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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New National Forest rules restrict where you can drive and camp

New rules for boondocking in national forests outlined in a previous post are in the process of being implemented forest by forest and will eventually spread to all the national forests. If you plan on boondocking in any national forest, go online to that forest or visit the forest's regional office and pick up a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) before setting up camp, which will identify the roads you are allowed to drive on and where you can camp.

I received an email from Doug who was boondocking in the Kaibab NF, Williams District, near Flagstaff, Arizona in the first half of September. He picked up a MVUM and parked within 30 feet of the road as required (part of the new rule) and did not see any rangers patrolling while he was there.

The MVUM also identifies certain areas as "dispersed camping areas" where the 30-foot rule is replaced by a "maximum 300 feet" rule, and spur roads accessing dispersed campsites, though he reports that he found no identified dispersed campsites that were suitable for RVs. He also says, "a half dozen established sites that were clearly suitable are now beyond the 30 foot limit" and not identified as dispersed camping areas so no camping is permitted.

He also wrote, "No one I talked to was aware of the new restrictions---thus every other camper I saw was illegally parked. No ranger visited my site and I saw no ranger talking with anyone else. I did not visit a ranger station, as the closest one was 15 miles away."

In my conversations with forest service personnel, they assured me that ample time will be allowed for the public to learn the new rules and that no tickets would be written for violations unless the rule was not followed after being advised or offenders repeatedly broke the rule.

Forest service spokespeople say they need to protect the forests from illegal destructive uses, such as ATV and off-road vehicle drivers that carve new routes out of the forest instead of staying on established roads, and it is not their intent to deep recreational users out of the forests.

Of interest to all RVers, however, is Doug's comment that many suitable campsites for RVs had not been included in the "dispersed camping area" designation and therefore unusable. Again, forest service personnel told me that most all of the existing campsites would become part of the legal camping areas unless the area was degraded and needed to be allowed to recover or was in some way damaging to the forest.

They are also open to comments and changes, so that if you have a particular favorite boondocking campsite or area that is not included on the MVUM, talk to a ranger to see if there is a reason the area was not included--and if not they may include it on the next map.

If you have any experience with a MVUM or the new rule, add your comments below and maybe we can figure out what the boondocking experience in the national forest will be like in the future, and how the change from the existing rule, that you can camp anywhere, to a rule that states that you can camp only where permitted.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking, Snowbird Guide, and saving money on the road eBooks at


  1. Just another example of 'government know best'. More regulation. Notice Bank America just raised their fee for ATM use to five dollars. Thanks to the new finance law passed by the democrats. Look it up, the liberal media won't tell you why the fee went up.

  2. Just wondering, are these the same people that I allow clear cutting and new roads to take the timber away?

    Tahoe national forest, 14 day limit per YEAR. All counties they manage. 14 days in campgroun x. No camping in campground b till next year. Enforcing now!

  3. I checked the Tahoe National Forest website and found no mention of annual restrictions on number of allowable days for dispersed or campground camping. However, I did email the forest and asked for clarification. I will post their answer if I receive one.
    Ted - If you have any further information on this please send to me.

  4. Bob, I was told that by a ranger at boca rest campground. He brought it up and made a point of it. The rangers name was Eric.
    I called tahoe forest truckee And talk to John George the Number two person there.
    He Verified.