National Forests: A Boondocker’s Ideal Destination

A view of RVs parked in a National Forest with the sun going down behind mountains

There is a reason national parks are becoming increasingly more popular—they are exceptionally beautiful pieces of history and ideal destinations for safe, domestic travel. But these parks are seeing a record number of visitors and (rightfully so) have a lot of rules and regulations in-place to keep them as pristine and natural as possible. These rules are especially pertinent for any RVer that’s looking to boondock—most national parks only allow backcountry camping, which is dry camping via hiking and only with tents.

But don’t be discouraged! The United States has plenty of outdoor places that give you equally-as-beautiful views, far fewer crowds and plenty of room to boondock with your RV. We’re talking about national forests. Here is a list of reasons why we choose to explore and boondock in national forests.

  1. Cost (Hint: It’s Usually Free)

    One of the biggest reasons we choose to RV in national forests is simply the cost. While each individual national forest, grassland and recreation area is allowed to charge a fee, most dispersed camping is still free. Some areas do require a temporary pass to enter, but you can usually buy an annual pass for less than $100. We recommend finding the area you want to camp or boondock in, and then doing some research on the local costs and regulations. Fees for dispersed camping can be found online at the USFS website. Some national forest fees work on the honor system—you drop money into a box by the entrance. Be sure and always pay the fee, as this goes a long way to help keep the area in good, working condition.

    Gabe and Rocio's TMC Sequence boondocking in a National Forest

  1. Location

    National forests and grasslands encompass over 190 million acres across 43 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and they cover 8.5 percent of the surface area of the United States. Needless to say, there’s a really good chance you’ll find a national forest or grassland within driving distance of your homebase. The diversity of landscape in national forests is also unbeatable. We’ve been lucky to find some amazing spots surrounded by towering trees, on the banks of rivers, even alongside the ocean. Another great thing about national forests is that they often border population destinations, like national parks. One of our favorite places to boondock is Bridger-Teton National Forest, which is about 20 minutes outside the entrance to Grand Teton National Park.

    Gabe and Rocio's TMC Sequence parked in a National Forest overlooking mountains and a blue sky

  1. Open Space

    Most national forests have designated camping areas, but some are completely open and expansive. A good rule of thumb when looking for a place to camp inside a national forest is to look for a fire pit. Fire pits signal that you can park your RV there and camp overnight. However, if you don’t see a fire pit, then keep this rule in-mind: You can park your RV up to 300 feet from the center of the National Forest Service road that you drove on. If the road is closed or gated, then you shouldn’t drive on it and can’t boondock there. If you’re unsure about where to drive or camp, ask a ranger or reference the Forest Service Map. Camping apps like iOverlander and Sekr are also great for finding overnight sites inside of national forests. With so much open space, you may be the only one camping for miles and can really enjoy the serenity of being in nature.

    Gabe and Rocio's TMC Sequence parked in a National Forest

  1. Length of Stay

    Another reason we like boondocking in national forests is the number of days you can camp overnight. Most areas allow you to camp for free for up to 14 days. For most people, this is more than enough time to set up, relax and enjoy the numerous recreational activities. However, you should always check the rules for the specific area you plan to visit and the timing of your visit, as some have shorter limits during specific months. For example, the Blackrock and Jackson Ranger districts in Bridger-Teton National Forest have a five-day limit during the summer months.

    Rocio holding up a cup of coffee with a view of a National Forrest out of her camper van window

  1. Endless Opportunities

    National forests offer some of the most diverse outdoor recreation opportunities in the country. You can hike, bike, ride horses, drive ATVs, hunt, and fish—and sometimes do all of them in the same location! In the winter, many national forests offer cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. If you’re RVing with kids, there are numerous kid-friendly activities to enjoy, including Junior Forest Ranger and Junior Snow Ranger programs. And if you have any furry companions, national forests are extremely pet-friendly. Pets are allowed in all national forests, but must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet.

    Gabe and Rocio looking out at an overlook of mountains and a lake

National forests are not only numerous and expansive, but the availability and the cost to visit—paired with their beauty and endless recreational activities—make them an ideal place for any RVer.

Class B Camper Vans

Class B motorhomes are small, streamlined and ready to roll. Nimble and more fuel efficient than Class C motorhomes, Class B motorhomes offer living space best suited for small groups. Most Class B motorhomes do not offer slide outs yet still offer luxurious amenities like galley kitchens, beds and restrooms.

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