Forest are pretty standard, but they prefer that you get in direct contact with one of their Forest Service offices. For more details and contact information for the Kootenai National Forest, click here.

Lolo National Forest

The Lolo National Forest offers dispersed camping with rules that are pretty standard. There are many opportunities for dispersed camping in the forest. However, the USFS recommends that you obtain information directly from one of their offices for the best dispersed camping information. For more details and contact information for the Lolo National Forest, click here.

Nebraska

Nebraska National Forest & Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

The Nebraska National Forest offers five primary dispersed camping areas in the forest. They are Buffalo Gap National Grassland, Fort Pierre National Grassland, Nebraska National Forest at Chadron, Nebraska National Forest at Halsey, and Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest. Rules for dispersed camping in the Nebraska National Forest are pretty standard. Click here for more information on dispersed camping in the Nebraska National Forest.

Nevada

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest allows dispersed camping in most of the forest. Main rules to keep in mind is to camp at least 100 feet from any water source and properly bury all human waste. All regular forest rules and regulations apply to dispersed camping. For more information on dispersed camping in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, click here.

New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest

The White Mountain National Forest provides a nice brochure on backcountry camping that you can find here. There are a lot of special rules set in place in the White Mountain National Forest so you need to pay close attention to their provided document. One example of a specific dispersed camping rule set in place is that there is no camping allowed in the alpine zone of the forest, which is where trees are 8 feet tall or less. For full information on dispersed camping in the White Mountain National Forest, click here,

New Mexico

Carson National Forest

The Carson National Forest has many opportunities for dispersed camping. The stay limit in the forest is 14 days. Campfires are highly discouraged since they leave ugly scars on the landscape, but they are allowed while dispersed camping. Above all else, follow leave no trace principles when dispersed camping in the Carson National Forest. For more information on dispersed camping in the Carson National Forest, click here.

Cibola National Forest

The Cibola National Forest allows dispersed camping in most areas of the general forest unless posted otherwise. There is a 14 day stay limit in a 45 day period for the Cibola National Forest. For more information on dispersed camping in the Cibola National Forest, click here.

Gila National Forest

The Gila National Forest allows dispersed camping anywhere on the forest outside of developed areas for no charge. There are also many designated primitive campsites in the Gila National Forest. Detailed maps with regulations on where vehicles may go can be picked up from one of the six ranger stations within the forest. You do not need a permit to disperse camp in the Gila National Forest, but there is a 14 day stay limit in a 30 day period. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Gila National Forest, click here.

Lincoln National Forest

The Lincoln National Forest allows dispersed camping throughout the forest provided you stay within 300 feet of a public open road. There are no permits or fees for dispersed camping in the Lincoln National Forest. There are three main ranger districts where you may disperse camp. They are Guadalupe, Sacramento, and Smokey Bear ranger districts. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Lincoln National Forest, click here.

Santa Fe National Forest

The Santa Fe National Forest allows primitive dispersed camping almost anywhere in the forest that is not specifically posted otherwise. It is also required to set up camp at least 100 feet away from any water source. For more information on dispersed camping in the Santa Fe National Forest, click here.

New York

Finger Lakes National Forest

The Finger Lakes National Forest allows dispersed camping in most locations within the forest that do not have specific forest orders that make them off limits to camping. Leave no trace principles must be followed and it is advised not to camp in the alpine areas since the ecosystems there are particularly fragile. For more information on dispersed camping in Finger Lakes National Forest, click here.

North Carolina

Croatan, Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie National Forests

Croatan, Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie National Forests allow dispersed camping in certain areas within the forests. It is preferred that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you plan on camping in prior to your trip. For dispersed camping areas and contact information for North Carolina National Forests, click here.

Ohio

Wayne National Forest

The Wayne National Forest allows dispersed camping in the forest areas that are not near developed campgrounds or areas where setting up camp would block a road or trail. Dispersed camping does not require fees or permits unless you are in a group of 25 or more. The Wayne National Forest has a 14 day camping limit set in place. For more information on dispersed camping in the Wayne National Forest, click here.

Oklahoma

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest provides a recreational area directory pamphlet that contains information on dispersed camping within the forest. It says that dispersed camping (or primitive camping) is allowed anywhere in the forest unless otherwise specifically posted. There is no permit required for dispersed camping or having a campfire in dispersed camping areas. Their recreational area directory pamphlet can be found here.

Oregon

Deschutes National Forest & Ochoco National Forest

The Deschutes National Forest & Ochoco National Forest has dispersed camping in many areas of the forest with a couple of exceptions. You may not disperse camp in developed recreational areas such as campgrounds, boat ramps, trailheads, or picnic areas. Additionally, leave no trace principles must be followed in order to protect the fragile ecosystem. For more information on dispersed camping in Deschutes National Forest & Ochoco National Forest, click here.

Fremont-Winema National Forest

The Fremont-Winema National Forest has five ranger districts that have dispersed camping areas. The rules for dispersed camping in the Fremont-Winema National Forest are pretty standard, but it is recommended to contact the ranger district office that manages the area that you plan on camping in prior to your trip. For more information on dispersed camping in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, click here.

Malheur National Forest

The Malheur National Forest allows dispersed camping practically anywhere in the forest that is not posted otherwise or near the vicinity of developed areas. Some dispersed camping areas have motorized access and some need to be reached by foot. There is a 30 day stay limit in dispersed camping spots and a 45 day total stay total limit within the forest. For more information on dispersed camping in the Malheur National Forest, click here.

Mount Hood National Forest

The Mount Hood National Forest offers dispersed camping in many areas of the forest. The stay limit at Mount Hood National Forest is 14 days in one camping location and 28 days total in a calendar year. Some areas within the forest are specifically closed in order to protect some fragile ecosystems and watersheds. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Mount Hood National Forest, click here.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest offers dispersed camping in five main ranger districts within the forest. The ranger districts are Gold Beach, High Cascades, Powers, Siskiyou Mountains, and Wild Rivers ranger districts. For complete information on dispersed camping within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you plan to camp on prior to your trip. You can also find their dispersed camping areas here.

Siuslaw National Forest

The Siuslaw National Forest offers dispersed camping anywhere in the forest that is not posted as closed, where parking overnight is prohibited, or within 200 feet of a developed recreational area. The Siuslaw National Forest provides a motor vehicle use map that may be obtained at any of their ranger districts. The map is extremely useful for dispersed camping. There is also a list of specific posted areas that are closed to dispersed camping. For complete details on dispersed camping in the Siuslaw National Forest, click here.

Umatilla National Forest

The Umatilla National Forest allows dispersed camping in most areas of the forest free of charge. You must be a certain distance away from developed areas. Standard rules and regulations apply. There is a 14 day camping stay limit in the Umatilla National Forest. For complete details on dispersed camping in the forest, click here.

Umpqua National Forest

The Umpqua National Forest has four ranger districts that allow dispersed camping. They are Cottage Grove, Diamond Lake, North Umpqua, and Tiller ranger districts. Rules for dispersed camping in the Umpqua National Forest are pretty standard, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area you plan on camping in prior to your trip. For more information on dispersed camping areas in the Umpqua National Forest, click here.

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest allows dispersed camping in much of the forest’s general areas. Leave no trace principles are highly encouraged. Standard rules and regulations in the forest apply to those that disperse camp. There are some specific areas within the forest that are off limits to dispersed camping, and these are typically posted. For more information on dispersed camping in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, click here.

Willamette National Forest

The Willamette National Forest generally allows dispersed camping in most areas of the forest with a few exceptions. Dispersed camping must be done at least 100 feet away from any lake trail, or stream. Also, some areas are specifically posted to be off limits to dispersed camping. The stay limit in the Willamette National Forest is 14 days in any 60 day period. For more information on dispersed camping in the Willamette National Forest and specific area closures, click here.

Pennsylvania

Allegheny National Forest

The Allegheny National Forest allows dispersed camping almost anywhere that is not otherwise posted as closed or “no camping”. Some areas within the forest have special regulations including no camping at all or increased distances from main areas. The stay limit in the Allegheny National Forest is 14 days. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Allegheny National Forest, click here.

Puerto Rico

El Yunque National Forest

The El Yunque National Forest allows dispersed camping in specific areas. There are no developed campgrounds within the forest. Dispersed camping is free of charge, but requires a permit that must be requested at least two weeks in advance. For complete information on dispersed camping in the El Yunque National Forest, click here.

South Carolina

Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests

The Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests allow dispersed camping in all four ranger districts. Dispersed camping in Long Cane, Enoree, and Francis Marion districts requires a permit that is issued free of charge. The Andrew Pickens district does not require a permit for dispersed camping. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, click here.

South Dakota

Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest allows dispersed camping in most areas of the forest away from developed areas. The stay limit in the Black Hills National Forest is 14 days in any 60 day period. It is recommended that you contact the Black Hills National Forest Service office prior to your trip for the most up to date information on dispersed camping. For contact information and complete dispersed camping rules and regulations in the Black Hills National Forest, click here.

Tennessee

Cherokee National Forest

The Cherokee National Forest allows dispersed camping throughout the forest unless posted otherwise. Dispersed camping must be done at least 100 feet away from water trails, trailheads, and other developed recreation areas. There is no charge or permits required for dispersed camping in the Cherokee National Forest. For more information on dispersed camping in the Cherokee National Forest, click here.

Texas

Angelina National Forest

The Angelina National Forest is part of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. It shares a common website with other National Forests in Texas. The rules are pretty standard across the board, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area where you plan to disperse camp prior to your trip. Texas National Forests have some strict campfire bans in place that you need to be aware of. For more dispersed camping information, click here.

Davy Crockett National Forest

The Davy Crockett National Forest is part of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. It shares a common website with other National Forests in Texas. The rules are pretty standard across the board, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area where you plan to disperse camp prior to your trip. Texas National Forests have some strict campfire bans in place that you need to be aware of. For more dispersed camping information, click here.

Sabine National Forest

The Sabine National Forest is part of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. It shares a common website with other National Forests in Texas. The rules are pretty standard across the board, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area where you plan to disperse camp prior to your trip. Texas National Forests have some strict campfire bans in place that you need to be aware of. For more dispersed camping information, click here.

Sam Houston National Forest

The Sam Houston National Forest is part of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. It shares a common website with other National Forests in Texas. The rules are pretty standard across the board, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area where you plan to disperse camp prior to your trip. Texas National Forests have some strict campfire bans in place that you need to be aware of. For more dispersed camping information, click here.

Utah

Ashley National Forest

The Ashley National Forest permits dispersed camping in much of the forest at least one quarter mile away from any administrative sites such as campgrounds, visitor centers, etc. Dispersed car camping can be done up to 150 feet away from the forest road in Utah, but up to 300 feet away from the forest road in Wyoming. For full details on dispersed camping and ranger contact information for the Ashley National Forest, click here.

Dixie National Forest

The Dixie National Forest allows open dispersed camping outside of developed recreation areas and other areas with specific closures. Dispersed car camping can be done up to 150 feet away from a forest road. The stay limit in the Dixie National Forest is 16 days in one location, after which you must move at least 10 miles away. Some specific popular dispersed camping areas allow camping in only designated dispersed campsites. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Dixie National Forest, click here.

Fishlake National Forest

The Fishlake National Forest offers dispersed camping in many areas of the forest outside of developed recreational areas. You must disperse camp at least one mile away from developed campgrounds and 100 feet from any water source. The stay limit in the Fishlake National Forest is 16 days in one location, after which you must move at least 5 miles away and may not return to the same camping location within the same calendar year. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Fishlake National Forest, click here.

Manti-LaSal National Forest

The Manti-LaSal National Forest has two primary dispersed camping areas. They are Ferron – Muddy Creek Recreation Area, and Miller Flat-Joes Valley-Huntington Canyon Rec Area. Dispersed camping rules are pretty standard, but it is recommended that you contact the Forest Service Office prior to your trip in order to obtain the most up to date information on dispersed camping. Contact information and dispersed camping areas in the Manti-LaSal National Forest can be found here.

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest allows dispersed camping in many general areas of the forest outside of its developed recreation areas. The stay limit in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is 14 days in any 30 day period. A motor vehicle use map is provided by any ranger station so that finding a dispersed camping area is easy. For complete details on dispersed camping in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, click here.

Vermont

Green Mountain National Forest

The Green Mountain National Forest allows dispersed camping in most locations within the forest that do not have specific forest orders that make them off limits to camping. Leave no trace principles must be followed and it is advised not to camp in the alpine areas since the ecosystems there are particularly fragile. For more information on dispersed camping in the Green Mountain National Forest, click here.

Virginia

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests allows dispersed camping throughout the forest except for specially designated areas. Areas closed to dispersed camping are generally developed recreation areas, administrative areas, active timber sale areas, and other posted locations. The camping stay limit in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests is 21 consecutive days, for complete information on dispersed camping click here.

Washington

Colville National Forest

The Colville National Forest allows dispersed camping in a majority of the forest outside of developed areas. You must follow leave no trace principles. The stay limit in the Colville National Forest is 14 days in one spot, after which you must move at least 5 road miles away. For complete information on dispersed camping in the Colville National Forest, click here.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers dispersed camping in many areas of the forest away from developed areas. You must camp at least 100 feet away from major roads and trails as well as water sources. The stay limit in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is 14 days in one location, after which you must move at least 5 miles away. For more information on dispersed camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, see their dispersed camping page with a nice .pdf document here.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests allows dispersed camping in pretty much any area outside of developed sites and where it is not posted otherwise. Leave no trace principles must be followed when dispersed camping. They prefer that campers contact the ranger district that manages where they plan on camping prior to their trip in order to get the most up to date information. For contact information and dispersed camping areas in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests, click here.

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offers dispersed camping in all seven of its ranger districts. The stay limit on dispersed camping in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is 14 days. For more information and dispersed camping areas in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, click here.

Olympic National Forest

The Olympic National Forest offers many opportunities for dispersed camping provided you follow some basic rules. You must disperse camp at least a quarter mile from any developed recreation site. The stay limit in the Olympic National Forest is 14 days in any 30 day period. For complete details and information on dispersed camping in the Olympic National Forest, click here.

West Virginia

Monongahela National Forest

The Monongahela National Forest offers dispersed camping in two ranger districts. The ranger districts are Gauley and Greenbrier ranger districts. Dispersed camping rules in the Monongahela National Forest are pretty standard, but it is recommended that you contact the ranger office that manages the area you plan on camping in prior to your trip. For contact information and dispersed camping areas in the Monongahela National Forest, click here.

Wisconsin

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest allows dispersed camping in many areas of the forest as long as you follow proper leave no trace principles. The forest also provides you with a motor vehicle use map that is very helpful in locating dispersed camping areas. For complete information and details on dispersed camping in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, click here.

Wyoming

Bighorn National Forest

The Bighorn National Forest offers dispersed camping in many areas within the forest. You may disperse car camp up to 300 feet away from a forest road as long as it is not posted or damaging the land. The stay limit in Bighorn National Forest is 14 days in any 28 day period. For complete information and a list of specific closures in Bighorn National Forest, click here.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

The Bridger-Teton National Forest offers dispersed camping in many areas of the forest. In general, the stay limit is 16 days, but there are exceptions such as at the Jackson and Moran area where there is a 5 day limit during peak season. For more information on dispersed camping in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, click here.

Medicine Bow National Forest

The Medicine Bow National Forest allows dispersed camping in most areas of the forest. There are many dispersed camping areas in the forest, however, it is recommended that you contact the ranger district that manages the area where you plan to camp on prior to your trip. For contact information and more details on dispersed camping in the Medicine Bow National Forest, click here.

Shoshone National Forest

The Shoshone National Forest allows dispersed camping for free in remote areas of the forest. The stay limit in the Shoshone National Forest is 16 days. Some areas are closed to dispersed camping, but they are clearly posted. For more information on dispersed camping in the Shoshone National Forest, click here.

My Favorite Camping Gear

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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