North America is a land of adventure, wide-open spaces, and relatively few stipulations on where you can camp. About 47 percent of America and nearly 80 percent of Canada is completely unpopulated, and a great deal of that land is considered public. While this might seem like a recipe for endless road tripping and boondocking
, many Americans and Canadians are unaware of their home country’s potential or simply don’t feel comfortable with remote camping.
Let us dispel your fears around camping without the benefits of flush toilets and electrical hookups. While there might be some challenges along the way, boondocking is a liberating experience and one that every RV traveler should try at least once. Plus, it’s much cheaper than booking a hotel
. Keep reading to learn about the best RV boondocking locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Is Boondocking Legal?
There are plenty of places to boondock legally and just as many places where it is illegal. Knowing the types of land that are public and open to boondocking goes a long way in having a good experience. Boondocking on federally-owned land (Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land), also called “Crown land” in Canada, is usually allowed. However, boondocking is prohibited on most state, county, and private land.
As a responsible boondocker
, you should adhere to the principles of leave no trace
— it shouldn’t be obvious you were ever camping there. That means bringing your own water, holding onto your waste until it can be disposed of properly, and keeping loud noises like stereos and generators to a minimum. Follow these principles, and you’ll be welcome to an abundance of amazing boondocking locations.
Your Guide To Famous Boondocking Locations in the U.S. and Canada
There’s no shortage of boondocking locations in North America, which is why one of the hardest parts of planning is picking the best boondocking location. These are a few of the most famous ones in the U.S. and Canada, and they’re some of the best places to boondock when you’re just starting out.
Canyonlands National Park (US)
You can’t legally boondock inside Canyonlands National Park
, but there’s plenty of Bureau-of-Land-Management-owned land just outside of it that’s well-known to the boondocker community. Some areas are quite treacherous and should not be attempted in larger RVs or after a storm. This is dry camping at its best though, with nothing but spectacular scenery in all directions. Come prepared, as Moab is the only place to pick up supplies and is an hour away.
Canyonlands is the premier destination for a desert adventure. Head to the Islands in the Sky section of the park for scenic drives to sandstone arches and spectacular viewpoints or hike the more remote Needles region for a more intense experience.
More Information: Canyonlands National Park
Wanapitei River (Canada)
Eastern Canada, much like the eastern U.S., has fewer places for boondocking, with the Wanapitei River in Ontario being a notable exception. It’s almost ten miles off the highway, so it’s not the most accessible site. However, it’s still a notable one in a province that doesn’t have that much Crown land. Plus, it’s less than four hours from Toronto.
Nearby Killarney Park is known for its diverse wetlands and excellent hiking trails. Canoeing the many tiny coves of Lake Huron is another great option.
More Information: Wanapitei River
Anza Borrego State Park (US)
is one of the few state parks in the U.S. that permits boondocking, and it’s actually allowed nearly everywhere in the park. It’s over a thousand square miles of desert with just a handful of toilets and almost no other amenities to speak of. Be prepared for the blistering noon-day heat in the summer and chilly nights in the winter — this is a park of extremes.
If you can stand the heat, hiking is one of the more popular activities when boondocking at Anza Borrego State Park. The fan palms are a sight to see, and this is one of the few places where they grow in California.
More Information: Anza Borrego State Park
Nahmint Lake Recreational Area (Canada)
Vancouver Island feels like one big playground for RV travelers, but if pressed to pick one boondocking location there, it would have to be Nahmint Lake Recreational Area. Located next to its namesake lake and on the southwestern corner of the island, Nahmint stands out with a pristine lake and several solid hiking trails.
Like most places on Vancouver Island, camping at Nahmint Lake is all about the water. If you’re new to kayaking or canoeing, go exploring in the lake and dip a line or two in to catch your next meal. More experienced paddlers should head out to the island’s rocky west coast. The waters can be rough, but its beauty is unmatched.
More Information: Nahmint Lake Recreational Area
San Luis Wildlife Area (US)
Boondocking is all about getting off the grid, right? Usually, yes, but San Luis Wildlife Area is the rare example of a free campsite with electric hookups. This may be because part of the camping area was previously a state park. Aside from the hookups though, amenities are minimal and you’ll need to bring all your own water. That’s a small price to pay for excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and a spot right next to a national park.
Nearby Activities: Great Sand Dunes National Park
is less than half an hour away and features some of the largest dunes in North America. Grab a sandboard at the park’s visitors center or in the nearby town of Alamosa for a thrilling ride down the sand mountains.
More Information: San Luis Wildlife Area
Sheep Creek Provincial Recreation Area (Canada)
Five hours from Edmonton, Sheep Creek and some of the other Crown lands around Jasper National Park
are incredibly remote. Services are extremely limited until you reach some of the smaller towns close to the park.
The main draw here is Jasper National Park, but it is two hours away. For something closer to home base, try fishing in the Smoky River or go exploring on the network of trails just outside the camping area.
More Information: Sheep Creek Provincial Recreation Area
RV Boondocking Tips To Always Keep in Mind
Boondocking can be intimidating the first time, but with just a few helpful tips
, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the free camping lifestyle.
- Always have a backup campsite. The one you chose could be full, inaccessible due to a washed-out road, or too far away. Plan out three places to boondock in an area to be safe.
- Don’t go too remote. Boondocking is all about getting off the beaten path, but 50 miles from the nearest paved road is unnecessary when you’re a novice. Pick a site that’s near food, bathrooms, and fuel in case anything goes wrong your first few times.
- Be conservative with your holding tanks. Until you’ve got a feel for your water usage and how often you need to visit the dump station, plan to refill/clear out your tanks every few days. It’ll mean more trips into town, but that’s a whole lot better than the alternative.
- Know the land you’re camping on. A good map is an absolute necessity, particularly one that shows which federal or state agency owns the area where you’re camping. Every agency has different rules, and you want to avoid trespassing onto private land.
- Don’t stress the mistakes. Mishaps are inevitable when you’re starting out. Laugh at your mistakes and move on –– getting frustrated will ruin the boondocking experience.
RV Rental for the U.S. and Canada
Feeling confident yet? Do you think you could make use of a dump station or find your way through the backroads? Maybe that all sounds like a bit much for your first time out and you want to plan something a little easier. That’s okay, too. Boondocking is about enjoying yourself, and you should never feel pressured to make your trip more extreme when you’re not ready for it.
Cruise America has several dozen locations across the U.S. and Canada
, so you’ll never have to go far to find a great RV rental
. Each of their vehicles undergoes extensive inspection after it has been returned, giving you the peace of mind needed to explore some of the more rural boondocking locations. Now if you’re ready to hit the road, contact Cruise America