New Forest Service rules for boondocking

By Bob Difley

DCF 1.0

Years ago when I was teaching RVing classes and seminars, including classes on boondocking, I often mentioned what was one of the most attractive features of boondocking, that you could boondock anywhere in the National Forests and on BLM land where it wasn’t specifically prohibited. But over the last few years the Forest Service (and now the BLM) has been implementing a new plan for the forests called the Travel Management Plan that controls, among other things, where you can drive your RV and the establishment of new rules for dispersed camping (i.e., boondocking, or camping outside of designated campgrounds).

Motor Vehicle Use Maps now show which forest service roads are permitted for driving (don’t worry, you probably wouldn’t want to drive your RV on any of the forest service roads that aren’t authorized) and also show where the dispersed camping areas are located. As long as you follow these new rules you won’t have any problems. At first glimpse, it looks like these government agencies are tightening down on your freedom to choose where you want to camp, but the purpose of these new rules (among other features) is to protect the forests and prevent those that would irresponsibly destroy them by driving on unauthorized roads and  camping in fragile areas that would have a hard time recovering. That doesn’t affect most RVers, since we would not choose to camp in areas that were not already level, clear of brush and trees, and accessible from the main arterial roads. The Forest Service has stated that most of the areas that have historically been used by boondockers will remain open for camping— and there are plenty of those campsites to choose from.

These rules are in various stages of implementation in each forest, so visit the local or regional Forest Service office or stop a ranger for a map before you enter the forest. You can also find these maps and additional information online for each forest on the US Forest Service website.