Government Shutdown Camping – National Forests

nat forest campWell, the government is shut down, but you'd never know it out on the prairies and ridgelines of the great outdoors. It's hard to decipher exactly what is shut down from the Forest Service's cryptic pronouncement here, but a quick lap around the internet seems to indicate that most of the Forest Service websites are still up. Try the main Forest Service page here and click on the forest near you. I'll run through a quick and dirty method of finding camping opportunities outside the shut-down campgrounds in the national parks.

I don't know for sure about the status of the National Forest campgrounds themselves – if it's a concessionaire running it, it's probably still open. There are exceptions – Kirk Creek and Plaskett Creek in Los Padres National Forest in Big Sur are closed. Some of the non-concession national forest campgrounds may also be open – unless they're barricaded, fill out the envelope and drop the money in the box and you've got just as much right to be there as anyone.

Here's the map I picked up at the ranger station two days ago. Look for the dots - that's the dispersed camping area.

Here's a Motor Vehicle Use Map I picked up at the ranger station, but you can also download them off the internet. Look for the dots – that's the dispersed camping area.

The best bet is to look at dispersed camping, as I mentioned in my earlier post on the topic. Go to the maps page of the National Forest website, click on your forest, and look for Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM). These are designed for off-road vehicle users, may the gods curse their worthless hides, but the collateral benefit of these maps are the dots which designate dispersed camping opportunities. Any road marked with these dots is fair game for boondocking.

I wish the ranger stations were open – I like to check in and see what roads are open, how crowded they are, bear activity level, snow warnings, etc., but if you've driven all the way out to a National Park to find the road blocked, check out nearby national forests.  For instance, Gallatin NF is north of Yellowstone. Here are links to Motor Vehicle Use Maps for the entire forest, and there are dots all over showing the forest roads where dispersed camping is allowed.   Stay low in altitude and close to the paved roads and you will do OK. It's better than turning around and driving back home.


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  1. Sherry Hooker

    Great information, Campskunk. Also, check your state parks, they’re putting out welcome signs to those unable to enjoy the National Forests at this time. I got the following notification on FaceBook from Georgia State Parks RV Club;
    Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
    Because talks of a federal government shutdown are in the news, we wanted to clarify that Georgia’s State Parks are operated by the Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, rather than a federal agency. All of our state parks and state historic sites will remain open and welcome you to visit.

    Similarly, some Corps of Engineers campgrounds on Clarks Hill / Strom Thurmond Lake have closed recently. These are not operated by the Ga. DNR. Campers are still welcome to enjoy Mistletoe & Elijah Clark state parks.
    I’m betting many of the other states, state parks are putting out the same information.

  2. Melissa

    I saw you mentioned that Kirk Creek campground is OPEN during the shutdown. I haven’t been able to get ahold of anyone and have reservations for this weekend. The only people I’ve been able to talk to were at and she told me everything was closed. Where did you get this info? Appreciate the help! 🙂

  3. Davydd

    If there was a gate at the entry of a national forest campground it was most likely closed. We were in Utah on the road and left Bryce Canyon the day before the closing. We checked a couple of national forest campgrounds at the Flaming Gorge area and they were gated. We also found a national forest public restroom with flush toilets that was still open and accessible but they had the water turned off. Needless to say imagine what we saw after a day.