Photo: NJ Kuhr
Location: Capital Reef National Park
So what is BLM land? That stands for Bureau of Land Management. You can camp anywhere on BLM land for free; you don’t need permits, you don’t need to check in and you don’t need to pay a fee. It’s considered dispersed camping so none of those numbered spots with a concret slab, no security guy roaming around in a golf cart, no camp fee, and no capacity limitations. You won’t get turned away when the campground fills up. You can park anywhere on BLM land and spend the night. There are however some guidelines for camping on BLM Land
1. Camp where there are already spots available. You can’t cut away or clear out a new place to camp. They are everywhere and easy to find, there’s no reason to cut down trees or trample plants to make new ones. Be respectful of the land, there’s a reason it’s protected and loved. Destroying the land is only going to lead to more restrictions and future fines or permits. Yes, it’s free and you don’t even have to check in or call a campground for reservations. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re there. All you need to do is show up and enjoy the land but that doesn’t mean no one cares about it and that doesn’t give anyone the right to tear it up. These lands are cherished by the locals and we do everything we can to keep them safe and open to the public. Be respectful and enjoy being completely one with nature. We certainly love it.
Photo by NJ Kuhr
Location: Grand Canyon West
2. No making new roads. Stick to the roads already in place. There are a lot of protected vegetation and wildlife. Driving across the land can do more damage than you might think and it takes years to repair. So stay on the roads, please.
3. Use existing fire pits. There are fire pits in most spots, so if you don’t see one it’s probably not a camping spot. However, you’re free to camp there. Campfires are a ring of rocks set up to contain the fire. Look’s something like this.
If you’re not familiar with building a campfire, it’s best to find a place that already has one. Build your fire up as much as you want within the rock circle but keep an eye on it. If it’s the desert, it’s dry and the vegetation could catch fire quite easily. NEVER go to sleep with a fire still burning. EVER. Forest fires start quickly and get out of control before you know it. Always put out the fire before going to bed.
It’s not a bad idea to check online before you go. If conditions are bad or there’s been a big fire in the area recently there are limitations on fires. Check out the BLM Website before you leave for your trip
There are levels of Fire Danger that prohibit the use of campfires. If you see any signs with threat level markers or color indicators that means fires are strictly prohibited and there are huge fines if you get caught, possibly even jail time.
Orange: Very High
Here’s the website to know if there are restrictions in your area:
4. Dispose of human waste properly. Bury it in a 6” hole and as far away from waterways as possible. I know it’s hard but try to find environmentally safe toilet paper, not a requirement but it does help.
I prefer using Coleman Biodegradable toilet paper but you can find other brands at most outdoor outfitters like Bass Pro Shop or Sportsmans.
5. Camp away from water sources, at least 200 feet. A lot of our rivers and waterways are used for drinking water. So think before you squat. YUK.
Photo Credit: NJ Kuhr
Location: Zion National Park
6. You can camp in the same spot for up to two weeks, after two weeks you are required to move to a new location at least 25 miles from your original spot. It sounds inconvenient but it’s meant to prevent people from living on the land permanently. A little crazy but it happens.
7. Take everything you brought with you when you go. Because these parks are open to everyone there isn’t a clean-up crew or a garbage service so pick up after yourself. Don’t burn bottles in the campfire or leave behind trash. There’s no such thing as a maid service out in the wild.
Enjoy your road trip and always remember that this is home for a lot of people even if you don’t see them. Always leave a place better than you found it.
I’d love to share your photos so feel free to send them.