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For many RVers, parking on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land is the ultimate camping experience. Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, BLM camping offers visitors the chance to connect with nature.
The vastness of the landscape can be daunting, but it also provides a sense of tranquility. At night, the lack of light pollution makes for unbeatable stargazing. And during the day, campers can enjoy exploring all that BLM land offers, from hiking and biking trails to all types of terrain our country offers.
But as with all things, preparation is needed before setting up camp on BLM land. Many situations can occur in the wilderness, from unpredictable weather to wildlife encounters and getting lost. There are too many RVer stories of BML camping going wrong, so it’s critical to be prepared.
This article explores what BLM camping is and provides tips on how to stay safe. We also share ways to find BLM spots and how to make the most of your experience.
What is BLM Camping?
BLM camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about reservations or crowded campgrounds. The Bureau of Land Management manages over 247 million acres of public land, providing ample opportunities for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
One of the best things about BLM camping is that it’s usually free. However, there are some restrictions in place to help protect the land.
For example, campers may not camp within 200 feet of a water source or trail. In addition, they only permit campfires in designated areas.
By following these simple guidelines, campers can help to ensure that the land remains unpolluted and enjoyable for everyone.
What Is the Bureau of Land Management?
The Bureau of Land Management, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is a federal agency that manages public lands for various uses, including grazing, recreation, and energy development. BLM also works to protect cultural and archaeological resources on public lands.
Its mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
Given the wide range of activities on BLM-managed lands, the agency has sometimes enacted challenging mandates to balance multiple uses with conservation.
Is BLM Camping Legal?
While many people assume camping on BLM land is illegal, it’s actually allowed as long as campers follow the agency’s guidelines. These guidelines protect the land, its resources, and they ensure that everyone can enjoy their time on public lands.
Some of the BLM’s guidelines for camping include getting a permit if planning to stay for over 14 days, following all fire regulations, and properly disposing of all trash and waste. By following these and other guidelines, campers can help to preserve the beauty of BLM lands for future generations.
Is it Safe to Camp on BLM Land?
While BLM camping can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, some risks come with camping on public lands. Before setting out, it’s important to remember this is wilderness camping. There are no amenities such as running water or electricity, and help may be far away if something goes wrong.
That being said, camping on BLM land can be safe as long as campers take the necessary precautions.
First, it’s vital to research the area you’ll be visiting. Some BLM land is more remote than others, and it’s important to be prepared for the conditions you might encounter.
It’s always a good idea to inform someone where you’ll camp and when you expect to return. If possible, camp in areas that have already been established, such as campsites with fire rings or picnic tables.
And finally, pack extra supplies in case of an emergency. This might include food, water, a first-aid kit, and a flashlight. By being prepared, you can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable camping trip.
Where is BLM Land Located?
You can find BML land in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii.
The BLM manages about one-eighth of the land in the United States, which includes millions of acres of national forest land, grasslands, and wilderness areas.
Most BLM land is in twelve Western states, with about half of all BLM-managed land in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon.
Utah has the most considerable amount of BLM-managed land, about 28 million acres, or about 42 percent of the state.
6 Ways to Find BLM Land for Camping
1. BLM Interactive Map
The Bureau of Land Management offers its own search tool. The first step in planning a BLM camping trip is finding an area you would like to explore. The best way to do this is by using the BLM’s interactive map tool.
This tool allows users to search for public lands by state, activity, and amenity. For example, if you are looking for a place to camp in Arizona, you can use the map tool to find all the BLM-managed lands in that state.
Besides the Bureau of Land Management, several other websites and apps can help you discover BLM camping areas.
This comprehensive app provides detailed information for over 43,000 campgrounds and RV parks across the United States, including many on BML sites.
The AllStays app also includes user-generated reviews and ratings, so you can get an idea of what others think of a particular area before you go.
3. ToGo RV & Campendium
Campendium is an online database that includes a map of the displaying BML sites reported by users. To see the exact location, users must create an account.
Now that Campendium has joined the ToGo RV family, you can find the same BLM map through ToGo RV. There are also many other features ToGo RV can assist you with, like finding water, shopping, dump stations, and other needed locations nearby.
Unfortunately, as campgrounds and RV parks have become more developed and expensive, many people have been priced out of the camping experience.
Freecampsites.net seeks to change that by providing a database of free (or very low-cost) camping locations. Simply enter your location, and the site will show you a list of nearby free campsites. Each listing includes vital information, such as directions, amenities, and photos.
5. RV Life Trip Wizard
Users of the RV Life Trip Wizard Pro Suite of apps give you everything you need to find your BLM camping location. The trip planner shows you the places you can stop overnight, fuel stations, and sightseeing stops worth stopping for along the way.
The RV-friendly GPS makes sure your route keeps you on the right roads to avoid low bridges and congested city traffic. You can even use their connected Campground Reviews information to read up on which BLM camping locations and campgrounds are the best.
6. The Dyrt Pro
The Dyrt Pro members can take advantage of their BLM camping map and camping reviews. You’ll find all of the dispersed camping locations throughout the U.S.even if you lose data service. Their downloadable map keeps you going through the cellular dead zones so you won’t get lost.
How Long Can You Camp on BLM Land?
Each BLM State and Field Office adopts its own rules for how long people can stay on the land. The “14-Day Rule” is a standard guideline that allows campers to stay in one location for 14 days consecutively.
After 14 days, you must move at least 25 miles away before setting up camp again. However, this rule is not strictly enforced. It’s common for people to stay in one spot for extended periods without issue, but penalties can range from fines to being banned for repeat offenders.
It is always good to check with the local BLM office before planning an extended camping trip. There may be unique regulations in place for the area you are planning to visit.
Is BLM Camping Always Free?
While many people associate BLM with free camping, there are actually two types of BLM camping: developed campgrounds and dispersed camping.
Developed campgrounds typically charge a fee for amenities like picnic tables, fire pits, bathrooms, electric hook-ups, and garbage cans. Fees vary per site, so be sure to check the campground’s website or call the local field office for details.
Dispersed camping (boondocking) is free and allows campers to stay in any legal location. While dispersed camping doesn’t offer the same amenities as developed campgrounds, it provides a unique opportunity to explore the American wilderness without spending a dime.
5 Best Tips for BLM Camping
1. Read Reviews Before Going
If you’re planning on heading to a BLM campsite, the first step is to read reviews. This will give you a good idea of the amenities, area, and any potential problems you might encounter.
2. Check the Local BLM Website for Up to Date Info
It’s essential to always be aware of current conditions when venturing into the backcountry. The Bureau of Land Management national office website is an excellent resource for up-to-date information on road closures, fire bans, and other advisories.
While most BLM lands are open to the public, some areas are only accessible by permit or reservation. And, to protect both visitors and resources, some areas may be closed due to weather or fire conditions.
It’s also good to check the website for updates on conditions. For example, if there has been recent rainfall, you’ll want to know if there is a risk of flash flooding.
3. Have a Backup Plan in Case it’s Full
If you’re planning on camping on BLM land, it’s important to have a backup plan if the area is full. BLM land is first-come, first-served, so there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find a spot.
If you arrive at a full BLM campground, check out nearby state parks or national forests. You may also want to consider dispersed camping, which is generally allowed anywhere on BLM land.
As long as you follow the Leave No Trace principles and camp at least 200 feet away from any water source.
4. Be Prepared for Camping With No Amenities
When heading out into the wilderness, you need to be prepared for anything. This is especially true if you’re planning on camping in undeveloped areas with no amenities.
While some BLM campgrounds have picnic tables and fire pits, dispersed camping rarely offers creature comforts. As a result, it’s your responsibility to bring everything you need, including water, food, and a way to dispose of your trash, including human waste.
5. Take Your Trash Back Out With You
When camping on BLM land, you must follow the Leave No Trace principles. One of these principles is to take out everything you bring in, including all trash and food scraps.
While some developed campgrounds may have garbage cans, dispersed camping areas don’t. As a result, you’ll need to carry out all your trash.
Packing out your trash may seem like a hassle, but it’s pretty easy. All you need is a sturdy garbage bag. First, seal the bag tightly to avoid openings. Then, simply dispose of the trash in proper receptacles when you return to civilization.
By following the Leave No Trace principles, you can help keep BLM land clean and pristine for future generations to enjoy (also, avoid penalties if you’re caught).
Final Thoughts on BLM Camping
BLM camping is a great way to experience the American wilderness without spending a lot of money. While there are some things you need to be aware of before heading out, such as being prepared for no amenities, camping on BLM land is generally safe and easy, especially if you equip your rig with solar panels.
Just remember to always follow the Leave No Trace principles to minimize the impact on the environment. And, if you have questions, be sure to check with the local BLM office before heading out. With planning and preparation, you’ll have a great time BLM camping.