Dispersed Camping in Georgia: The Complete Guide

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If you’re looking for somewhere special to spend a night under the stars, Georgia has some of the most beautiful places for camping in the Eastern United States. Camping in Georgia is an unforgettable way to experience some of its natural wonders, such as misty mountains, sparkling streams, and peaceful lakes. Even better, there are nearly endless opportunities for dispersed camping throughout the state. That’s right- pitch your tent or park your RV in these wilderness spots, no reservations needed and completely free.

Sounds pretty nice, right? Before you head out, there’s some things you’ll need to know about where dispersed camping is allowed in Georgia, rules and regulations, how to prepare, and more. In this post, we’ll cover all of the basics and share our favorite free dispersed camping areas in Georgia. Let’s get started.

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Georgia Dispersed Camping Guide

Tops of mountains covered with green trees and blue sky in the background
The Appalachian Mountains are just one of the many beautiful outdoor destinations in Georgia.

The Basics

Before you head out on your trip, it is important to have some basic information about dispersed camping in Georgia. The following sections provide just that, including key details on where camping is permitted, how to find individual campsites, and how to ensure you are keeping these wild places beautiful for everyone.

This is the essential information before you head out there!

Where is Dispersed Camping Allowed in Georgia?

Those looking for dispersed camping in Georgia will find tons of great options. The Peach State has over 800,000 acres of National Forest land, plus many thousands more acres of wilderness managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District. There are free camping opportunities throughout these public lands, given you follow some important rules and guidelines.

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is actually comprised of two National Forests that together offer some of the best outdoor recreation and dispersed camping opportunities in Georgia. Chattahoochee is the larger of the two and spans the northern edge of the state, while Oconee is smaller and is located southeast of Atlanta. Top destinations in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests include waterfalls (such as Helton Creek Falls and Anna Ruby Falls), historic sites like Scull Shoals Village, and of course, the southern endpoint of the iconic Appalachian Trail.

There are many opportunities for dispersed camping throughout the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, and their Dispersed Camping webpage can be a helpful resource when planning your trip.

While dispersed camping is generally permitted throughout the National Forest, there are some important rules and restrictions to be aware of. It is important to check with the ranger district and learn about camping restrictions before heading out.

Here are some important things to know about dispersed camping in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests:

  • Check for current fire restrictions and prescribed burns and learn about fire safety before making a campfire.
  • Do not cut live trees for firewood. Dead and downed wood may be used for campfires, but may not be taken from the National Forest.
  • Check the site-specific regulations for the area you’ll be visiting. There are specific requirements for some areas, and camping is not permitted in others.
  • Treat all water before drinking or cooking.
  • Pets are welcome, but must be kept on a leash in most cases.
  • You cannot camp for more than 14 days out of a 30-day period.
  • Minimize environmental impacts and abide by Leave No Trace principles.
Map showing the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests
The Chattahoochee National Forest is on the northern edge of the state, while Oconee is southeast of Atlanta.

Georgia Wildlife Management Areas

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources oversees more than 100 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) throughout the state. These areas are devoted to conservation, recreation, and education. Many of Georgia’s WMA’s allow free camping in primitive or dispersed sites.

Click here to see a list of all of Georgia’s Wildlife Management Areas

Here are some important things to know about dispersed camping in Georgia WMAs:

  • Georgia’s Wildlife Management Areas are primarily used for hunting. Check for seasonal restrictions and follow safety guidelines.
  • Most WMA’s require that you camp in designated sites.
  • Visitors are required to have the appropriate license for hunting, fishing, and/or shooting. Some WMA’s require a license or pass for entry.

Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas

The Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District manages several recreational areas in the western part of Georgia. These areas offer wonderful opportunities for hiking, boating, picnicking, and more. While most of the camping on Army Corps properties is limited to developed campgrounds, there are a few free sites to be found.

Click here to learn more about the Mobile District recreational areas.

Here are some important things to know about dispersed camping in Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas

  • You will need to purchase a pass to visit some recreation areas.
  • Camping is restricted to designated sites.
Tent with hammock and pine trees
There are plenty of great free campsites in Georgia, if you know where to look.

How to Find Dispersed Campsites in Georgia

Now that you have a good overview of where dispersed camping is permitted in Georgia, let’s drill down a bit further into how to go about finding a a campsite.

The first step is always to reach out directly to either the appropriate National Forest district office, WMA Ranger, or the Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District office to inquire about current conditions and get the latest information on camping availability.

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is managed by four district offices, shown on the map below:

Chattahoochee-Oconee Ranger District Map
Map of Chattahoochee-Oconee Ranger Districts. Click to enlarge.
  • Blue Ridge Ranger District: 706-970-9776 or 706-745-6928
  • Chattooga River Ranger District: SM.FS.CRRD@usda.gov or 706-754-6221
  • Conasauga Ranger District: 706-695-6736
  • Oconee Ranger District: 706-485-7110

To learn about camping in a Wildlife Management Area, visit the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website or call the Ranger Hotline: 800-241-4113.

To learn more about camping in an Army Corps of Engineers recreation area, visit the Mobile District website or call (251) 690-2576.

There are also several excellent online resources that can help in your dispersed campsite search, which we’ve outlined below.

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Leave No Trace Principles & Dispersed Camping

One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping is to follow Leave No Trace principles. This will minimize your impact and ensure your campsite can be enjoyed by future visitors. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:

  • Plan Ahead & prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that permits dispersed camping.
  • Travel & camp on durable surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
  • Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
  • Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. Other than trash of course!
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Never create new fire rings and only have fires if permitted.
  • Respect wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.

You can read more about the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping here.

River surrounded by green swamp vegetation
Always leave these beautiful places better than you found them.

The Best Dispersed Camping Areas in Georgia

Now that you have a general overview of what dispersed camping in Georgia is all about, we’ve gathered a list of the top dispersed campsites in the Peach State.

Check out the map below to see where each site is located.

Jones Creek Dispersed Campground

Restrooms: None
Water: 
Can be filtered from the creek.
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

This popular camping area is located in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (Blue Ridge Ranger District) and is less than two hours from Atlanta. There are great hiking and mountain biking trails close by, and nearly all of the sites are right on the creek. The road to access the Jones Creek Dispersed Campground can be quite rugged in places, and is not suitable for RVs or sedans. Get there early on summer weekends, as it fills up quickly!

Ball Field Camping Area

Restrooms: None
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

This beautiful camping area is just a mile from the Lake Conasauga Recreation Area, but it feels far removed from civilization. Campers can pitch their tent anywhere in the grassy field, and there are firepits available throughout the area. The road to the campsite is pretty rough and best only attempted in an SUV. Although there are no amenities at Ball Field, you can find flush toilets and drinking water at the Lake Conasauga Campground ($5 parking fee).

Bear Creek Trailhead Campground

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

This primitive campground is tucked into old growth forest and provides a peaceful and relaxing experience. It is located close to great hiking and mountain biking trails, including the famous long-distance Pinhoti Trail. All of the sites are walk-in only, so you’ll need to be prepared to carry in all of your gear. RVs and pop-ups are not allowed. Be sure to get their early on weekends to snag a spot, and avoid pitching in areas that have been closed for revegetation.

Oconee National Forest

Restrooms: None
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Maps: Area north of I-20, Area south of I-20

There are 38 “hunt camps” located within the Oconee portion of Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. These “hunt camps” are dispersed campsites scattered throughout the forest and, while initially established for hunting purposes, they can be used by campers of all kinds. To find a campsite, consult the park maps (linked above) and look for areas marked with the “Undeveloped Campground” symbol. It might also be helpful to call the ranger to get more information about road conditions and usage.

Tents in the forest with a dirt road next to them.
The Hickey Gap Campground.

Ninblewill Creek

Restrooms: None
Water: 
Can be filtered from creek
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

There are approximately six dispersed sites along Ninblewill Gap Road. Sites are right on the creek, private, and spaced far apart from one another. A few of the sites could fit a small camper or trailer, but the road in is quite rough, particularly if coming from the north. This is simple dispersed camping at its best.

John’s Mountain

Restrooms: None
Water: None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

This dispersed camping area has ten sites that are located along Everett Springs Road and Johns Creek. The sites are easily accessed on a paved road for most of the way, and some sites are large enough to accommodate RVs. There are great opportunities for hiking and fishing nearby. There is a paid campground further up on Pocket Road, a good option if the dispersed sites are full or if you’re looking for more amenities.

Hickey Gap Campground

Restrooms: Vault toilet.
Water: None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

This is a great free campground run by the Forest Service. With just five sites, the camping area is small and best suited for tents. It is located right next to beautiful Mill Creek, which features four waterfalls within a short walk from the campground. Keep in mind that alcohol is not permitted on the premises.

Hannahatchee Creek WMA

Restrooms: None.
Water: None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

This primitive campground is free for anyone with a hunting license, fishing license, or land access pass. The area is a favorite amongst hunters, but there are also opportunities for geocaching, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Although there are no bathrooms at the campground, you can find some near the WMA entrance on Moores Store Road. Be sure to check the seasonal hunting regulations before heading out.

Rood Creek Campground

Restrooms: Yes
Water: None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

This Army Corps of Engineers camping area gives you easy proximity to all of the great recreation opportunities on Walter F. George Lake, but unlike the other campgrounds nearby, this one is completely free! There are picnic tables, fire rings, and well-maintained toilets. Many sites have views of the water. The road in is pretty smooth, and RVs should have no problem accessing the campground. Be on the lookout for alligators, as they are frequently seen in the area.

Close-up of marshmallows roasting over a campfire.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve learned everything you need to know to plan your Georgia dispersed camping trip.

Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip.

Looking for more dispersed camping content? Don’t forget to check out our other state specific dispersed camping guides:

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