The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for land, mineral, and wildlife management on millions of acres of US land. With over one-eighth of the US land mass under their control, the BLM also has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities to offer.
The Bureau of Land Management areas include 34 National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 136 National Wilderness Areas, 9 National Historic Trails, 43 National Landmarks, 23 National Recreation Trails, and more. What does that mean for campers? Well, you can enjoy these natural wonders from 17 thousand campsites at over 400 different campgrounds, mostly in the western states.
Most campgrounds managed by the BLM are primitive, although you won't have to hike into the backcountry to get to them. The campsites will typically be a small clearing with a picnic table, fire ring, and may or may not offer some type of restroom or potable water source, so be sure to bring your own water.
BLM campgrounds are usually small with not many campsites and are available on a first come, first serve basis. You may not find a campground attendant, but rather an iron ranger, which is a collection box where you can deposit your camping fees, usually only $5-10 per night. Many of the campgrounds charge no fees.
The easiest way to find BLM campgrounds is at Recreation.Gov, which allows you to search for outdoor activities on public lands, including the national parks, national forests, and army corps of engineer projects. From the results page, BLM campgrounds are listed with a link to area descriptions and campground details...read more
State Parks and Forests
The state park systems offer opportunities for everyone to get outdoors and enjoy the wonders of nature. No matter where you live, there's usually a state park within a short distance from your home. Although state parks make great camping destinations during the week, when they are less crowded, even in the summer months, nevertheless, they are quite busy on most any weekend.
The easiest way to plan a camping trip to a state park is to first narrow your selections down to a particular state. To make that task simpler, there are two resources to help you. Park Search, from L.L.Bean, lets you search by park name or by location and activity. Other parks are included in the search results besides the state parks, but all have excellent descriptions and photos.
The second resource is my state-by-state directory of camping destinations, which provides links to all the state park home pages. Park Search is a great tool, but to find out all the latest details, availabilities, and reservation information, you need to visit the individual state park Web sites.
State parks provide wonderful facilities for family camping. The parks are well maintained (tax dollars at work again) and offer many amenities to make your stay more comfortable: clean restrooms, hot showers, stores, marinas, boat launches, tackle shops, planned activities, weekend movies, playgrounds, hiking trails, and more. Prices will vary but are seldom more than $15-$20 a night. Many state park campgrounds also offer RV sites with electric, water, and/or dump station...read more
Check with family and friends to get opinions on places to go camping in your area, or read campground reviews to get other ideas.
If you're making summer reservations, try to make them as far in advance as possible. Popular campgrounds tend to get booked early for weekends and holidays. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy. Before getting off the phone, finalize a rate, and confirm what that rate includes. If you will be arriving late, ask if they have any late arrival arrangements. When making online reservations, make sure to print a copy of any conformation page or save any confirmation email. Take a copy of this with you when checking in.
Some public campgrounds use a feature called an "iron ranger," which is a fee collection box used when there is no full time attendant. Upon entrance to the campground, you deposit your nightly fee(s) in an envelope with your name and site number and drop this in the collection box. Sometime during the day a park ranger will make rounds of the campgrounds and collect the fees. You will often see these in National Park and National Forest campgrounds.