Find Camping: A How-To Guide


You’re ready to find a place to camp, but not sure where to start?  Awesome, you’re in the right place!  We created this step by step guide to help guide you through the process of scoping out potential places to camp.  We’ve made the guide in video or written form – whichever suits your fancy.

So scroll on down and see how easy it is to use our camping maps.  Be sure to make it to the end where we close out the guide with the all-important ‘Stuff You Should Know’ section.  It’s got some important nuggets to take with you as you begin your dispersed camping journey.

Once you’re ready, be sure to give the Demo Map a try.  Let’s get campin!

Video Guide

Step 1: Search & Explore

Use the maps Search Bar, or randomly explore the map in search of your next spot.  Focus in on the orange highlighted routes – these indicate that dispersed camping is allowed.

Step 2: Find & Save

Using Satellite Mode – scan for turnouts, nooks, crannies – anything that looks like a dispersed camp site.   Once you find your spot, click, and save to Google Maps.

Step 3: Get Campin!

After saving a few spots, its time to get packed up, pull up your spot in Google Maps, start navigation for directions, and get campin!

Written Guide

Use the Search Bar to Start

Let’s get started by searching for a specific area to explore.  For this guide, we’re choosing to begin our search near Buena Vista, so type that into the Search Bar.

Orange Routes = Dispersed Camping

Once the maps reloads, zoom out a bit to see where the orange routes are shown on the map.  These orange routes highlight which Forest Service roads allow for dispersed camping.  It looks like there are some orange routes (aka sweet, free dispersed camping) to the west of Buena Vista, so let’s scroll over that way.

Click Orange Routes for Detailed Info

We’re going to focus along the Forest Service Road called North Cottonwood.  You’re able find this detail and determine the route name by clicking any orange route – this pulls up an info box with the route name and other important info.  Next, let’s zoom in on North Cottonwood and flip the map into Satellite mode.  We know that we can camp along this route, so now we only need to find a few spots to do so!

Satellite Mode, Zoom, Scan

Our preferred method is to use Satellite mode, and then zoom in as far as possible.  Next scan and follow along the orange route in the map window until we find an already created spot, or something that resemebles a spot.  Looks like we’ve found a possibility!

Click and Save Coordinates

Next, click the spot you found and a new popup box will display.  Inside it, click the ‘Save GPS Coordinates’ link.  This will open up a new window in Google Maps, with a pin dropped on this exact location.

Save to List in Google

In the menu bar, click ‘Save’ and select your preferred list.  We recommend making a new ‘Here to Camp’ list.  By saving in Google Maps, you’ll be able to reference this site in the future, and it will allow you to use Google Maps for navigation purposes.

You did it!

Go you, high fives all around!  You’ve scoped out your first, free dispersed camp site.  But before you pack up and head out, there’s a few important things we thought you should know.

Important Stuff You Should Know


Rangers Are Your Best Friend

It’s always best to verify your camping plans by calling the appropriate Ranger District, as they will have the most up-to-date information on the forest conditions (fires, closures, etc.).  You can find the appropriate Ranger District by clicking the closest orange route, pulling up the info box.  Inside the box you can find the Ranger District name.

Plan For the Unexpected

The lure of free, dispersed camping carries with it a few downsides and limitations.  But that’s why we’re here, to help guide and provide tools to give you confidence when venturing into the great outdoors.

No Reservations

Dispersed camping means that there are no official, marked camp sites.  Which unfortunately means there is no way to make a reservation, so you will never know with absolute certainty that the site you picked out will be open and available for you.   There is a possibility that when you arrive to your perfectly selected spot, someone might already be camping there – happens to everyone at some point!

Incomplete Information

Because dispersed camping sites are a network of unmarked, unaccounted for spaces there is no way to see every available dispersed site ahead of time by using our maps.  We’re searching for unmarked camping in some of the last wild areas available, and doing so using our phones and computers, there’s bound to be some limitations.

Here to Camp is Here to Help

We wanted to mention these limitations not to scare you off, but to set expectations of what the reality is when dispersed camping.  Armed with this knowledge and using the following recommendations, you’ll be well on your way to a great trip:

  • We recommend scoping out a few sites for each trip.  This gives you some fallback options in case someone is already in your spot.
  • If all those spots fall through, it might take a little driving around to find another spot (which is often times better than the one you planned on).  To do this, be sure you have an idea of which routes allow camping before you head out.

And this is exactly why we created these maps for you – to help bridge the gap on some of the inherent limitations of dispersed camping.  To give you the tools to plan and prepare ahead as much as possible to be ready for whatever you encounter.  And that’s the beauty of it – plan ahead, and then embrace the uncertainty of adventure in the great outdoors! 

Ok, enough reading already, let’s find some camping and get out there!