Your Guide to BLM Camping and Recreation

Learn more about BLM camping, recreation & opportunities across the US

King Range National Conservation Area camping
••• Camping in California's King Range National Conservation Area. Bureau of Land Management / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Fantastic camping opportunities are found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) undeveloped public lands. BLM camping is a highlight for any recreation enthusiast who wants open space and solitude to pitch a tent and enjoy the great outdoors. Besides developed campgrounds, national conservation areas, and outdoor recreation, the BLM offers dispersed camping for those who want to get away from it all.

BLM lands offer a variety of RVing and camping types for those looking for adventure. From fully-developed RV parks and campgrounds to true boondocking and dry camping experiences, there’s something for every kind of explorer at BLM lands across the United States. Let’s learn more about BLM lands and what you can expect from your next getaway to nature.

What is the Bureau of Land Management?

The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, is a government entity overseen by the Department of the Interior. They monitor more than 247.3 million acres of lands across the US. President Harry Truman founded the BLM in 1946. The BLM’s office also oversees the United States’ mineral deposits located below more than 700 million acres of land across the country. The majority of BLM land is located in the Western and Midwest United States.

The BLM handles land, mineral, and wildlife management on millions of acres of U.S. land.

With over one-eighth of the US land mass under the agency's control, the BLM also has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities to offer for campers and outdoors enthusiasts on public land.

BLM’s primary goal is "to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations."

A Brief History of the BLM

The Bureau of Land Management was created in 1946 through a merger of the General Land Office (GLO) and the US Grazing Service. The agency has a history going back to the creation of the GLO in 1812. In addition to the development of the GLO, the Homestead Act of 1862 gave individuals the opportunity to freely claim rights to government land.

During the homesteading era, tens-of-thousands of people claimed and settled more than 270 million acres across America. In celebration of 200 years of the General land Office and 150 years of the Homestead Act, the BLM created a website and interactive timeline to commemorate the history. 

BLM Recreation and Visitor Services

The BLM areas currently include 34 National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 136 National Wilderness Areas, nine National Historic Trails, 43 National Landmarks, 23 National Recreation Trails, and more. The National Conservation Lands, also known as the National Landscape Conservation System, include the West’s most stunning and sensitive landscapes. They include 873 federally recognized areas and approximately 32 million acres. The conservation lands are diverse and wild and protect some unique habitats for conservation and recreation.

Visit the BLM Interactive online map to find public lands in the state-by-state map. You'll find specific information by region and get directed to each state's BLM recreation website and find specific recreation opportunities on BLM Public Lands.

Some BLM Destinations You May Be Familiar With

You’re already familiar with BLM destinations even if you don’t realize they’re managed by the federal government. Some of these destinations include:

Alaska

When you think of the land Under the Midnight Sun, you think of The Last Frontier State, not the amount of land the BLM manages. At over 72 million acres of all types, Alaska is one of the largest BLM-managed areas in all the United States. Since most of this land is unoccupied by man, the BLM’s mission is to maintain the ecosystems and wildlife that roam these cold lands.

Mojave Trails National Monument, California

The Mojave Trails National Monument and its rich history lie under the BLM’s oversight as. With 1.6 million acres of ancient lava flows, dunes, and mountain ranges, this “desert” is protected for its Native American trade routes, undeveloped stretches of the famous Route 66, and World War II-era training camps.

San Juan National Forest, Colorado

The San Juan National Forest covers more than 1.8 million acres of land among a handful of cities in the southwestern corner of The Centennial State. Durango sits center of the forest, housing the Supervisor’s Office, guided tours, and more to this BLM treasure.

Valley of the Gods, Utah

Valley of the Gods is a beautiful drive for road trippers, RVers, and any other travelers who skip overcrowded Monument Valley nearby. This BLM managed area sits on Navajo Nation land and is rich in Native American history. Navajo guides walk travelers through the area, teaching them about its history and why it must be preserved.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon is one of Nevada’s first preserved lands and the BLM oversees the area, one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. 17 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, it’s a stark contrast to visitors who came for the glitz and glam of Sin City. With mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and more, this gorgeous stretch of desert is a must for those traveling the area.

Browns Canyon National Monument, Colorado

Another Colorado treasure nestled within San Juan National Forest, this oft-visited area was finally brought under BLM oversight in 2015 by President Barack Obama. Running along the Arkansas River, the goal of the Browns Canyon National Monument and the BLM is to preserve the natural habitat of bighorn sheep, elk, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons which have dwindled in population over the last century.

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, California

The Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area straddling the border of California, Arizona, and Baja California is a large sand dune field approximately 45 miles long. Also known as the Algodones Dunes, which describes the geographic features of this area, much of the dunes are off-limits to vehicular traffic due to preservation efforts. The areas open to off-roading see tourists from all over the US visit each year for the unique trails and terrain to tackle.

Ready to hit up some BLM camping grounds and get the most out of what the US works so hard to preserve?

BLM Camping Information 

What does that mean for campers? Well, you can enjoy these natural wonders from 17 thousand campsites at over 400 different campgrounds, mostly in the western states. Campgrounds managed by the BLM are primitive, although you won't have to hike into the backcountry to get to them. The campsites will typically be a small clearing with a picnic table, fire ring, and may or may not offer restrooms or potable water source, so be sure to bring your water.

BLM campgrounds are usually small with few campsites and are available on a first come, first serve basis. You may not find a campground attendant, but rather an iron ranger, which is a collection box where you can deposit your camping fees, usually only five to ten dollars per night. Many of the campgrounds charge no fees.

Reserve a BLM Campsite

The easiest and most efficient way to find BLM campgrounds across the country is at Recreation.gov, which allows you to search for outdoor activities on public lands, including the national parks, national forests, and army corps of engineer projects.

From the results page, BLM campgrounds are listed with a link to area descriptions and campground details. You can check the available campsites by interactive map, find an open campsite with the online calendar, and reserve your campsite with an online payment and reservations system. 

Edited by Melissa Popp.