By Steve Gillman
RV camping can make for a great trip almost anywhere, but I think it is best in the west. In many areas, you can just drive into the desert, and stay free for up to two weeks. It’s true of most BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) and national forest lands, and many state forest lands too. You have to move every two weeks, but how far is open to interpretation, and mostly yours will be accepted.
Long Term RV Camping on BLM Land
RV camping, or “boondocking” is growing in popularity. In fact, the BLM has begun to establish special areas for longer stays, particularly in Arizona. A permit fee is around $140 now, but this allows you to stay up to six months, and you get pump stations, dumpsters and water. People are living in some of these areas. It’s cheaper than paying property taxes or rent for a lot to park on.
RV camping is common in Winter in Arizona. One of the largest gatherings of “boondockers” is in Quartzite. Several hundred thousand people spend at least part of the year in their RVs here. It’s near the California border, on Interstate 10, only 20 miles from the Colorado River. Surrounded by BLM lands, Quartzite is famous for gem shows, swap meets, and the multiplying of its population each winter.
If you ask around when you are in the desert southwest, you’ll find there are RV communities that form every winter. Some of these temporary towns like “Slab City” in California, have bookstores, grocery vendors, and other businesses run by RVers. Once summer returns, these boondock communities disappear, and reappear again the following winter.
Other RV Camping Opportunities
Just look around, and you’ll find “hidden” places where you can park your RV for a week or a month in the desert southwest. Some are inexpensive, other’s free. The Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area, for example, north of Bowie, Arizona, costs $3 per night, and has nice hotsprings and plenty of wildlife. An annual permit costs $30, but you’re limited to two weeks per month (permits are sold at the BLM office in Safford). You can stay outside the fenced area free, but then you don’t get the hotsprings and shaded picnic tables.
For information on other areas, contact the Bureau of Land Management. They can tell you what’s available under their jurisdiction. Also, the Woodall’s campground guide lists campgrounds that are free. Keep your eyes open for other RVs parked out in the desert or forest. Finally, ask around. Other RVers will give you the best information on RV camping.
About the Author: Steve Gillman hit the road at sixteen, and traveled the U.S. and Mexico alone at 17. Now 40, he travels with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. For travel stories, tips and a free e-book, visit: http://www.EverythingAboutTravel.com