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Monday, October 12, 2009

Desert boondocking close to city services

By Bob Difley

Just because you enjoy boondocking in nice, natural, and scenic locations doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be out in the boonies miles from services and civilized (as against nature-oriented) entertainment.

In the desert southwest, many towns and mini-cities are planted smack in the middle of BLM land where you can boondock for two weeks at a time. This makes it convenient to visit and explore many desert communities while camping conveniently just outside of town.

Arizona publishes a state road map (they call it an Arizona Recreation Map) that shows the public and private land use areas in various colored shades so that you can get an idea how close--or far away--you would have to go to boondock and still have the convenient proximity of a population center.

This works also for the national forests in Arizona. For instance, look at the city of Prescott--the first territorial capital of the state--and you will find it sorrounded by green shading indicating national forest land right up to the city line.

In the desert, the BLM land is indicated by a light tan shade. Usually you will not find signs that indicate the boundaries between private and BLM land. Instead look for unfenced areas, dirt roads leading off into nowhere, and a lack of No Trespassing signs. This will be BLM land and you can start looking for a good boondocking spot.

At some desert settlements, the BLM land comes right up to the town limits, but the larger the community, the more likely that the city-owned land has pushed the BLM border further out from the city center and will be indicated by fenced off areas. But beyond the fences (and/or prohibitive signs) you can legally camp. But remember, after two weeks, you must move at least 25 miles away and cannot return for another two weeks.

For a complete guide to boondocking, check out my ebook, “BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands,” at under New Arrivals.


  1. There's a very cool 8 minute YouTube video about RVing in Slab City here:

    (you may need to "copy and paste" this URL into your browser if it's not hyperlinked)