When I was in Boy Scouts every month we went camping places that seemed to be deep in the woods with no one else around within hiking distance.

When I go to reserve a campsite as an adult they're all so densely packed that you're staring at a half dozen other campsites (most occupied with noisy families, minivans, etc) and cars are constantly driving by my tent on the trail loop. You can't walk 10 feet without running into a power outlet, which for me is the exact type of thing I'm trying to escape.

Do you have to be close personal friends with a land baron or is there some way a member of the public could get a "real" campsite (or just a forest where you can go and make your own campsite) without breaking the law?

I am in Maryland in the US.

  • This depends greatly on where you are. I've been to US Forest Service campgrounds where it was clear that nobody had been there in months, perhaps all season. But, that was a 4 hour drive from Albuquerque into some seldom travelled areas. (No reservation required there, no way to reserve).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 22:17
  • @JonCuster Sounds amazing. I wish I lived there. Currently I live in Maryland.
    – Hack-R
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 22:20
  • 1
    Perhaps you should mention in your question the country/state/area you're interested in.
    – Roflo
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 22:49
  • @Hack-R - well, when I lived on the east coast, the answer was to go out west backpacking for several weeks, enough to get you deep into a Rocky Mountain wilderness area. Weekends were more crowded, alas.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 22:54
  • National Forests would have been my answer too, but since Maryland doesn't have any, sometimes National Wildlife Refuges will have areas for backcountry camping too. Unfortunately, Maryland's NWRs don't have camping. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 3:34

4 Answers 4


Most campground in Maryland State parks are not dispersed. The exception is Green Ridge State Forest

Primitive camping has become a rare opportunity as most Public and Private campgrounds have adopted a more improved and consolidated approach to managing camping facilities. Camping at Green Ridge is a primitive experience in that the sites have a picnic table and a fire ring and no other amenities or plumbing. We urge our visitors to practice the “leave no trace ethic” as they enjoy a primitive and remote camping experience. Back Country backpack camping is also permitted within the forest.

The Savage River State Forest and Garrett State Forest also allow backpack camping throughout the forest.


Unless otherwise indicated by specific restrictions that supercede the default, U.S. National Forests generally allow backcountry camping anywhere you choose. They also generally allow dispersed camping along roads anywhere you want unless otherwise noted. Contact the local U.S. Forest Service ranger district or other relevant land management agency for the area you're interested in to discuss the specifics for that area.

  • 1
    Excellent, I didn't know that. I checked one of their websites and it seems you're correct ("dispersed" camping). It seems that what threw me off is that there are no national forests in my state and the parks I know of don't allow dispersed camping like that. Since their are no national forests in Maryland I'll leave this question for a day or so before choosing the solution (to see if anyone has an answer that would require less travel for me) but unless there's a better answer I'll mark this as the solution. Many thanks!
    – Hack-R
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 23:24
  • I wish I could mark both answers as solutions. The other one was specific to my area so I marked it as the solution but know that I greatly appreciate your answer.
    – Hack-R
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 22:40

Depends where you go. If you're going to a campsite with easy access, and one that is regularly maintained, reservable, and has power... then of course you're going to run into people. You need to to pick spots to camp that aren't on the map, the user maintained sites that aren't easy to get to. Unfortunately for you, but fortunately for the people who use them, those camp spots are usually secret, and local knowledge only. I have several favourite camp spots that are at the back end of a long unmaintained trail and at the top of a steep hike. What you are in need of is insider knowledge. Visit a small town out in the woods, meet some locals, make friendly with them, and then get them to spill the beans on all the local free camp spots.


What you are describing is also known as "primitive camping" and searching for that in your state might lead to better results. Camping is allowed on all land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in your state.

If you look up your local MD BLM office, their web page might contain a list of primitive camping areas. I know that for my state of Nevada, they highlight 5 places as primitive campsites as well as the rules for picking your own campsite on any BLM land.

  • I am pretty sure the BLM is predominantly as west of the Rockies thing. They lump everything east of the Rockies as "Eastern States". There are BLM lands on the east coast, but much less.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 11:04

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