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Hello! I'm a lurker and a sticks and bricks 9-5er, maybe "oneday" I will get the opportunity to be out on the road like the rest of you Smile

I'm asking for clarification about National Forests especially on the Eastern US side, most of the information out there seems to be focused on the Western part. 

Am I correct in understanding that (unless otherwise marked) I can find a MVUM for a local NF and boondock in an appropriate place? 

I know that probably seems super simple to understand but I just wasn't sure? 

For example, I see on I see several icons for DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi but I don't see many marked in the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. 

Let's say I had my campervan in the driveway today and I wanted to head out, could I drive to Sylacauga AL (the Pinhoti Trail is nearby) and find a spot to boondock in the Talladega NF? For example, looking at this MVUM, could I boondock near the lake called Tallaseehatchee Creek (look near the lower left section of the forest boundary) on the road marked 601B? According to the key on the map it shows it as Roads Open to Highway Legal Vehicles. 

Also, as a secondary question, is there anyone on this forum that has boondocked in the Eastern US forest systems? Any information or tips to pass on?

Thank you in advance for anyone that takes the time to look at what I posted above, it's just a dream at this point but I'm a learner and a researcher and knowing all I can will help push that dream forward. Smile is a reliable source for camping on federal lands
Yes thank you I wrote .com rather than .net, seems like an awesome site! 

Unfortunately it doesn't show much for campsites in the area I mentioned previously in my example so that is why I was asking for clarification. 

Thank you for your response!
Welcome to the forums oneday!  I think most of us spend a good deal of our time in the west so there's a lot more information about western boondocking  but there are good places in the east too. As far as I know the rules (with a few exceptions) for national forest are the same across the US - 14 days in one spot and a certain distant from the road and bodies of water. So, yes, drive along any of the roads marked as opened to street vehicles on the MVUM and find a good spot to camp. The website for Talladega Forest says - "Primitive camping is allowed in the national forest unless posted otherwise."!ut/p/z0/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfIjo8zijQwgwNHCwN_DI8zPyBcqYKBfkO2oCABZcx5g/?position=Not%20Yet%20Determined.Html&ss=110801&navtype=&pnavid=170000000000000&navid=170110000000000&ttype=detail&cid=fsbdev3_002555

 The main problems we have when finding boondocking in the east is heavy ground cover which makes it hard to get off the road and private property along the main roads blocking access to the rest of the forest however the spot that you've found looks very good. Let us know what you find and post it on the freecampsites site if it's a good one!
Contact the local USFS Ranger and/ or USFS office and they can give you the 'local neighborhood' rules as well as boondocking spots. I'm in the Manistee National Forest in Michigan but have my own lil piece of private land and I work in the NF's all the time as I'm one of the local wilderness land surveyors.

Every place has its own lil rules & regs and nuances that the peeps working & living there will know - they'll fill you in - just ask.

Good Luck...............INTJohn
Just by chance I've boondocked in the Talladega NF so I do know it's open to dispersed camping. Most of the SouthEast has a lot of National Forest and most of it is open to dispersed camping.

Unfortunately, not all the MVUMs contain dispersed camping info. They all list the legal roads and road restrictions, but not all of them list dispersed camping spots. My understanding is that if they do not list it, the entire National Forset is open to dispersed camping unless there is a sign that specifically says it is not. The Coconino NF does show every place you can dispersed camp on every legal road. But the Prescott NF (which is right beside it) does not. I went into the Ranger Station and asked why it didn't and she said because the entire Forest was open to Dispersed camping unless signed otherwise. Local signs always have the last word.

But, you are always safest to call the local Ranger office and ask about dispersed camping rules. Try a search for "dispersed camping" on their website, but I've not had good luck with NFS websites.
I probably should write what I mean by or give examples too what I mean by 'local neighborhood' rules:

In the Manistee NF where I'm at, the Forest Service or the Michigan DNR is always doing something somewhere that is on a limited time basis. This stuff is rarely if ever posted on any kind of a web site and if it is; its often not entered correctly because its being done by office personal rather than someone who actually works in the woods.

Logging operations for example; a sq mile somewhere may be designated for a clear or select cut. They will not want you camping near to it and you're not going to know about it till you decide to go there cause it looks great on the map,etc and when you get all the way back in there it will be posted No Camping blah blah;

Also, certain areas are always being designated for Research studies: Wildlife, wildflowers, butterflies, differing bird species, tree data; again bla, bla, bla - you're not going to know about it till you get back in there and see the signs posted;

Also, different emergencies:
Some areas may have been burned by a lightening strike or roads washed out, or beavers have flooded the only 2-track within 3 miles, etc. The local USFS peeps there will know about all this stuff and can let you in on it if you first inquire..
Been almost 20 years now but I did the survey on a death penalty jurisdiction case for the Federal District Court. A woman & her baby were murdered back on one of the small National Forest lakes ands the Forest Service shut down about 5 sq miles completely while the investigation was on going. The area was closed for almost 6 months except to one private land owner who had only the 1 way to access his property.

So point is get with the local Warden & Forest Service peeps and they can give you the local low down before you drive back into the wilderness for miles just to be disappointed........

The reason there is more info on free camping in the West is because there is more available land in the West where camping is allowed.

A good source of campgrounds is the book The Wright Guide to Free & Low-Cost Campgrounds (520 pages) ($17).  You can get it through the library system.  If your library doesn't have it, you should be able to get hold of a copy through the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) system; talk your local librarian about it.

Looking at my book (2015), most of the free campgrounds in AL, MS and GA are Wildlife Areas and Army Corps of Engineers (COE) campgrounds, but not all COE camps are free.  The more facilites they have, the higher the fee.  Other free camps listed in this book are Wildlife Areas and County Parks.  Some National Forest camps are available, but most, while not too expensive, seem not to be free.

Another Wright Guide (which I just now discovered) is Camping With the Corps of Engineers: The Complete Guide to Campgrounds Built and Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Wright Guides) (350 pages) $14 at Amazon.  Since it is from the same source as the original Wright Guide above, I don't know if they have more COE listings than the first book above.  The page count indicates maybe not.
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"Also, as a secondary question, is there anyone on this forum that has boondocked in the Eastern US forest systems? "

Yes, I do it frequently. Sometimes for relaxation and sometimes for work purposes as I travel regionally for work.

"Any information or tips to pass on?"


Check the National Forest websites for details on the area. They have the specific rules and maps, of the forestry roads, that you can print.

National Forests and National parks frequently overlap. Check the national park websites also. National park maps show facilities that are not shown on forestry maps. They are printable also.

Check the hunting regulations and seasons in the area you are interested in. You may not want to go at certain times of the year. For example; bear hunting is popular in Cherokee national forest. That is one of my most accessible areas. I'm not afraid of getting shot. I just don't want to listen to a pack of bear hunting dogs all night. It also makes finding a good campsite more difficult.

I use a 6'x10' utility trailer that I have converted. I pull it with a Ford Ranger. It has worked extremely well for the mountain forestry roads. I know people that have driven a school bus into these mountain roads, but I honestly don't know how they pulled it off. Stay small and nimble. You have far more options.

Don't ignore the state forests and wildlife management areas. There are some FANTASTIC places to use.

Last week I stayed in a state forest less than two miles from Grayton Beach State Campground, in Florida, while I waited for my campsite to come available. This was not planned. I showed up early and went exploring in the state forest right next door to the campground. I found a fantastic shaded spot that I could not have used if I had not been so nimble. My wife and I cooked lunch and hung out for half a day while we waited. It was a fantastic day that did not cost a penny extra.

Georgia wildlife management areas are sometimes quite good. You do have to have a Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass (GORP) or a hunting license to not be run out by the occasional game warden. In my area they are very well kept and it is not unusual to see an out of place looking person in a  Mercedes or Lexus, from Atlanta, driving the gravel roads. I use Pigeon Mountain WMA frequently to get away for a weekend.

Most importantly.....just get out and do it. If you wait until you have it perfect, you won't ever go.
I just came through Ocala and Daniel Boone National Forest. I was kicked out of Ocala National Forest while boondocking on Memorial Day of all days. Imagine that a veteran getting kicked out of the national forest on Memorial Day!

Anyway, just be careful where you're camping and know the rules. I called the ranger station in Ocala National Forest before I Boondock there, I was doing as instructed but it didn't matter to the ranger who is kicking me out on Memorial Day. They really wanted me to just go to a pay Campground. Since it was only 6 bucks I conformed.

I made videos of all these on my website at Freedom
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