Camping in National Parks

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#1
I really love National Parks, and I am planning to hit up Yosemite and a couple others out west this summer. Well I got this idea that I could just camp in the parks while I was there, maybe just off some of the hiking trails they have through the park. Anyone have any experience doing this? I know there are supposed to be designated spots blah blah blah, but I don't see a problem as long as I'm far enough away that a Park Ranger doesn't spot me. Thoughts?
 

ped

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#2
yeah its like the main thing to do in them
 

ped

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#5
Yeah, I guess so. Maybe a dumb question haha
Not at all. camping is but most aren't living there for a season or two lol.

sorry if you already know this but...national parks are a PITA for rules. But they're always surrounded by national forests where you are much more likely to get away with your plans.
 

iamwhatiam

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#6
Dont know about the national parks but I know there is something called "dispersed camping" in most national forests where you can camp off the beaten path for up to 14 days in one spot unless otherwised posted as being closed. they also say youhave you camp x amount of feet away from bodies of water (but not always the case) or away from trails
 
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#7
Id look into the hike and bike options if you care what park rangers think or do. Hawaii was the only place the rangers were strict IMO. I was woken up a handful of times in Cali by rangers who never ticketed me or anything and all i did was be respectful and cleaned up after myself. You'd be surprised what they'll tell you at the ranger stations if you know how to ask like, "im planning on foraging for edible mushrooms...where are people not?" try to get info out of them in a roundabout way. Just be clean and respect your surroundings
 

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#9
National parks and rangers can arrest you for illegal camping. It is a statute. You can get a 'back country permit'. Having this permit means you need to camp at least one mile from any designated road or waterway. These are generally for thru hikers and extended trip hikers. I've done my share of illegal camping in national parks, just don't get caught. They can arrest you and or fine you up to $250. Remember, a ticket from a Natl park is also a federal warrant and they can and maybe will extradite. Trust me. I went through this shit many years ago.
 

ped

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#10
Same goes for anything they can ticket you for...speeding, whatever
 
G

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#11
Yep, what @Hawknerd said. If you do what you're planning, get well away from everything and if you have a fire you should hide it well. All I have to add is that national parks have more LEOs per area than any city I've ever been to. It's easier to get caught in a park than anywhere I've been.
 
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#12
When mushroom hunting in the PNW we never messed with national parks. But national forest were perfect. Dogs are allowed. Much more remote feeling. Plenty of logging roads to follow. And with cuts to their budgets the park rangers are few and far between.

Another idea is to camp along the PCT or even better the Colorado collegiate trail. You're expected to camp where ever and how would they know you're not in a hurry to finish the trail... And there are lil towns every few days.
 
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#13
Dont know about the national parks but I know there is something called "dispersed camping" in most national forests where you can camp off the beaten path for up to 14 days in one spot unless otherwised posted as being closed. they also say youhave you camp x amount of feet away from bodies of water (but not always the case) or away from trails
In the National Forest I believe it's 200 feet from water and if you wanna have a fire you need to have a 5 gallon bucket of water and a shovel at your fire pit or you risk a ticket. These are primitive camping guidelines, there are also pay sites in the nat forest with different rules.
 

Coywolf

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#14
Ya, I'll add to the "lots of LE, lots of rules, and easy to get caught" side.

I work for the Park service, and if you are planning on illegal camping in a place like Yosemite (the second busiest national park with the ranger staff to prove it) you better be pretty damn well concealed.

Also, I've met many LE ranger who are total dicks and will fuck with you for just LOOKING homeless of have a large pack. Just tell them you aren't camping in the Park

My advice? Camp in the forest service and BLM land outside of most parks. The Sierra National Forest land outside of Groveland, CA is perfect, just hitch rides into and put of the Park. Also, watch hitchhiking in national parks, ever park's laws about it are different.

Seriously, Naltional Parks=rules.
 

Coywolf

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#15
Btw. If you are every curious about a certain park, go to its NPS official website, that is the best, most convenient information.

Usually under Explore your park>things to do>camping or >backcountry/wilderness.

As far as national forests the rules are usually 100+ feet from a water source or archeological site, 1/4 mile from any road or trail, fire rules vary by area.
 
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#16
Camped in the wild in several parks 2 years ago, had 0 problems
 
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#17
Really just depends on the park. It's technically not legal to wild camp without a permit, but fuck it.

One suggestion on here was spot on. Outside the majority of national parks is national Forest, which wild camping is legal on. That's usually where I post up .
 
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#18
I'll chime in here as I have a lot of experience with the NPS. Currently on a tour trying to hit as many as I can, and spent 3 years trying to get in as an interpretive ranger.

First, don't illegally camp in one. Best case scenario, when you run into a backcountry ranger (and you will eventually) they'll make you leave. Worst case you'll get arrested and banned. Stick to the NFS and BLM lands as othere have said.

While there are all sorts of rangers, they all fit into 2 personality categories, in my experience.

1. I love this place and what I do, and I want to share my passion and educate you and help you have a great time while preserving and conserving for future generations.

2. This is MY land and MY word is law so don't fuck with me!!

The backcountry rangers i've met,(over 20 of them) are about evenly split. They are just as likely to join you by the fire for supper and tell you the best offtrail gems as they are to make you move your camp 5 more feet away from the river.

The good ones are amazing. Like smoke a blunt with you on Blue Glacier (Olympic). The worst ones will have you contemplating pushing them off the South Rim (Grand Canyon).
 

Coywolf

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#19
^Ha, that's funny you say that, as I have been a Backcountry Ranger in the NPS for years.

Pretty accurate statement. You have your Rangers, and then you have your Authoritarians. Some people join the Park Service to become a cop, not a ranger, and that is sad.

You run into all kinds of Rangers out there, so don't expect all of them to be the same, and don't write us all off because of a bad experience.

PS: You can stealth camp pretty easily in National Parks if you know what you are doing. However, you might get pulled over walking with a backpack before you reach your destination. ;)
 

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