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Ray Eklund 06-02-2018 11:22 AM

Rocky Mountain Boondocking for Lost Souls
I have spent 14 years discovering OTG Boondocking sites with our Airstreams. A 23 foot and a current 25 foot. Smaller lengths require less space and easier to manipulate in… difficult situations. Once you are towing over 25 feet, the Off the Grid campsites become scarcer or a bit more difficult to maneuver.

Over some dips, have a passenger walk along the bumper and plumbing. Your judgment will improve over time and experience. Mistakes can be minor, or not. Brush clippers are a must. A handsaw is also not a bad idea.

I mentioned on a Boondocking 101 Thread about three States in the Rockies and the difficulty of locating a campsite that was convenient, provided fairly level space, out door activities that differ from one person to another and National Forest Service, State/County and BLM roads. They can vary… dramatically as you proceed.


My preference is the Central Rocky Mountains within Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.


I prefer elevations above 5,000 feet. Best campsites are in the 6,000 to 8,000 feet elevation range. There is less brush. It is cooler in the Summer. The pine and juniper/pinion are wonderful for shade and their needles pretty much prevent much else growing in their shadows.

Montana for example. A large State. Most is farm and ranch land, private. The northwest is heavily forested, lower elevation, very brushy. The southwest is near Yellowstone Park and higher elevations. It is the southwest portion on Montana that has excellent ‘hunter camps’ and open spaces among the forests.

Utah for example. A large State. Ski resorts to the northwest are to be avoided. Much private property. The desert areas should be avoided from June to August due to heat. The monsoons create catastrophic possibilities along dry creek beds and road travel. Look for National Forests in the Summer months and BLM in the cooler, drier months. There is still snow at elevations above 8,000 feet in May blocking roads. Look for Summer High and Dry. Cooler months Low and closer to improved gravel travel.

Wyoming for example. The east quarter is mostly private property and Great Plains. The central to west offers a wide variety of options, at elevation. Many of the improved roads are all season with hard rock pebbles and cemented from a century of use. Hunter camp sites are well developed and excellent. Hiking, biking, fishing, taking it easy are a matter of choice. I put Wyoming at the top of our kind of Boondocking.

New Mexico for example. Much like Wyoming, the lower elevation portions of the State are private property. The National Forests provide excellent Boondocking and access beginning in April to September, with March and October possible but snows at these elevations. The mountain roads are dependable and mostly all season, considering many provide hunter’s camps. The closer you get to Taos or Sante Fe, more local campers can crowd you out on Friday to Sundays. Travel on Sunday to Thursday. Stay put Friday and Saturdays.

Idaho for example. Idaho is a challenge, even for us. The geography is a river with steep mountains on either side. Finding a ‘flat spot’ is the challenge. When you find a campsite at elevations, the views are wonderful and among the pine forests. You have to drive to find that… perfect spot. Hunter’s camps are scattered at elevation. The Nez Perce Historic Trail provides some nice campsites… if you are adventurous. You can also expect Black Bear at these elevations. It is well marked from this 1877 ‘adventure’.

Previously MAPS and Atlases have been discussed. Do some homework. Boondocking is a choice. Be prepared. The 2016 Wyoming Adventure provided sites that took five to eight, or more years of… discovery. When you find those great locations, GPS the location, mark it onto your map and make a note of the site. Some photographs will enhance your memory. You must be able to back up a trailer better than average. You must be ‘Off the Grid wise’. It is learned as you go. For most, I advice they set camp at an easy accessible site, detach and take the tow vehicle further into the… wilds. Make notes of mileages and GPS good locations. It takes YEARS to put together a roster of camp sites. Those who are taken to sites that had taken years to find, believe that it took a week and doing this is easy.

But… when you get several years of experience… you can write long winded, well intentioned posts like this. Those with a short attention span camp at RV Parks and Parking Lots. You have been given some information that can be used in your travels. These experiences will be remembered for the rest of your lives. It is worth it.

Utah Man 06-02-2018 01:05 PM

Rocky Mountain Boondocking for Lost Souls
Thanks, Ray - great info. and I enjoy your posts. Hope to make more time for becoming a ‘lost soul’ in this great Rocky Mountain area, ideally away from the crowds.

So many places to go from here, we’ve not even scratched the surface on the possibilities...

Curious what you thought of the Fishlake NF area - sounds like you liked the scenery but not much that piqued your specific interests. That’s the area we keep our trailer, so we frequent that general area the most. Popular with ATV/UTV riders in many parts, which we try and avoid.

Regards - Ron

Ray Eklund 06-02-2018 03:00 PM

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Ron... Fishlake National Forest is a great place for Lost Souls. Right off Interstate 70 are some decent pull offs for an evening. The Manti La Sal NF and east of Moab… other than the fly hatch season forcers you up, into higher elevations.

It was at this time we caught news, barely on the radio, of potential rain downpours and decided the Deserts of Nevada might be a good place to find ourselves. ...a big mistake.

Access to these mountains takes some patience and time consuming…

I posted on the Pauper Solar these two photographs of Fish Lake NF. The ATVers camp at the base of the mountain and in groups of five or more. This way they can ATV right up to the snow drift in the road that we had to turnaround once we saw the snow at 9,000'+ and walked up to find the snow burying the road. This area is high enough for Aspen and lots of water still flowing from surface springs.

This camp was at 8,000+ feet with a beautiful view and near ‘Mary’s Nipple'…and plenty of sun exposure. Cannot say if we saw Mary’s Nipple, but there were plenty of others to look at.

Late May is a bit early season, as Utah catches the snow and precipitation that we do not catch in Nevada. Last winters drifts are still melting up high.

Camped at Yellow Cat, off of I-70 collecting some agate, which is plentiful. This year... we will tackle the Fishlake NF. The Henry Mountains are bit more primitive and you hit the first decent spot, set camp and drive in futher. Moab... you must like heat and punishment in the Summer. It is Hell, although the float trips down the Colorado mellow it out.

Plenty of campsites between National Parks off of dirt roads. You will catch tourists driving around who do not understand that 50% of the road is for opposite traveling traffic. Be aware. Also the dry washes for over 23 foot Airstreams could present issues, so check out before getting hung up and then flash flood issues.

Our two Blue Heelers are used for scale...

Utah Man 06-02-2018 04:03 PM

Rocky Mountain Boondocking for Lost Souls
Thanks, Ray - sounds like you know these areas pretty well. We’re not averse to graveled or decent backroads, but fall into what you described earlier in terms of dry camping nearby then accessing the backcountry via 4WD. There are tons of small lakes on the Boulder Mountain that we have yet to visit (with good USFS campgrounds like Singletree in the area), for example.

Do you find much variance between BLM districts and FS offices in terms of what they allow for dispersed camping? Curious if this varies much in your boondocking travels.

Eventually when I retire, I aspire to add a boat to my collection of aluminum toys. I have a special place in my heart for Fish Lake as the family has frequented that specific area back to the 1870s. They’ve planted Kokanee in there, so perhaps a new challenge (assuming they thrive.)

Regards - Ron

abqdor 06-02-2018 05:53 PM

What an inspirational read. You have truly been to the best places in the Rockies and describe them vividly. Hopefully, our wanderings will take us to more places in the Rockies.

A word of caution in the near term. All of New Mexico is experience extreme drought conditions. The situation is so bad that Stage III fire restrictions have closed all camping in the Santa Fe National Forest and I'm pretty sure that the other New Mexico forests will soon be following. There is a 16,000 acre fire in the Carson that has burned 30 buildings on the famed Philmont Scout Ranch and the entire village of Cimarron has been evacuated. A larger fire has been burning in the Gila Wilderness for over a week.

We can only hope that the monsoon season will bring some relief, but fear that lightning strikes will ignite fires too. If you plan to travel to New Mexico this summer, I would definitely seek the latest information. This a pretty good up to date site for info.

Ray Eklund 06-02-2018 06:42 PM

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abqdor... the Gila National Forest and Wilderness is our #1 favorite areas. A fire some years ago in the Wilderness forced the Elk population north towards Quemado. A fire burned a large area north of Snow Lake at one time. Another, man caused fire, started a fire North of Mimbres five or six years ago... campfire under a tree.

Although timbering the Gila National Forest began prior to 1905 and a US Geological Survey Professional Paper 39 (1905) Forest Conditions in the Gila River Forest Reserve by T. F. Rixon is very interesting. The early date of cutting timber and the CCC building roads in the 1930's provide wonderful camping in this very large area. Thank you for the information, as we were planning a July trip to the areas around Reserve, New Mexico.

The members of TWO Airstream Adventures were north of this current fire, closer to Quemado, NM than Mimbres, NM or the NFS office in Glenwood Springs, NM.

March 27, 2009 photograph in the Gila National Forest... a dusting of snow and gone by 10AM. But wonderful anyways.

April 18, 2009 at our home west of Littleton, Colorado. Now you understand why March in New Mexico is a great time to head south!

The 'best places' in the Rockies are still there to discover.

Nancy and I are amazed that there are more places to discover in the future. New Mexico has a longer camping season at elevation.

Central Colorado and Wyoming have unlimited opportunities for high elevation camping and the climate that is pleasant and comfortable from July to August. May, June, September and October can be wonderful... or prepare for a temporary snow when you least expect one. Listen to the local weather reports and you will be a happy camper.

pcskier 06-02-2018 07:00 PM

I love your approach of researching, finding, and noting, great boondock spots. They can be hidden gems.

Unfortunately, now, it IS becoming easy. Too many people find them/hear about them...and then put them on social media, Campendium, etc, and some previously great places have become overrun. Prime example: Teton View near Jackson. It's like a sardine can RV Park up there now, used to be a wonderful, private spot that few realized was right there adjacent to the NP. Then more people visit them and put reviews online, and it spirals out of control.

I've always believed in finding, and then sharing only with close friends (if even that) special places. But I sure don't post them all over the place online. I can't understand why people do that, then wonder why it's a zoo next time when they go back, or in some cases, CLOSED to overnight camping, they became so overrun. These hidden gems should be earned, by studying maps and exploring, not just by downloading from a website with directions on finding them, without even using a map. Now it's just part of the 'instant gratification' culture.

Very frustrating.

Ray Eklund 06-02-2018 07:30 PM

pcskier has good points.

July begins Monsoon Season in New Mexico... Hope it rains this year.

Teton View... if that is the camping area in the small strip of National Forest... anyone who visits... earns it. I do not recommend pulling a trailer up the south end. Been there, done it. Small tour buses have been driving up there for years, as well as horse packers.

pcskier brings up the negative side of offering up campsites. But, then again... a small minority of trailer or tent campers are to be found in these areas. The ATV crowd is most common, but they prefer the lower access areas that have larger campsites.

All maps contain campsite locations, although I have found many locations off the mark and missing the majority of other sites, too many to record.

Fishing sites that are remote should be kept private. My Uncle in Kalispell, Montana would not even tell his two brothers where he was catching his oversized trout.

Life it too short. If anyone wants to visit sites I offer, you are welcome. Fifty years from now these roads and campsites may be over run with trees, brush and not accessible. Our culture is changing and what we find as outdoor pleasures will no longer be of interest and lost to lack of attention.

Leilanisteve 06-03-2018 06:48 AM

Thank you for the excellent posts. We are new to this. We don’t mind staying in campgrounds but being online at x hour six months in advance just to get anything reserved is not cool. I did a scouting drive Friday and took notes in an old spiral notebook of pullouts and potential dry camping sites. Several were not accessible due to potholes, steep roadside angles and such but found some promising locations. I assume that if I see no posted property signs and there are no “no camping” signs it’s open to park on. Will give it a try soon. Thanks again for the information and tips.

Thalweg 06-03-2018 09:39 AM


Originally Posted by Utah Man (Post 2109684)

Do you find much variance between BLM districts and FS offices in terms of what they allow for dispersed camping? Curious if this varies much in your boondocking travels.

Regards - Ron

In Wyoming, pretty much any BLM managed land is open for dispersed camping unless it it posted otherwise. Most FS land is also open, but it varies per FS district. It is always best to check each forests website to check the regulations. State land in Wyoming is pretty much closed to dispersed camping unless it it posted as open, however, that is often ignored.

BLM managed land in states other than Wyoming varies as well. Dispersed camping is largely regulated dependent on potential resource damage. So where there are larger crowds or land conditions susceptible to damage, or sensitive species habitat, camping is more restrictive.

Ray Eklund 06-03-2018 12:55 PM

The NFS or BLM are not bashful. They will drive a metal fence post with a sign in the center of a two rut to a campsite that is not permitted. Thalweg brings that idea up in his post. There is a minimum distance of 150 feet for a dry camp can be established from the main road. It is 100 feet from a stream.

No road. No camping with a trailer.

You can camp at a site for 16 days. You must move at least 5 miles from that site afterwards.

Dispersed Camping Guidelines: Fishlake National Forest[/url] as an example. You may have to fiddle around with the website I gave, but this is an excellent place to start.

Hunter's Camp during off season are usually set with the best situations. The disadvantage if you have a dog or two... the hunters may take a kill, gut and dismember the kill, tossing what was not needed not far from the campsite. Dogs like to drag the 'elk legs' to your campsite for chew toys. There is a gland on the back of the front leg that you should take notice.

Metatarsal Gland on an Elk's front legs: Scent Glands your dog will love-

If your dog chews and devours it... their muzzle will swell up and be as tight as a drum skin for the Rolling Stones. No... your dog will not die... but the first time you find this happening, you will know to hang the leg up into a tree... out of Fido's reach. We found out the hardway. Nancy thought our Heeler was going to die, and we were miles away from anywhere for advice. The next morning all was well and Dingo was watched closely for anything being brought back into camp after that.

Leslieotr 06-03-2018 05:48 PM

Great information. Thanks again.

PKI 06-03-2018 06:19 PM


Originally Posted by Ray Eklund (Post 2109761)
-- snip -- My Uncle in Kalispell, Montana would not even tell his two brothers where he was catching his oversized trout. -- snip --

So that's why I never catch anything when my brother takes me fishing. I just thought there were no fish in Montana. :) Pat

Ray Eklund 06-03-2018 08:17 PM

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For PKI...

These are the ones that did not get away. Imagine those that did!

Flathead County, Montana... Uncle Dallas... the man who could keep secrets.

Probably 1940's. The lure he used was invented by himself. He sold them in the Somers, Kalispell and Whitefish, Montana fishing community. This is not 'fly fishing'. I see two of his lures to the upper right. No wonder he is smiling. With this kind of fishing, I would be smiling with... one, maybe two.

Flathead Lake, Swan Lake and to the...north.

My Dad, Brothers and their Dad & Mother are in photographs with similar catches from the early days of Lake Trout and back woods 'special locations'. We ate fish and venison when it was all one could afford at the time for the dinner plate.

PKI 06-03-2018 08:30 PM

Not a bad way to get a smile. A very good days catch!

From what I understand, the way to find such now is to climb over logs and big boulders for miles as you work your way up stream. Then if you tied the right fly and present it corectly, you are in for the fight of your life and/or a long wade home.

Think I'll just move on down stream to that pool and see if my whangle whopper from the second hand store will raise a minnow. :) Pat

Ray Eklund 06-03-2018 08:34 PM


Originally Posted by PKI (Post 2110282)
Not a bad way to get a smile. A very good days catch!

From what I understand, the way to find such now is to climb over logs and big boulders for miles as you work your way up stream. Then if you tied the right fly and present it corectly, you are in for the fight of your life or a long wade home.

Think I'll just move on down stream to that pool and see if my whangle whopper from the second hand store will raise a minnow. :) Pat

When I was 7 or 8 years old, we had picnics in the forest. I would fight my way through the willows and the streams would be meandered into small tributaries. These large trout's fins would be sticking out of the water.

I was so excited... I caught the back of my neck with the hook and worm, still attached. Never could find that spot and can claim... I caught the biggest 'one' that day! Myself.

The huts over Flathead Lake and ice fishing was an experience only a few may recall doing today.

It is sad today, that boys my age spend all their time with their cell phones and electronic games, with mothers hovering over them every moment. I was out in the forest, on the lake, the streams, the brush doing what boys should do... EXPLORE this wonderful planet.

Times change... but boys will always be boys if it can be made possible.

I do this every time we go OTG Boondocking. Bless all who do and if anything I offer on this forum helps... I am one happy overgrown kid.

rmkrum 06-03-2018 09:46 PM

Ray, there are many of us who merely got bigger and older, but still refuse to grow up...[emoji3]

AirMiles 06-06-2018 10:53 AM

Good stuff Ray! We had a chance to use our new boondocking solar setup on what ended up a whirlwind 10 day round trip between Florida and California. The solar helped us stay in places where we would not have stayed in the past. We love the freedom of not having to connect to shore power.

We used Ten-X campground at the Grand Canyon. This is a first-come-first-serve campground with no hookups. It wasn't full for the two nights while we were there. We later scoped out many beautiful free dispersed camping sites next to the Grand Canyon, where we will stay the next time traveling down I-40.

We spent one night Casino Boondocking at Harrah's in Biloxi. Free waterfront view site! We were the only ones there.

We spent one night at a free-overnight-parking city park in San Jon NM. Its just a mile off I-40 and a great layover spot. We were the only ones there.

We spent a couple nights at major retailer parking lots along I-40 on the trip, again the only ones at those spots.

The point to this post is that most RVers won't even stay in a no-services campground with paved roads and sites, water, and vault toilets next to a major National Park, so I doubt these RVers will be overrunning our favorite boondocking sites down gravel and dirt roads. Our local Airstream chapter won't even consider using a campground without sewer hookups!

I wish we could have spent more time doing "real" boondocking, but a medical emergency back home abruptly ended our trip right when we got to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the "real" boondocking was about to begin. We did get to spend one night at Alabama Hills BLM dispersed at the base of Mt. Whitney. What a BEAUTIFUL location! Again, there were many available sites to be had even on the weekend!

Again, thank you Ray for sharing your knowledge with us Boondocking Newbies!

PKI 06-06-2018 07:51 PM


Originally Posted by Ray Eklund (Post 2110285)
-- snip -- The huts over Flathead Lake and ice fishing was an experience only a few may recall doing today.

It is sad today, that boys my age spend all their time with their cell phones and electronic games, with mothers hovering over them every moment. -- snip --

We like Flathead a lot. Never heard about the ice fishing though. That will make for a nice discussion at the next get together.

Now, on this kid deal. Not all kids behave as such. Have two nieces and a nephew who grew up in Montana and like the wilderness considerably. Fishing, a bit of floating and some camping. They fight over the dutch oven. There was a fly casting contest at #2's wedding reception. They just get excited about that stuff and think it's fun. Who would have thought.

Glad you enjoyed your youth in Montana. Cool - :) Pat

Leilanisteve 06-07-2018 09:57 AM

We will be traveling with a friend to west shore Flathead Lake SP later this summer. Will leave the Airstream and Casita at the SP and venture up to Glacier for two days. First time in that area and can’t wait. Hope I can figure out a way to haul the kayak and mountain bike by then.

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