What’s the only thing better than camping? Doing it for free. And when it comes to finding free camping on the West Coast, dispersed camping on BLM and USFS land is the ticket. From sunny SoCal to the Pacific Northwest, these public lands allow you to tent camp and boondock without a price tag.
BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the U.S. Department of Interior that manages 10% of all public land in the United States. The U.S. Forest Service is a close second and manages about 8%. Both of these organizations offer free camping on the West Coast through dispersed campsites.
If you’re new to the idea, dispersed camping means camping outside of a designated campground. You won’t have access to amenities like potable water, toilets, and picnic tables. But when it comes to scoring free West Coast camping, we say it’s well worth it.
PRO Tip: The easiest way to find free camping? The Dyrt PRO offers Public Lands Maps, which allow you to view camping within BLM and USFS boundaries. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can download the map for offline mode and discover a new campsite on the road. You’ll earn double Explorer Contest points when you share your newfound location with fellow campers on The Dyrt.
Ready to find some free camping on the West Coast? Let’s go!
Where to Find Free Camping in California
The California Coast – TV Tower Road Dispersed Camping
Mountains and ocean views? Our first stop along BLM camping in California is definitely a winner. Located just minutes from San Luis Obispo, these dispersed sites are perfect for a weekend escape from the city, or as a stop along your California road trip. Be prepared for winding roads—big rigs, lookin’ at you—and high winds that may be a bit much for peaceful tent sleeping.
The High Sierra – Volcanic Tablelands BLM Dispersed Camping
Speaking of views, this little slice of paradise won’t disappoint. You’ll have sunrises and sunsets with near-unobstructed vistas of the Sierra Nevada, John Muir’s beloved “range of light.” These campsites are located near the town of Bishop, where you can load up on supplies—and just maybe run into some PCT through-hikers. If you want to add rock climbing to your California BLM camping trip, this area is an excellent choice, and a popular destination for boulderers. And while the campground can often fill up, the sites are spread out enough that you’ll still have your privacy.
Southern California – Joshua Tree South BLM Dispersed Camping
These BLM lands are an excellent option for free camping near Joshua Tree National Park. From October to May, camping in the park almost always fills up on the weekends. While you’ll still want to plan ahead for your BLM camping adventure, we think scoring a spot here is much easier. You’ll have access to hiking trails, and many of the sites feature established fire rings: a coveted feature of dispersed sites. The stargazing is incredible here, so don’t forget to set your alarm to catch a glimpse!
Where to Find Free Camping in Oregon
The Cascades – Meditation Point at Timothy Lake
If you can time your visit just right, Meditation Point offers some of the most serene dispersed camping in Oregon. It’s a short hike, mountain bike, or boat into these peaceful sites, but overlanding isn’t an option. But fear not—if you can’t score one of the four campsites on Meditation Point proper, Timothy Lake is lined with multiple campgrounds, all with dispersed campsites. Spend your days stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, fishing, or kayaking, all with views of majestic Mount Hood. (Like any campground near Portland, all the sites at Timothy Lake quickly fill up on weekends, so time your visit well!)
Central Oregon – Oregon Badlands Dispersed Camping
Surprise! When it comes to Pacific Northwest camping, it’s not all mossy forests and gloomy skies. Oregon’s high desert is home to beautiful landscapes like the famous Smith Rock State Park and stunning peaks in the Cascade Range. They even have their own Badlands like in South Dakota or Nebraska. Dispersed camping in Oregon’s Badlands is easily accessible for most vehicles, as there are paved and dirt roads. There’s plenty of space for tents, RVs, trailers, and other adventure rigs. It’s also only 20 miles to the city of Bend, with its many breweries and nearby hikes.
Where to Find Free Camping in Washington
Northern Cascades – Ranger Creek Airstrip Dispersed
If you’re looking for free camping near Mount Rainier National Park, look no further. Though Ranger Creek Airstrip is still technically in use, it’s only semi-regularly that you’ll see planes landing or departing, and camping is allowed along its perimeter. Here you’ll find almost 40 spacious campsites that are ideal for large groups and RVs. Stroll down to the nearby White River or head into the national park for hiking trails and incredible views of Mount Rainier.
Lake Chelan – Baldy Mountain Dispersed Camping
Though Lake Chelan is a popular tourist destination, sometimes you may be looking for an off-the-beaten-path vacation experience. Luckily the free dispersed camping at Baldy Mountain offers the best of both worlds: views of the lake, minus the crowds. You’ll want an RV with high clearance or a 4×4 vehicle to navigate the road, but that’s exactly what lets you enjoy a little privacy. Despite there being a number of sites along NF-8410, these dispersed sites are a well-kept secret, and you may have the place entirely to yourself. Find your own private pull-off for the night and enjoy the spectacular views.