When you join us as a Roadpass Pro Member, you’re not only helping us maintain and improve Campendium, but you also gain access to a bunch of Member-only perks. One of the most popular perks is our map overlays, which can help you on your quest to find that perfect camping site for your next trip.
What is so great about our National Forest map overlay, in particular? Let us tell you more about it.
What is the US Forest Service?
The United States Forest Service (USFS) is a government land management agency that was founded back in 1905. Their mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nationa’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Across the country, the USFS manages 193 million acres of public land and supports sustainable management on an additional 500 million acres of private, state, and tribal lands.
As its name suggests, the US Forest Service is in charge of a lot of woodlands. They also manage heritage sites, wetlands, lakes, streams, Scenic Byways, the land underneath over 100 ski areas, and yes, campgrounds. Many, many campgrounds. For a quick comparison, the National Park Service manages about 1,400 campgrounds. The US Forest Service? Over 4,300 campgrounds. When you’re in a National Forest, camping is never too far away.
While there is a disproportionate number of National Forests are in the western part of the United States, they can be found from coast to coast and up into Canada.
Camping in National Forests
Across all of the country’s National Forests, there is a healthy mix of paid campgrounds, free campgrounds, and plenty of free, dispersed camping opportunities. Some forests only offer dispersed camping, while others only offer paid campgrounds. Because of this, it pays to do a bit of research ahead of time so you know the rules and regulations for where you’re headed.
Similar to the National Park Service, the US Forest Service works with private companies to run their huge inventory of campgrounds. As of 2017, about 37% of USFS campgrounds were managed by private concessionaires. In these locations, instead of handing your payment to a retired volunteer, you may hand it to an employee in, for example, a Recreation Resource Management uniform. While the privatization of public land campgrounds is contentious for some, there is no sign of this trend going away any time soon.
Some US Forest Service paid campgrounds allow reservations, especially in popular destinations. Where reservations are accepted, you can find all the details and secure your spot at recreation.gov
The Roadpass Pro Member Benefit: National Forest Map Overlays
To find National Forest campgrounds and camping areas, start by searching for the state or region you’d like to camp and then click More Filters > Categories > National Forest. This will limit your search to developed campgrounds and dispersed camping areas inside National Forests.
Roadpass Pro Members can then turn on the National Forest overlay by clicking the Map Overlay button on the right side of the map and ticking on “National Forest.” A green overlay will appear, showing the exact location of all of the United States’ National Forests.
From here, you can zoom in, change your base map to see trails or a satellite view, turn off and on other overlays (like Reported Cell Coverage), and even see any campsites you have marked as a Favorite. The overlay is available both on the website and the iOS app so navigation is a breeze once you pick the spot you’d like to check out.
Check out These National Forest Camping Areas
Ready to try out a National Forest campground or camping area? Here are a few of our community’s most-loved destinations. For a full list of favorites, check out the 2020 Campers Choice Awards, Best National Forest Camping — 2020.
Nomad View, South Dakota: Perched on the edge of the Badlands, Nomad View is one of the community’s favorite camping areas anywhere in the United States. One look at the pictures and you’ll know why!
Upper Teton View, Wyoming: You won’t likely get a lot of privacy at Upper Teton View, but will you will get is one of the most stunning views of the Tetons in a camping area that’s completely free to enjoy. Because this is such a popular spot, there is a five-day stay limit (strictly enforced).
Coconino Rim Road Dispersed Camping, Arizona: Location is the name of the game with these wooded, dispersed campsites near Grand Canyon National Park. Come for the quiet, stay for the plentiful opportunities to explore the unique landscape of the Grand Canyon.
Grouse Mountain, Wyoming: You won’t be struggling to fill up your solar battery bank at this wide-open plain in Buffalo, complete with mountain views and herds of cattle in the distance. Does it get any more Wyoming than this?
Lizards Head Pass, Colorado: Just a stone’s throw from Telluride sits Lizards Head Pass, a dirt-road-accessible dispersed camping area in the Uncompahgre National Forest. Even big rigs can make it in here, reviewers say, if they just take it slow.
Interested in becoming a Roadpass Pro Member and unlocking perks like the National Forest map overlay? Check it out!