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Old 11-27-2014, 10:50 PM   #1
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National Forest camping, for free.

I just got back from eight days camping in the Oconee National Forest in mid-eastern Georgia. I heard a rumor that you could camp in the forest completely free. Nothing is free. Nothing. So I called.

"Oh yes, if you go to an undeveloped campground, or anywhere you can find to camp really, it's no cost at all."

This turned into a visit to my local ranger district office where I got high quality maps of both national forests in the state, the Oconee being fairly close to me.

I went and scouted the undeveloped campgrounds out and settled on one called Tyler. It's a cleared out area of the forest, large trees were left with the brush cleared out and they keep the area mown. Quite pretty actually.

So Tuesday of last week I towed bub down there. Remember, this is a 38' fifth wheel. I had to sneak through the trees, but enough of a path was cut that I made it in easily enough. I set up and camped. For eight days.

And didn't see a soul. No kidding. Not even a ranger came by, no other campers, nothing. It was peaceful, quiet, undisturbed and in the trees.

Here's what you do. Look up the national forest offices for your area, go by and purchase the maps for the area of interest. They're good quality maps with good information and they're $10 each. Visit with the office folks, they gave me great advice about where to and not to go.

Now understand, there's no office, no host, nobody around. You're on your own. The closest ranger office was 30 miles away, so it's all you.

Then, go camp. Leave it as good or better than you found it, and pay nothing. I live 40 miles from where I camped, you can bet your bippy that I'll be going over there once or twice a month next year.

Last week cost me $25 in gasoline for my generator and about $30 in diesel to haul it there and back, so for $55 I went camping for a week, that is a personal record for me. Use this, it's a great program that the National Forest Service is giving us. It's not openly advertised because they don't want it flooded with people but I think here will be ok.
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:00 PM   #2
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Nice!! Got any pics?
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Old 11-27-2014, 11:12 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FRasco View Post
Nice!! Got any pics?
Just one actually. Somewhat embarrassing for a photographer to say, but between the real job and the amount of photographic work I'm doing I just didn't feel like picking up the camera. But I got an iPhone pano, so that's my 5er at both ends of the image. The road in is actually to the left. That road to the right went back into a small area for some reason.

I also forgot to mention, the dirt roads are in great condition for the most part. Where I went was very nice, some of the places I scouted were in good shape, but on uneven terrain.

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Old 11-28-2014, 10:12 AM   #4
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sknight

This is our normal mode of life: BLM/Forest Service/Bureau of Reclaimation "dispersed camping". It is a lot easier in the west with so much federal land. We have been out two weeks and seen only the rancher driving by.

We generally scout in our pickup before we go in on dirt roads (might not be able to turn around). Othertimes, I just pull off my mountain bike and peddle in. Did this in Yucatan three years ago and spent a week at Laguna Azul on Lago Bacalar. We have to return there.

The group Escapees (I believe the largest RV club in US) has a lot of information at their website on boondocking as does RV.net.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:08 PM   #5
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Shhhhh, don't tell too many people about the wonderful places you'll discover!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sknight View Post
I just got back from eight days camping in the Oconee National Forest in mid-eastern Georgia. I heard a rumor that you could camp in the forest completely free. Nothing is free. Nothing. So I called.

"Oh yes, if you go to an undeveloped campground, or anywhere you can find to camp really, it's no cost at all."

This turned into a visit to my local ranger district office where I got high quality maps of both national forests in the state, the Oconee being fairly close to me.

I went and scouted the undeveloped campgrounds out and settled on one called Tyler. It's a cleared out area of the forest, large trees were left with the brush cleared out and they keep the area mown. Quite pretty actually.

So Tuesday of last week I towed bub down there. Remember, this is a 38' fifth wheel. I had to sneak through the trees, but enough of a path was cut that I made it in easily enough. I set up and camped. For eight days.

And didn't see a soul. No kidding. Not even a ranger came by, no other campers, nothing. It was peaceful, quiet, undisturbed and in the trees.

Here's what you do. Look up the national forest offices for your area, go by and purchase the maps for the area of interest. They're good quality maps with good information and they're $10 each. Visit with the office folks, they gave me great advice about where to and not to go.

Now understand, there's no office, no host, nobody around. You're on your own. The closest ranger office was 30 miles away, so it's all you.

Then, go camp. Leave it as good or better than you found it, and pay nothing. I live 40 miles from where I camped, you can bet your bippy that I'll be going over there once or twice a month next year.

Last week cost me $25 in gasoline for my generator and about $30 in diesel to haul it there and back, so for $55 I went camping for a week, that is a personal record for me. Use this, it's a great program that the National Forest Service is giving us. It's not openly advertised because they don't want it flooded with people but I think here will be ok.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Shhhhh, don't tell too many people about the wonderful places you'll discover!!!
Haha, that's why this is the only place I shared this info. Our little secret!
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:31 PM   #7
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We won't tell!
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Old 12-01-2014, 08:38 AM   #8
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Not terribly worried about many folks going into real boondocking, they are just to worried about intangibles. There are a few places that our friends have let us know that we shall be sent to Coventry if we pass out information.

Reed and Elaine
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Old 12-03-2014, 03:09 PM   #9
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Due to new requirements for the administration of roads in National Forests each forest has produced or will produce Motor Vehicle Use Maps. Most forests will show dispersed camping areas on these maps.
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Old 12-03-2014, 04:18 PM   #10
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Jackfish

Thanks for the information regarding dispersed camping on Forest Service maps.

Reed and Elaine
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Old 12-03-2014, 10:48 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Due to new requirements for the administration of roads in National Forests each forest has produced or will produce Motor Vehicle Use Maps. Most forests will show dispersed camping areas on these maps.
That's exactly what I got in my maps. Actually, the maps are awesome. They show campgrounds, dispersed non improved and those with hookups, forestry service roads you can take off road vehicles on, hiking trails, horse trails, shooting ranges, boat ramps, fishing areas, just on and on.

These maps are good quality on great paper, well marked with not only forest roads but regular highway and residential roads that are in the area.

I highly recommended picking one up, they're far more useful than just camping locations.

I had no idea how much was to be had over there.
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Old 01-02-2015, 04:57 PM   #12
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I wish we had as many places to camp on BLM land here in the NE! Any people in the N.E. do any boon docking up here? I'd like to find some people!
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Old 01-03-2015, 12:08 AM   #13
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In Florida, the maps are available to be downloaded on pdf.
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Old 01-03-2015, 12:29 AM   #14
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In the research I've been doing, it varies from state to state. I personally like the paper maps myself but a PDF option would be nice. In Ga you can get a PDF, but it's very rudimentary especially compared to the paper map.

I'm already loosely planning my getaway weekends for this year. I can't wait.
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