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Old 06-15-2015, 10:12 PM   #1
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Question National Forest Camping

We have never camped in a National Forest. I am really interested in dispersed camping. Can you really just camp anywhere? How do you know where to go? How do you get there? Is it safe? So curious.
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Old 06-15-2015, 10:55 PM   #2
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Have you checked the National Forest website?
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Old 06-16-2015, 12:09 AM   #3
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Look up your local National Forest office. Then, go visit and buy maps. The maps are about $10 each and are very durable. Scout out your areas and go camp. The camping areas are marked, my local office had lots of good advice as to where to go, this place has lots of kids, this place has very little traffic, etc.

Yes, it's free. Yes, it's quiet. My local forest has "Improved" areas for camping, improved meaning it's graded with the grass cut and maybe a few defined camping spots. No hookups at all, so if you don't bring it you don't get it. In fact I had to go into town to find water for my last few days.

I was told that anywhere you can find to get off the road, you can camp there. I'm not that bold, but it's an option.

My last trip I was there for nine days straight before Thanksgiving and literally didn't see a soul until the last day as I was packing up, they pulled in, turned around and left. That includes rangers. I was totally on my own, so depending on how remote you're thinking of be prepared!

Any questions that come to mind feel free to ask!
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Old 06-16-2015, 03:40 AM   #4
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In California during deer hunting season you will find a lot of hunters in dispersed camps. You will frequently find a campfire ring that is used year after year by the same group of hunters.

My dad left a full sheet of exterior plywood at "his" camp. Each fall we would cut new legs and nail them to the plywood to create a table. At the end of the trip we took off the legs and stored the plywood vertically between two trees. It was buried in snow through the winter. I am not sure how long it lasted. My guess is about 10 years. I climbed a tall tree, as far as I dared, and hung an old broken coffee thermos I had found on the ground along with some red cloth. From Hat Mountain I was able to see it. I thought I knew the general direction and distance from Hat Mountain to camp. Boy, was I wrong. My marker in the top of the tree lasted more than 20 years.

As an example of where I have camped do a Google search for:

1. Monkey rock California. It is due north of Lake Pillsbury. From Lake Pillsbury to the nearest paved road in Potter Valley is 18 miles of dirt road. We got our water from Rattlesnake Creek, due east of Monkey Rock.

2. Hat Mountain California, due east of Likely and Blue Lake. From Blue Lake Campground to Hat Mountain, according to Google maps, it is 22.9 miles and will take an hour and a half to get there. About a third of that time will be traveling the last 5 miles. This requires 4wd and high ground clearance, essentially a pickup truck. The largest TT I have seen near there was about 20 feet long. Actually, that is the only TT I ever saw there in 20 years. Anything longer will not get there. Much of that last 5 miles will be in 4wd low range first and second gear. We got our water from a natural spring. Many years ago someone stuck a 3 inch galvanized water pipe into the hillside. The water came out of the pipe about 2 feet above the ground alongside a well known dirt road. This allowed you to stick a water container under it. This spring was about a mile from our camp. We would haul 20 gallons of water at a time.

Trivia question: What is the highest point in Lassen County California? Almost everyone that is familiar with Mt. Lassen, extinct (so far) volcano but that is incorrect. It is Hat Mountain.

It looks like you are nowhere near me. But I offer these two locations as an opportunity to "visit" some remote disperse camping areas.

I started dispersed camping at age 6 months, according to my mother. I really don't recall that first trip.

I will be happy to answer any question about my experiences with dispersed camping.
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Old 06-16-2015, 10:27 AM   #5
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We camped in the Nat'l Forest in northern Wisconsin. There were three campsites and no off-site camping allowed. Each of the three was on a small fishing lake, about 14 miles deep in the forest. No services, no mowed areas. We just had to find a level spot and set up. Only way in or out was by logging road. There was a box in which to deposit a fee which supposedly covered mowing and other maintenance ( of which we saw no evidence). It wasn't much, we made the contribution. I won't go that rough again!
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Old 06-16-2015, 10:38 AM   #6
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We do a lot of National Forest camping in Virginia & West Virginia. Mostly in developed campgrounds when we use our camper. These are not free, but are very reasonably priced at around $25 night. Some will have electric hook-up, some are dry camping. I prefer the National Forest over the private campgrounds. It is spread out with no one on top of you, plenty of shade, no cell, no tv. It is a great get-away.
We will also tent camp sometimes. That is when we will take an old fire/logging road and set up. It is free to do that.
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Old 06-16-2015, 10:59 AM   #7
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Old 06-16-2015, 11:03 AM   #8
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also Corps of Engineers maintain many campgrounds especially many around Mississippi river
Facility List for - US Army Corps of Engineers -
Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough. Mark Twain

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Old 06-16-2015, 11:27 AM   #9
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Old 06-16-2015, 12:14 PM   #10
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National forest campground in the UP of Mich. This was taken when the (Gov.was Shutdown) in 2013! Nice C/G W & E plus Hard surface pads! Small Fees$ Youroo!!
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Old 06-16-2015, 12:27 PM   #11
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Pic. of above! Youroo!!
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Old 06-17-2015, 04:36 PM   #12
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Basically, I only camp in National forests in MT, ID and WY. Best advice I can give is to look up the forest you want to camp in, and write them; some actually have a map online. Or, if in the area, stop at one of their ranger stations and go inside.
They are always helpful in telling you were you can camp and IF, toilets are needed or you can use cat holes.

Same information applies to BLM; where I camp if in UT, NM or AZ.
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Old 06-26-2015, 10:49 AM   #13
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We have been camping NF campground for over 20 years. Love them. Found some good ones and some bad. Our biggest pet peeve is generators. Stayed at Caldwell lake in Michigan's UP south of Munising. really nice CG. Every site has a small beach in the lake. Only problem was everyone, and I mean all the other campers in the park ran generators ALL day and evening. I am sorry but if you absolutely need electricity to camp, go to an RV park. Rant done...

One of our favorites is Lake Michigan Recreation Area near Manistee, MI. Beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, secluded spots, large sites. Boondocking nearby if you want.

Here is a Site I find very Helpful - Campground Directory and National Forest Campgrounds

And I cannot stress enough to explore! When you are in an area of a NF. Go check it out. There is so much that is not published or known. Many of the NF campgrounds and primitive sites can be reserved... Federal recreation, camping and tour reservation information -

Don't forget about State forests too!
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