On the East Coast of the United States, there are very few free places to camp. Yes, you can park your rig overnight at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel, but not many of us would consider that camping.
Talking to folks who travel to the East Coast from The West, the absence of open public lands sometimes comes as a shock. It’s not that there isn’t open land on the East Coast, it’s just that it all belongs to someone, who has it fenced off, and is highly unlikely to let you stay.
Above: Bureau of Land Management map, courtesy of the BLM website, www.blm.gov.
Having grown up on the East Coast, it’s hard to believe there are places in the United States where you can just drive, park, and camp – for free! We had never heard of the Bureau of Land Management before getting into truck camping, much less understood what BLM land is, and how it works.
Since launching into truck camping 12 years ago, we have camped on numerous BLM lands in The West. With each of these experiences, our understanding and appreciation of these mostly free camping opportunities expands.
And that, in our opinion, is the best way to get BLM. You have to get out there and experience it. Of course to do this you need to know where to go to access BLM, and some compelling reasons to go there.
So let’s do this:
Our two favorite examples of BLM camping opportunities are Valley of the Gods and Bisti Wilderness in New Mexico. Both are must-see places that will fundamentally change the way you see BLM.
Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods is located in southwestern Utah. The red rock mesas, buttes, and towers look like something straight out of an old western. In fact, it’s been in a number of old westerns, and even a couple episodes of Doctor Who.
The 17-mile winding road through the area is all gravel and dirt but is an easy and unobstructed drive for any size truck camper. Just be sure to take the road very slow as it does undulate dramatically at times.
Besides, you’ll want to note all the incredible turn-offs where you can camp, and take pictures. When you leave Valley of the Gods, take the Moki Dugway out.
The 1,200 foot dirt road climb with back-to-back switchbacks is guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip. Did I mention that there are no guard rails?
Bisti Wilderness Area
Bisti Wilderness Area is located in San Juan County of New Mexico. On paper, it’s badlands with eroded rock formations. In reality, it’s beyond description and must be seen to even attempt to get the beautiful and stunningly weird things you’ll find there.
Above: Camping at the trailhead at Bisti
Overnight camping is allowed at the entrance. From there you venture in. At first you’ll be thinking, “This isn’t a big deal. Just some open space and a few lumpy rocks.” Then you’ll walk a little further and wonder if you went through a worm hole into another world. It’s truly off the chain.
Before you leave your rig, make sure to bring water, and some kind of tracking device. You are very likely to get lost at Bisti.
We did, and spend about an hour regaining our bearings and getting out. We have heard numerous stories of folks getting lost there and spending the night among the oddities. You’ve been warned.
Your Favorite BLM Destinations
This week’s Question of the Week is, “What are your favorite BLM destinations?”
This QOTW is now closed, but you can click here to see the 10 Must See BLM Destinations that readers recommend.