When touring the National Parks, seeking the nearby free dispersed camping areas on public lands is the thrifty way to go. During the busy spring and summer tourist seasons, dispersed camping may also be the only option available if National Park campsite reservations were not made well ahead of time. There are usually a few privately owned campgrounds or RV parks in neighboring towns, but paying inflated prices is not everybody's cup of tea. On the flip-side, the premium campgrounds in town or inside the National Park usually offer full facilities and wifi. All that can be expected at dispersed camping areas is a bare minimum of facilities or none at all, while the phone data signal may be iffy. As can be imagined, boondocking does have its advantages and disadvantages, which all have to do with personal comfort.
Dispersed camping areas are rarely developed and the same can be said for the dirt roads. Drivers of low ground clearance vehicles would be wise to take a look at the dirt road condition in dispersed camping areas before making the commitment, because getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere is never a good thing. A high ground clearance vehicle is what it usually takes to find the best spots in dispersed camping areas, especially when towing a trailer.
In a dispersed camping area, there really are no rules as to where an RV can park or where a tent can be setup, but there are courtesies. There are places where RVs can easily get to and the tent campers usually head for the rougher terrain around the perimeter. Setting a tent up where an RV usually parks will draw frowns. The rule of thumb for tent campers is if there is a fire pit, then it is a campsite and there are usually plenty of fire pits away from where the RVs can easily go.
Realizing how the game is played does help a first time boondocker. Knowing what to expect ahead of time will definitely help when checking out the dispersed camping at the Fishlake National Forest Mile Marker 73 Dispersed Camping Area on Highway 24 just west of Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is a very busy place during the summer season and for many visitors the dispersed camping options will be the only choice. Since the Mile Marker 73 Dispersed Camping Area is literally next to the park entrance sign, this little free boondocking area does fill up fast. Lightening quick decisions have to be made in order to get a worthy campsite, so knowing what to expect ahead of time will make the venture a bit easier!
Other than the courtesies and the minimal facilities that were mentioned earlier, the only other important item to consider is the terrain at the Mile Marker 73 Dispersed Camping Area. The RVs and trailers tend to opt for the semi level low ground and the rest of the campsites are like perches on the side of a tall hill. As can be imagined, the campsites further uphill are not easy for RVs to get to and this is where the car or tent campers tend to go. The access is one thing while safety is another. The hillside ravines can turn into roaring rapids during a rainstorm, so a visitor will need to choose a tent spot wisely if the skies are gray. The other thing to consider is falling rocks. Some of the tent pads are in steep rockslide areas and I actually heard a fair size boulder tumbling downhill in the middle of the night!
Dispersed Camping Areas like the one at Mile Marker 73 certainly do have some character. Describing what to expect is good for first timers, especially since the first campsite chosen will likely be the only option because this boondocking area fills up so fast. He who hesitates is lost in the world of dispersed camping, because the best spots go to who shows up first!
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