Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forest Service Boondock Locations

Backroads Information:  Forest Service Boondocks

The good news is that the Forest Service is publishing maps showing ALL the boondocking locations on National Forest land.  The maps are/will be FREE.

The bad news is that these will be the only locations you can disperse camp (boondock) in the National Forests.

In 2006 the Forest Service wrote a regulatory rule requiring each National Forest to designate those roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicles.  The rule was really focused on these guys.

But notice that the rule included areas.  Areas are where you camp.  And since an RV is by definition a motorized vehicle it will limit your boondocking to designated areas.  The good news is that most National Forests are simply designating existing camping areas as open.

So it appears that all the camping areas currently open will more or less stay open.

It is doubtful, however, that new areas will be designated any time in the future.  The  good news is that the maps will be free and they will be updated on an annual basis.  The bad news is that you will be cited if you are camped in a area that is designated closed to motor vehicles on the map.  There will NOT be posting on the ground.  You are expected to know how to read a map.  So you might want to revisit this link and brush up on your map reading skills.  Map and Compass

You will still need to review the landforms section since many of the boondock locations are used by hunters.  Remember you generally want to be up on top or along the valley bottom.  Those mid-slope locations are generally for hunters only in the fall.  They are generally very small.  Re-read the sections on finding boondock locations.  Now you can use them for judging the quality of the campsite as you look at the map and google earth!  Finding Boondock Locations-Part 1

So where do I find these maps?  Well, all Forest Service offices will have free copies of the maps.  Or you can see where your favorite National Forest is in the process by Searching MOTOR VEHICLE USE MAP & the name of the National Forest.  In most cases, this will give you a PDF copy of the map that you can store on your hard drive.

Those Forests still in the process have also developed maps.  If they have not yet completed the EIS they will be called proposed action maps.  These are worthwhile since they will give you a clue as to what the future will hold.  In many cases these also show current boondocking locations.  Here check out this link for the Methow Ranger District on the Okanogan & Wenatchee National Forests.  Notice those "splats" or * on the map?  Those are all the dispersed camping areas.  Here is the link to the Methow map.  Methow Valley Proposed Vehicle Use Map.    Warning it is a 6 meg file so make sure your connection speed is adequate.

So there you go....boondocking locations mapped and given out for free by YOUR National Forests.  Good luck exploring your public lands.  And if you don't want to learn how to read a map you can always join these folks in the campgrounds!


Matt said...

Interesting. I've followed the USFS 'route designation' process closely in CA and didn't realize it also affected dispersed camping. Though, it sounds like the impact will be minimal, as RVs generally aren't traveling "off road" like motorcycles and ATVs, but merely parking alongside, or just off of, the designated travel ways.

Vladimir Steblina said...

I am not sure what the impact will be to dispersed camping. While I was still working I was concerned that few people were aware that the travel management rule would affect boondocking.

The other concern I had was that now you will be cited if you boondock in a closed area. They will NOT be posted on the ground. You will need to know where you are on the motor use vehicle map.

The urban forests will probably have additional closure areas and in some you probably will only be able to camp in campgrounds.

I was pushing for designated boondock sites and the requirement that you can to be self-contained to camp in those areas. When I "floated" that proposal is sank like a lead balloon.

Change is coming to the National Forests.

Bob Difley said...

Hi Vladimir - I'm glad you are posting also on the FS's new Travel Management Plan and how it could affect boondockers. What concerns me is that many boondockers will not know about the new rules and camp in a non-designated dispersed camping area and subject themselves to a $5,000 fine. However, I assume theFS will not take draconian measures when the new rules take effect and will warn/advise boondockers of the rule before ticketing. My other concern is whether a forest supervisor has the power to severely limit or eliminate certain areas as approved dispersed camping areas, which could reduce the availability of individual campsites that may not be part of a larger dispersed camping area.

HK said...


thank you for your excellent blog. it really has shined a lot of information for our future boondock roadtrip. we are actually departing may 26-may 31 (sasquatch festival) in gorge, wa at the gorge amphiteather. we have until june 3rd to get back into seattle but would love to explore the area and perhaps even the lake chelan area if time allows us. do you know if there are any dispersed camping locations near dry falls/steamboat rock state park? would love to stay a night there.. then move on towards lake chelan or something of a forest atmosphere after. thanks in advance, harry kim

Vladimir Steblina said...

The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie has written citations.

While we were in Arizona, it appears the Coronado has completed their travel plan. While the Apache-Sitgraves is still in the planning stages. I got rolled eyes when I asked about where they were in the process.

At this point in time, people should ask at the Ranger Stations for the travel plan maps. Even the draft maps will give folks an idea of where they can camp.

While I was working on the Okanogan-Wenatchee the fish and wildlife biologists and I came to an agreement of no net loss of camping opportunities. Most of the closures will be in wildlife areas and particularly in Riparian areas.

The Forest Supervisors have the final say, but it will be those discussions and arguments between the recreation folks and the biologists that will result in closures.

Folks should always tell the Forest Service and BLM employees how much they value the dispersed camping opportunities.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Hi HK,

Memorial Day weekend is going to be VERY crowded in those areas. There are a few Fish and Wildlife access points that allow camping in the Dry Falls/Steamboat Rocks area.

Jameson Lake has some camping areas on the south end and it is not to far from Sun Lakes. For Memorial Day you can probably find campsites there.

Of course, you can camp at Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area just north of the Gorge.

For all these sites you need the parking sticker from the Department of Fish and Game.

HK said...

Hello Vladimir,

Actually we will start our RV dispersed camping adventure after Memorial Day. We will start on Tuesday May 31st so hopefully the crowds will have "dispersed" by then. IS there any other route you would suggest? WE absolutely love our privacy and hated RV camps during our trip last year! Thank you !

Vladimir Steblina said...

You might want to look at the south end of Jameson Lake.

There are also Fish and Wildlife sites along Banks Lake that allow camping.

My favorite if your going to be going to the Gorge is to camp at Quincy Lake. Quick trip to the Gorge and nice camping in May.

Watch out for ticks and rattlesnakes in May.