How To – Find Dispersed Camping

Another lengthy installment of How To? You got it! Today’s advice focuses on the most effective way to put some distance between you and and the next set of campers. This is beyond 6′ social distancing. This is “I don’t want to smell your fire or hear you fighting with your wife” type of distancing. You’re welcome.

Geneva Creek a few years back on a warm October weekend.

Ever loaded all your camping gear, family, and dogs into the car and head into the wild expecting to easily find a camp spot, but ended up eating dinner at McDonald’s and driving all the way home in a lightning storm? If this hasn’t happened to you, then you are not me. In this edition of “How To” I’m going to share my best advice on how to avoid total disaster and possible divorce whilst locating and securing a dispersed campsite on public land.

  1. Mentally prepare for disappointment. Yes, you have worked your ass off preparing for an adventure, but like those climbing tall mountains, there’s always a chance the adventure will end in a blinding snow storm and not a summit.
  2. Pretend like you couldn’t care less if it doesn’t work out. Trick the camping gods into believing you are so zen that driving deep into the mountains, shrugging off the failure to locate a camp spot, then happily driving home is within your mental capacity. The gods are only in your head anyway.
  3. Prepare by doing some relaxing research. Find out where the fire bans are NOT by calling your national forest service in that area and looking online at the Colorado Emergency Management Fire Bans and Danger website. Pull out the Gazetteer and find some public lands, denoted green or orange for BLM. Then get on the laptop and find some remote roads in those areas on Google Earth. Zoom in as close as you can and follow these roads via your couch for hours, nay, days. Look for beat down pull-offs, campers and tents, and tiny fire rings. See picture below of a perfect example. I suggest a mild stimulant for this exercise to relax your mind and spirit. Mentally transform into an eagle soaring over the forest in search of dispersed camping for you and your eaglets. Enjoy the ride.
  4. BRING CASH. You might end up at a paid campground if the plan blows up in your bearded face, and they take cash only.
  5. Gas up before going into the wilderness. I’ve driven for 4 hours through extremely rough terrain looking for a spot because I had to leave on a Friday and not a preferred Thursday. I was glad to have gas, because getting towed off a mountain ain’t cheap. And walking miles in the dark alone to get cell service for said tow truck might make you give up camping altogether.
  6. Don’t settle on the first site you find. Chances are, the further you drive down a dirt road, the better the spots will get. And nobody wants to set up camp, then check out all the other campsites the next day to find out yours is the worst one. Campsite envy has made me grumpy for a whole trip knowing things could have been better. But I’m too stubborn to move a camp. And definitely too lazy.
Fire ring upper right, campers bottom middle. Note the pull-off.

So get out there and take a risk. The later in the summer, the easier. School is in session and the cool nights will deter most folks unless they are elk hunting. And sorry to sound like a broken record, but leave early to find the best spot. Thursday morning if you can swing it. Nobody ever said they wish they’d spent more time at work when they are on their deathbed.

Happy hunting.

Published by willbarch78

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas. The nearest Walmart was a full two hours away. My family still runs a ranch back home that I grew up on, but at some point in my treasured youth I hung up the idea of becoming a cowboy, and pursued my passion for architecture. Today I still find myself trying to fit in to a life that has treated me with the average ups and downs one can expect after a certain number of years. My wife and I moved to Denver after attending Texas Tech School of Architecture in Lubbock as we needed a grade change from the Llano Estacado. We camp with our three growing girls all summer and into the fall while I write and create and fly fish to maintain sanity. Life is moving fast as our careers and children progress in all areas, so being outdoors with each other keeps us mostly grounded.

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