What is RV boondocking? It is simply camping in your recreatinal vehicle in an area with limited or no facilities. In many areas of the west, you can just drive into the desert, and stay free for up to two weeks. This is the case on most BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) and national forest lands. How far you have to move to stay another two weeks is open to interpretation, but is probably isn’t far.
Long Term RV Boondocking on BLM Land
With the growing popularity of boondocking, the BLM has begun to establish areas for longer stays, particularly in Arizona. The permit fee is around $140 now, but this allows you to stay up to six months, and you’ll have pump stations, dumpsters and water available. That’s cheaper than paying property taxes or rent for a lot to park on.
Ask around when you are in the desert southwest, and you’ll find there are whole RV communities that form every winter. There are temporary towns like “Slab City” in California, complete with bookstores, grocery vendors, and other businesses run by RVers. When summer returns, these boondock communities disappear, and reappear again the following winter.
Perhaps the largest gathering of RV boondockers is in Quartzite, Arizona. Up to several hundred thousand people spend at least part of the year boondocking here. Quartzite is near the California border, on Interstate 10, only 20 miles from the Colorado River. It’s surrounded by BLM lands, and it’s famous for gem shows and swap meets, and the multiplying of its population each winter.
Other RV Boondocking Opportunities
Look, and you’ll find “hidden” places where you can park your RV for a week or a month in the desert southwest. Some are free, and others just inexpensive. For example, the Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area, north of Bowie, Arizona, costs $3 per night, but has nice hotsprings and plenty of wildlife. You can get an annual permit for $30, but you’re limited to two weeks per month (permits are sold at the BLM office in Safford). Outside of the fenced area you can stay free, but then you don’t get the hotsprings and shaded picnic tables.
There are many other areas like the Hot Well Dunes for cheap or free RV boondocking. The Bureau of Land Management can tell you what’s available under their jurisdiction. The Woodall’s campground guide lists campgrounds that are free. Also, just keep your eyes open for other RVs parked out in the desert or forest, and ask around.