February 11, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Photo by Aida Hasson
I have spent a little too much of my time driving across the country. Many times, I have driven during the summer, where hotels seemed a lot less appealing than pitching a tent and listening to crickets at dawn.
Freecampsites.net guided me through Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Missouri on my first drive from Massachusetts to Colorado. I learned and reveled in the fact that there are free campsites pretty much everywhere.
The closer I got to the mountains and the farther I got from the struggling Midwestern cities, the more I found campsites on public land maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the United States Forest Service. It was in Colorado, Utah, or possibly Wyoming where I fell in love with these discreet roads in the middle of nowhere.
These roads on public land weave all along the country on the outskirts of national parks and in other beautiful places tucked away from the odd civilization of developed National Park Service Campgrounds.
Some of the most stunning places I’ve ever camped were on Bureau of Land Management roads; other campsites on BLM or Forest Service roads are useful only in their convenience.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, dispersed camping – camping without developed facilities such as bathrooms and picnic tables – is allowed on any public land for up to 14 days at a time, except for areas that are labeled as “closed for camping.”
The campsites on BLM roads are still campsites, even though they do not have the amenities most campsites do.
For the most part, dispersed camping does not mean bushwhacking to pitch a tent under a tree. They are human-made clearings, and, because most people are car camping, there are little “driveways” for cars. In order to protect the native plants in the area, it is important to camp in the campsites rather than finding your own spot and risking the destruction of nearby vegetation.
It can be rather unpredictable whether the BLM roads will be filled with other campers or completely empty. I have found that more popular trails or hiking areas usually have a lot of people camping on the BLM roads nearby.
You can find these roads through maps or on Freecampsites.net. It is usually a good idea to have a backup campsite (coordinates provided by Freecampsites.net) in case your GPS takes you to a BLM road that doesn’t exist. But then again, it’s all part of the adventure!
There are also reviews of campsites on freecampsites.net, where you can see pictures from other people and information about the cell phone service (if there is any), how long you can camp there, the elevation, and the closest town. The site also shows the management of the land, whether or not it is public land, and who maintains it.
I have camped on public lands everywhere from Ohio to Kansas to Montana and each one gives me a new sense of wonder. These roads and campsites remind me of adventure and give me the opportunity to find new places to explore.