Everything You Need to Know About BLM Land

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A camper holds up a map as they traverse through a forested, mountain region.

If you’re a seasoned camper, just the mention of BLM camping may get your heart racing for the lands that whisk you far away, bringing you closer to nature. If you’ve never heard of BLM land but want that whisked away feeling, keep on reading. We’ve got all the details on everything you need to know.

What Is BLM Land? 

BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management is a government entity that manages specific lands to maintain natural and cultural resources.

It was first established as the General Land Office in 1812 to encourage homesteading and westward migration. In 1946, it transitioned into what it is today, managing and maintaining one-tenth of the nation’s land for multiple uses.

Those uses are most often thought of as camping and recreation. However, BLM land is also used for livestock grazing, forestry maintenance and services, and mineral management. BLM land is diverse and includes forests, arctic tundra, and deserts. The majority of BLM land is located in the western half of the U.S.

The BLM’s mission is simple, “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Many generations take advantage of BLM land, with one of the top activities on these lands being camping.

Did You Know? Even though Texas is a huge state, less than 2% of it is BLM land.

What Is BLM Camping?

BLM Camping encompasses many camping styles, from paid campgrounds with amenities to dispersed camping with nothing but nature to keep you company. No matter the style, when camping on BLM land, you are on public lands, and you need to respect it. This means following the rules of each specific campground or site.

Just because it is BLM land doesn’t mean you have the right to camp overnight or use it as you see fit. The best way to know if you can camp on public lands is to read and follow posted signs and rules or refer to each area’s specific BLM websites.

On that note, though, many can use public lands for camping as long as you aren’t disrupting wildlife management or land conservation. When choosing a site not in an established campground, do your best to choose a place already used as a campsite.

Flattened grass, tire tracks, and previously created fire rings are tell-tale signs that others have camped here before you. The less impact we have on public lands, the more we will keep camping on them.

Is BLM Camping Free? 

Most BLM camping is free. However, many established campgrounds on BLM land require fees to stay overnight. Those campgrounds will often have amenities such as vault toilets and trash bins.

You may even find some that have water and flush toilets. And for those that love RV camping, you can even find campgrounds on BLM land complete with full hookups.

Generally, though, there will be no amenities when camping on BLM land for free. You’ll have to come prepared with everything you’ll need for an enjoyable time without tearing up the environment.

Meaning you’ll need to take out all your trash, properly dispose of waste, and care for your campsite like you would your home. If we take care of the land we love, camping for free on BLM land in a tent or in an RV, will be around for as long as we keep traveling.

A fifth wheel driving up a dirt road on BLM land looking for a camping spot.

Where Can I Find BLM Campsites?

Before the advent of smartphones, people used to talk to each other to get the scoop on the best places to camp. That’s definitely still a great option. Ask friends for recommendations or stop off at a local ranger station. They’ll often know of places that aren’t on any maps or apps.

But there are now smartphones and other technologies allowing us to find some of the best camping sites around. From camping apps to social media sites, finding camping sites is as easy as turning on your phone. Some popular apps for camping are Recreation.gov, Freecampsites.net, Campendium, Allstays, and iOverlander.

One best way to find BLM campsites is through BLM.gov, where you can seek out campsites and many other recreational opportunities. By starting here, you’ll know for sure that you are camping on BLM lands. 

Pro Tip: Check out the best places for BLM camping in California.

Is BLM Camping Safe? 

While safety is never guaranteed anywhere you go, BLM camping can be just as safe as camping in a gated RV resort that costs hundreds of dollars. No matter where you are, you are ultimately responsible for doing the things you need to do to keep you feeling safe.

When camping anywhere, the general rule of thumb is to trust your gut and know your surroundings. Plan ahead. Know what amenities are available and what you’ll have to bring in to make up for those that aren’t.

If you know you’ll be off the beaten path a bit, are you prepared for an emergency if there’s no cell service? Do you have a plan in place to handle the unknown? You can’t prevent everything, but you can do your best to be prepared and feel safe.

In the end, camping on BLM land can be just as safe, if not safer, than camping in that gated RV park. 

How Can You Tell If Land Is BLM?

It’s not always easy to know if you are on BLM land or not. As mentioned before, the two best ways to do so are either through BLM.gov or Free Roam. 

BLM.gov has many interactive maps, camping sites, and recreational activities listed out state by state and a lot of informative information on BLM land across the country. 

Free Roam is a free app with many options available for camping, free and fees. But more importantly, it has an overlay option that shows BLM land, United States Forest Service land, and more. 

Is There An App For BLM Land?

As mentioned previously, there are many apps to find places to camp, but to know for sure if you are on BLM land, there are a couple of specific apps available to help you do so.

Other than Free Roam, another app is BLM Public Lands Map Guide USA. Available for $2.99, this app allows you to seek out BLM camping, recreational activities, mineral lands, and much more.

Is BLM Camping Worth It? 

BLM camping can be as primitive or as elaborate as you want it to be. You just need to seek out the BLM campsites that match your style.

When you know your style and you’ve done a bit of planning, getting whisked away to a BLM campsite is most definitely worth it. The lands explored and the starry nights gazed upon will not be forgotten when camping on BLM lands.

Will you go BLM camping?

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