Your Guide to BLM Camping and Recreation

BLM Camping and Recreation Opportunities Across the US

King Range National Conservation Area camping
Bureau of Land Management / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Fantastic camping opportunities are found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) undeveloped public lands, 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 open-air recreation, the BLM provides dispersed camping for those who want to get away from it all.

BLM lands offer a variety of recreational vehicle (RV) and camping types for those looking for adventure. From fully-developed RV parks and campgrounds to true boondocking (free camping in remote areas) and dry camping experiences, there’s something for every kind of explorer across the United States.

BLM Camping 101
 Lisa Fasol / © TripSavvy 2019

What Is the Bureau of Land Management?

The BLM was founded by President Harry Truman in 1946, through a merger of the General Land Office (GLO) and the U.S. Grazing Service. The agency history goes 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.

A government entity that's overseen by the Department of the Interior, the BLM monitors hundreds of millions of acres of public lands and minerals in each of the 50 states in the U.S. It also manages wildlife and offer plenty of recreational opportunities to campers and outdoors enthusiasts on public land.

The BLM Interactive online map allows you to find public lands around the U.S. You'll find specific information by region and specific recreation opportunities on BLM Public Lands.

BLM Campgrounds

Hundreds of diverse campgrounds will give you a chance to enjoy natural wonders at thousands of campsites. 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 a 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 served 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. Many of the campgrounds charge no fees.

BLM Areas

The areas run by the BLM include National Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Wilderness Areas, National Historic Trails, National Landmarks, and National Recreation Trails.

  • Alaska is the largest BLM-managed area in all of the U.S. Since most of this land is unoccupied by man, the mission is to maintain the ecosystems and wildlife that roam these cold lands.
  • The Mojave Trails National Monument has a rich history including 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.
  • 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 in the center of the forest, housing the Supervisor’s Office and guided tours to this BLM treasure.
  • Valley of the Gods is a beautiful drive for travelers who skip the overcrowded Monument Valley nearby. Rich in Native American history, the area has Navajo guides who walk travelers through the area, teaching them about its history and why it must be preserved.
  • Red Rock Canyon is one of Nevada’s first preserved lands and a popular tourist attraction just 17 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. With mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and more, this gorgeous stretch of desert is a must for those traveling the area.
  • An oft-visited area running along the Arkansas River, the Browns Canyon National Monument preserves the natural habitat of bighorn sheep, elk, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons which have dwindled in population over the last century.
  • The Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area straddling the borders of California, Arizona, and Baja California, is a large sand dune field, much of which is off-limits to vehicular traffic due to preservation efforts. Some areas open to off-roading see tourists from all over the U.S. each year for the unique trails and terrain to tackle.

    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 spot with an online payment and reservations system. 

    Was this page helpful?