National Forests

Looking for a little adventure, a little solitude, and a great night's sleep? Look no further than the United States' National Forests and National Grasslands. Held in public trust and managed by the US Forest Service, there are 154 National Forests and 22 National Grasslands, which together with the Forest Service's other holdings total to over 193 million acres of public lands.

The Forest Service's mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” In line with that mission, the Forest Service manages forests and grasslands for multiple uses, including recreation and camping. The result? There are a whopping 5,083 developed and dispersed camping areas on the National Forest and National Grasslands in the United States ready for your exploration.

The types of camping offered in National Forest and National Grassland generally fall into two categories: developed campgrounds and dispersed camping. Let's take a quick look at both.

What are developed campgrounds?

Developed campgrounds are camping areas built by the Forest Service to provide minimal services and consolidate impact. National Forest and National Grassland campgrounds are generally designed to be accessible to most types of vehicles. Many developed campgrounds can accommodate RV's, campervans, tents, and hammock campers (though if you have a big rig, be sure to check the reviews on Campendium and call the managing Forest Service district, to make sure you can both access and fit in a campsite).

You can expect to find limited amenities in a developed campground. Your site will likely have a fire ring, picnic table, and a parking apron made of dirt, gravel, or pavement. Vault toilets are the norm for National Forest campgrounds, and some areas will have a place to fill fresh water tanks and a dump station for waste.

The Forest Service, or a contractor who manages the site, will charge a fee for camping. Depending on where you are in the United States, that fee can range from $5 per night to $35 per night, with the average being $10-$20 per night. Those with an America the Beautiful Senior Pass often get 50% off their camping fees.

What is dispersed camping?

Dispersed camping is camping anywhere outside of a developed campground. Often called “boondocking” or “camping off the grid,” dispersed camping requires campers to be self-sufficient with their water, waste, and electricity.

Unless otherwise posted, National Forests and National Grasslands are open for dispersed camping. Campers who wish to take advantage of dispersed camping need to have a working knowledge of Leave No Trace principles and follow any local regulations, including burn bans. RVs, travel trailers, and other types of wheeled campers should park in areas that are already established to minimize impacts.

Dispersed camping areas have stay limits which range from 3 days to 30 days, and most areas do not charge a fee.

Dispersed camping, while lacking in amenities, is a popular type of camping for both vacationers and full-time travelers. In addition to being free, it provides a quiet and solitude that is hard to find in more populated camping areas and is often close to great hiking, biking, and other recreational opportunities.

Where can I find National Forest camping?

National Forests and National Grasslands exist throughout the United States but are concentrated heavily in the west. In fact, 90% of the land managed by the Forest Service is west of the Mississippi River.

The states with the most acres of National Forest and National Grassland are Alaska, California, and Idaho, with large swaths also present in Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, and other western states.

Not sure where to start in finding the best National Forest and National Grassland camping in the United States? Check out our Top 15 States for RV Camping in National Forests, and our Campers Choice Awards — Best Camping 2017 for inspiration.

How to Search for National Forest and National Grassland Camping on Campendium

  • Use a text search to zoom into the area you're interested in.
  • Select Category "National Forest."
Alabama National Forests
Conecuh National Forest Talladega National Forest William B. Bankhead National Forest
Alaska National Forests
Chugach National Forest Tongass National Forest
Arizona National Forests
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Coconino National Forest Coronado National Forest Kaibab National Forest Mogollon Rim Prescott National Forest Tonto National Forest
Arkansas National Forests
Ouachita National Forest Ozark National Forest St Francis National Forest
California National Forests
Angeles National Forest Cleveland National Forest Coronado National Forest Eldorado National Forest Inyo National Forest Klamath National Forest Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Lassen National Forest Los Padres National Forest Mendocino National Forest Modoc National Forest Plumas National Forest San Bernardino National Forest Sequoia National Forest Shasta National Forest Sierra National Forest Six Rivers National Forest Stanislaus National Forest Tahoe National Forest Toiyabe National Forest Trinity National Forest
Colorado National Forests
Arapaho National Forest Arapaho National Recreation Area Comanche National Grassland Grand Mesa National Forest Gunnison National Forest Manti-La Sal National Forest Medicine Bow - Routt National Forest Pawnee National Grassland Pike National Forest Pike & San Isabel National Forest Rio Grande National Forest Roosevelt National Forest Routt National Forest San Juan National Forest Uncompahgre National Forest White River National Forest
Florida National Forests
Apalachicola National Forest Ocala National Forest Osceola National Forest
Georgia National Forests
Chattahoochee National Forest Oconee National Forest
Idaho National Forests
Beaverhead National Forest Bitterroot National Forest Boise National Forest Caribou-Targhee National Forest Clearwater National Forest Coeur D'Alene National Forest Kaniksu National Forest Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Payette National Forest Saint Joe National Forest Salmon-Challis National Forest Sawtooth National Forest
Illinois National Forests
Shawnee National Forest
Indiana National Forests
Hoosier National Forest
Kentucky National Forests
Beaver Creek Wilderness Daniel Boone National Forest Jefferson National Forest
Louisiana National Forests
Caney Lakes Recreation Area Kisatchie National Forest
Maine National Forests
White Mountain National Forest
Michigan National Forests
Hiawatha National Forest Huron National Forest Manistee National Forest Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Ottawa National Forest
Minnesota National Forests
Chippewa National Forest Superior National Forest
Mississippi National Forests
Bienville National Forest Delta National Forest De Soto National Forest Holly Springs National Forest Homochitto National Forest Tombigbee National Forest
Missouri National Forests
Mark Twain National Forest
Montana National Forests
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Beaverhead National Forest Bitterroot National Forest Clearwater National Forest Custer National Forest Flathead National Forest Gallatin National Forest Hebgen Lake Helena - Lewis & Clark National Forest Helena National Forest Kaniksu National Forest Kootenai National Forest Lolo National Forest Shoshone National Forest
Nebraska National Forests
Nebraska National Forest Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest
Nevada National Forests
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Spring Mountains National Recreation Area Toiyabe National Forest
New Hampshire National Forests
White Mountain National Forest
New Mexico National Forests
Carson National Forest Cibola National Forest Gila National Forest Lincoln National Forest Santa Fe National Forest
New York National Forests
Finger Lakes National Forest
North Carolina National Forests
Croatan National Forest Nantahala National Forest Pisgah National Forest Uwharrie National Forest
Ohio National Forests
Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area Wayne National Forest
Oklahoma National Forests
Ouachita National Forest Rita Blanca National Grassland
Oregon National Forests
Crooked River National Grassland Deschutes National Forest Fremont-Winema National Forest Klamath National Forest Malheur National Forest Mt Hood National Forest Ochoco National Forest Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Siuslaw National Forest Umatilla National Forest Umpqua National Forest Wallowa National Forest Whitman National Forest Winema National Forest
Pennsylvania National Forests
Allegheny National Forest
South Carolina National Forests
Francis Marion National Forest Sumter National Forest
South Dakota National Forests
Black Hills National Forest Custer National Forest
Tennessee National Forests
Cherokee National Forest
Texas National Forests
Angelina National Forest Davy Crockett National Forest Rita Blanca National Grassland Sabine National Forest Sam Houston National Forest
Utah National Forests
Ashley National Forest Dixie National Forest East Fork Sevier River Dispersed Campsites Fishlake National Forest Manti-La Sal National Forest Pine Valley Recreation Area Sawtooth National Forest Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Vermont National Forests
Green Mountain National Forest
Virginia National Forests
George Washington National Forest Jefferson National Forest
Washington National Forests
Colville National Forest Gifford Pinchot National Forest Idaho Panhandle National Forest Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Olympic National Forest Umatilla National Forest Wenatchee National Forest
West Virginia National Forests
George Washington National Forest Monongahela National Forest
Wisconsin National Forests
Chequamegon National Forest Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Nicolet National Forest
Wyoming National Forests
Ashley National Forest Bighorn National Forest Bridger National Forest Bridger-Teton National Forest Buffalo Valley Dispersed Campsites Caribou-Targhee National Forest Medicine Bow National Forest Medicine Bow - Routt National Forest Shoshone National Forest Spread Creek Dispersed Campsites Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest