The Best Places for Boondocking in the United States

The Best Places for Boondocking in the United States

The notion of primitive camping in wild places is not for everyone, but for adventurous, intrepid travelers that don’t mind the mystery and gentle grit of off-the-grid living, the United States offers boundless opportunities for campers and RVers to experience some of the country’s most impressive natural areas- all without dipping into your wallet. From BLM public land (Bureau of Land Management) and National Forest service roads to wildlife areas and state parks and everything in between, here’s our roundup of some of the best places for boondocking in the United States.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image Credit: Carrie Kaufmann/ flickr

Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California

California is one of the most traveled-to and populous states in the country, so it’s no surprise that free dispersed campsites can be a bit harder to find. Boondockers traveling to Southern California can find solace in Anza Borrego State Park, though: the state’s largest state park, and the only one that allows permit-free and fee-free primitive camping. With hundreds of miles of slot canyon hiking trails and remote dirt roads that truly make you feel like you’re off the beaten track- and sometimes, on another planet! – it’s quite the dose of solitude, yet you’re still under two hours from the bustling San Diego coast. Our insider tip: try and go during Spring to catch the park’s rainbow carpet of wildflowers!

Image Credit: My Public Lands Magazine via Wikimedia Commons

Quartzite, Arizona

Quartzite, a small Arizona desert town halfway between Phoenix and Palm Springs, has a bit of a legend’s lore attached to it. While there certainly may be more scenic places to boondock in Arizona, part of Quartzite’s allure is the community it attracts, especially during the winter months, when the town’s population swells tenfold, and it hosts several mineral and gem shows, quirky swap meets, and a handful of notable rendezvous geared toward those living on the road. It’s nearly all primitive camping, and you can park as close or as far away from others as you wish, but the most memorable part of your stay will probably be the conversations and connections with like-minded travelers and characterful rubber tramps, so don’t stray too far from the action

Lake Whitney Rainbow
Image Credit: RamiLudo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Whitney, Texas

Located right in the heart of Texas and less than 90 minutes from the cities of Dallas and Waco, beautiful Lake Whitney is a boondocker’s hidden treasure. Maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, the entire lake- which is a controlled reservoir on a section of the Brazos River- offers several different areas of free primitive campsites, most of which come with a fire ring, a shaded picnic table, and a spectacular view of the water. The public access is superb, with endless opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating, and the abundance of trees around the sites makes you feel like you have your own slice of lakefront paradise. It’s a fantastic retreat for campers looking to beat the Texas heat.

San Juan National Forest
Image Credit: Stefan Serena / flickr

San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Colorado makes a strong case as one of the very top states for truly epic boondocking experiences, and for good reason: the dispersed camping is often very dispersed, and the storybook views you’ll find from many sites are hard to beat. Some of our favorite areas lay within the rugged, awe-inspiringly beautiful San Juan National Forest, close to the towns of Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. The forest service roads you’ll have at your disposal are seemingly endless, and you can take your pick based on what your vehicle can handle.

While trickier during the snowy winter months, summer and the shoulder seasons offer crisp high elevation air, and more outdoor activities to keep you busy than you’ll know what to do with.

Image Credit: Antrell Williams / flickr

Moab, Utah

Moab leaves quite an impression with its stately red rock formations and towering desert buttes, and the boondocking options are bound to do the same. From the La Sal Loop Road in Manti La-Sal National Forest- oh, the views! – to Klondike Bluffs Road on BLM land just outside of town, places with dispersed camping are far and wide, and often offer a gateway to adventure right outside your doorstep, which is probably why you’re in Moab to begin with! Although a bit further from the city, there are plenty of accessible public land pull-offs right outside of Canyonlands National Park, too, if you’re looking for a quick gateway into the park.

Coconino National Forest
Image Credit: Kevin Dooley / flickr

Coconino National Forest, Arizona

Coconino National Forest blankets an expansive area in and around the flourishing cities of Sedona and Flagstaff, and you could probably spend years trying to explore all the boondock- able service roads in the area and still not see them all. Depending on how far you’re looking to stray from the main trailheads and attractions- and more importantly, depending on the off-road capabilities of your home on wheels- you’ll find something that suits your style and comfort level. The closer to Grand Canyon National Park you get, the tougher it may be to simply pull up and snag a spot, but if you look hard enough, trust us, you’ll find something.

Buffalo Gap Grasslands
Image Credit: Bri Weldon / flickr

Buffalo Gap National Grassland, South Dakota

It’s hard to grasp the vastness of Buffalo Gap National Grassland until you’ve spent a few days camping within the area. With sweeping prairie vistas, alienesque rock outcroppings and slingshot views of neighboring Badlands National Park, this sprawling piece of nature in southwest South Dakota is a boondocker’s delight, and camping seclusion at its finest. A couple of the most desirable areas to drop anchor are Badlands Overlook and Nomad View, sections of dusty, bumpy roads teetering alongside cliffs that offer surreal vistas of the Buffalo Gap and the distant Black Hills. It’s a great place to truly unwind and feel the scope of endless skies and grasslands on the horizon.

Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Image Credit: Intermountain Forest Service, USDA Region 4 Photography / flickr

Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Idaho/Wyoming Border

Both Wyoming and Idaho have their own long lists of spectacular boondocking areas- like the Sawtooth in Idaho or the Bridger-Teton Wilderness in Wyoming, for starters- but one of our favorite under-the-radar spots is the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, which extends its sprawling woodlands, winding rivers and granite peaks into both states. The primitive campsites which straddle the Idaho-Wyoming border near Moose Creek are especially inspiring and are bound to offer a solitary wilderness experience- and perhaps even some wildlife sightings! – you won’t soon forget.

Featured Image Credit: RV Hive/ flickr

Can a Wind Turbine Power an RV?

Can a Wind Turbine Power an RV?

Many people have solar panels on their RVs to keep batteries charged or to help cut utility expenses. But this isn’t the only green way to generate electricity. Now you can have a turbine (windmill) mounted on your RV and take advantage of another renewable resource.

These turbines are miniature versions of those you see on huge wind farms across the country. For instance, Southwest Windpower, one of many turbine manufacturers, has been generating small wind generators for over 15 years, including smaller versions (45 to 80 feet in height) for home and farm use. But its gone even smaller, manufacturing a mini version that mounts on your RV or boat (large boat, that is). Wind turbines are becoming a more popular power source for RVers, especially when they’re used in conjunction with solar panels.

Advantages of Wind Generators

Cost and environmental friendliness are two of the biggest advantages of using wind generators. The cost of using a wind generator is less than 5 cents per kWh. That’s about half the cost of solar power. Installation and initial investment for an RVer are significantly less for a wind generator than for equivalent power-capable solar panels.

As they harvest renewable resources, both solar and wind setups don’t cause damage to the environment, don’t deplete an energy source, and don’t rely on the power grid. Going off grid is especially valuable for RVers who boondock, or those who are caught up in a natural disaster that can cause a power outage. To be able to provide your own electrical power to your RV without using shore power or a generator could be a real asset.

Having both solar power, which is most efficient on bright sunny days, and wind power, which can be efficient both on sunny as well as overcast, cloudy, or stormy days, could reap an RVer the best of both worlds. With two power sources, you should be able to run just about everything in your RV and keep your battery charged.

There are also potential tax breaks.

Per the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018: “A taxpayer may claim a credit of 30 percent of qualified expenditures for a [residential renewable energy] system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States that is owned and used as a residence by the taxpayer.”

Motor homes can fall under the definition of a principal residence—if it’s actually your principal residence, of course—but check with your tax advisor to see if you qualify for an energy efficiency tax credit.

Disadvantages of Wind Generators

Some of the drawbacks to wind generators most likely to affect RVers include:

  • The need for wind
  • The turbines’ noise
  • The possibility that turbines might only operate at only 30 percent capacity depending on conditions
  • The potential that turbines can be damaged in lightning storms

Wind turbines are often best used in conjunction with solar panels, as both are reliant upon specific atmospheric conditions. If you have both, the odds are better that one will be able to generate power at any given time.

Featured Image Credit: JACLOU-DL / Pixabay