Dispersed Camping in Nevada: The Complete Guide

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Nevada is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those looking for a true backcountry experience. With more than half the state’s acreage comprised of public BLM land-48 million aces to be exact-and the largest National Forest in the lower 48, you’re never far from your next wildness adventure. All of this public land also means that free dispersed camping opportunities are abundant. You can enjoy dispersed camping year-round in Nevada’s diverse landscapes, including wide open deserts, dense forests, towering canyons, and natural hot springs.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dispersed camping in Nevada and we’ll share our top recommend campsites. Let’s get started.

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The Basics

Before you head out on your trip, it is important to have some basic information about dispersed camping in Nevada. 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.

Where is Dispersed Camping Allowed in Nevada?

Those looking for dispersed camping in Nevada will find tons of great options. The majority of dispersed camping opportunities can be found either on BLM lands or within Humboldt -Toiyabe National Forest. You can also find dispersed camping in National Recreation Areas, such as Lake Mead NRA. Each of these areas has its own rules and regulations regarding dispersed camping, which we’ve outlined below.

Nevada Bureau of Land Management

Most of the BLM land in Nevada is open for free dispersed camping, although there are some guidelines to follow and some areas are off-limits. You can use this interactive map to see unrestricted BLM areas, and this webpage has top recommended recreational areas.

Here’s a summary of the rules for BLM dispersed camping in Nevada:

  • You may not occupy one site for more than 14 days out of a 28 day period.
  • No dumping black or gray water on public lands.
  • Follow Leave No Trace guidelines.
  • Check for current fire restrictions before heading out.
Sunset with mountains silhouetted on the horizon.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Humboldt-Toiyable National Forest is made up of 6.3 million acres of wilderness spread out across eastern California and Nevada. Instead of being one large forest, it is actually made up of many smaller areas interspersed throughout the state. Dispersed camping is generally allowed throughout Humboldt-Toiyable National Forest, given you maintain a good distance from developed campgrounds, recreational buildings, picnic areas, and water sources.

Click here to see a full list of dispersed camping areas in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Here’s a summary of the rules for dispersed camping in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest:

  • Camp at least 100 feet from all water sources
  • Camp away from developed campgrounds and recreational sites.
  • Reference the Motor Vehicle Use Maps to understand where different types of vehicles are allowed.
  • Dig a hole at least 6 inches deep for disposal of human waste.
  • Check the current fire restrictions before heading out.
  • Follow Leave No Trace Guidelines.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Another great option for dispersed camping in Nevada is Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA). This huge swath of wilderness straddles the border of Nevada and Arizona and encompasses 1.5 million acres, including Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. There are hundreds of backcountry roads where you can find beautiful places for dispersed camping. However, it is important to note that while dispersed camping in Lake Mead NRA is free, you will need to pay an entrance free to access the park.

Here’s a summary of the rules for dispersed camping in Lake Mead NRA:

  • Camping is permitted for up to 15 days in one location and up to 90 days total in a consecutive 12 month period.
  • Camping is only allowed in certain areas. Reference the backcountry vehicle maps to see approved roads and/or look for road signs indicating camping is permitted.
  • Anyone camping within 1/4 mile of a water source (including Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and any hot or cold springs) must have a way to contain and pack out all human waste. Burying waste is not an acceptable method of disposal.
  • When fire restrictions are in place, campfires are only permitted along the shoreline and must be contained in a fire pit or grill. Learn about current fire conditions here.
  • When fire restrictions are not in place, there are still important protocols to follow in order to minimize wildfire risk and reduce environmental impacts. Learn more here.

Be sure to check out this post if you’re looking for more information about developed campgrounds in Lake Mead NRA.

Download Our FREE Dispersed Camping Cheat Sheet

Our free printable cheat sheet outlines how to find the perfect dispersed campsite for your next trip.

How to Find Dispersed Campsites in Nevada

Now that you have a good overview of where dispersed camping is permitted in Nevada, let’s talk about how to actually find a campsite.

The first step is always to reach out directly to either the appropriate National Forest district office, BLM headquarters, or National Park Service office to inquire about current conditions and recommended areas.

Nevada’s BLM lands are divided into six districts, each managed by a different office. Districts are shown on the map below. You can find contact information for each district office here.

Map of the six Nevada BLM districts.
Nevada BLM districts (Click to enlarge).

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is divided into ten ranger districts, which you can learn more about in this Visitor’s Guide. You can find contact information for each of the district offices here.

Map of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Ranger Districts.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Ranger Districts (Click to enlarge).

The best way to learn more about dispersed camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area is to contact the Park Information Desk at 702-293-8906. You can find more contact information here.

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

Looking to find more dispersed campsites? Check out The Dyrt PRO to get campsite reviews, offline maps, and the best map layers for finding public dispersed camping!

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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.

The Best Dispersed Camping Areas in Nevada

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

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

Mack’s Canyon

Restrooms: None
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

There are several great dispersed camping sites tucked along Mack’s Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, which is part of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. This area is perhaps best known for its prominent focal point, Mt. Charleston. It is less than an hour from Las Vegas, making it a great option for a weekend getaway or as a basecamp for exploring the region.

Mack’s Canyon offers a cool retreat in the warmer months, with plenty of shade to be had in the towering pine forests. There are many recreational opportunities nearby, including hiking trails and mountain biking. Neighboring Champion Road also offers another good option for dispersed camping.

The road in is a rugged four-mile dirt track that is best attempted with a 4WD vehicle. Although the area can get quite busy on summer weekends, there are many spots that can accommodate a large number of campers. An unfortunate downside of Mack Canyon’s popularity is the significant amount of trash that has been left there over the past few years. Bring an extra bag if you go and pack out as much as you can.

Lovell Canyon

Restrooms: None
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

This is another beautiful dispersed camping area in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. Campers can choose between plenty of good sites along Lovell Canyon Road or continue on to the primitive free campground. Even though it’s located just 45 minutes from Las Vegas, Lovell Canyon feels worlds away from the big city. Given its higher elevation, the environment is markedly different as well, and you can expect much cooler temperatures. There are plenty of great hiking trails in the area, and it also provides easy access to Red Rock Canyon Natural Conservation Area.

There are plenty of sites located just a (mostly paved) mile from Highway 160, making this a good option for larger rigs and low-clearance vehicles. This is a popular dispersed camping area, but sites are well spaced out and it’s possible to find some peace and privacy. Keep in mind that there are no services here, but supplies can be found in the nearby town of Pahrump.

Berry Creek Dispersed Campground

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Light
Map

Although not true dispersed camping, Berry Creek offers an excellent option for free primitive camping in the Ely Ranger District of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The campground is located just under an hour from Ely, and is close to lots of great hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities. Tucked back along the creek, it offers a peaceful and secluded experience. It also helps that the sites are large and well-spaced. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring, and there is a vault toilet available.

Given the rough road and multiple stream crossings required to access Berry Creek Campground, we don’t recommend attempting it with an RV or trailer. Berry Creek can run dry at certain times of year, so be sure to pack in all of the water you’ll need.

Water Canyon

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

Water Canyon is a convenient and picturesque area for dispersed camping. Managed by the BLM, the area has roughly ten well-spaced sites with fire rings, plus three vault toilets. Whites Creek flows through the canyon in the spring and summer months, and the area is lined with aspens and lush vegetation. There are great hiking, mountain biking, and ATV trails nearby, many of which climb to the top of the canyon and offer spectacular views of the region.

The Water Canyon dispersed camping area is just twenty minutes from the town of Winnemucca, where you can find shops, restaurants, and services. The road in is generally well-maintained and can accommodate RVs.

Mill Creek

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

This is another awesome free BLM camping area near the town of Battle Mountain in northern Nevada. There are roughly a dozen designated sites, each with a fire ring and picnic table. There are vault toilets on either end of the camping area. Originally a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp during the Great Depression, Mill Creek has a rich history. The landscape was transformed by a fire in 2017, so campers should expect open views instead of tall trees. There are plenty of great recreational opportunities to be found nearby, including a number of OHV, biking, and hiking trails.

Be advised that a times in the summer months (mainly July) the area can become overrun with crickets, making it hard to enjoy time out of your tent or camper. Other than that, Mill Creek is a beautiful site with wonderful stargazing at night. The gravel access road is well-maintained and sites can accommodate RVs.

Spencer Hot Springs

Restrooms: None
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

Spencer Hots Springs is a remote area in central Nevada’s Big Smoky Valley featuring natural and constructed thermal pools. Given that this is BLM land, free dispersed camping is permitted throughout the area as long as you’re at least 100 yards from all water sources. Spencer Hot Springs can be a nice place for dispersed camping as long you manage your expectations. It can get very crowded and a bit rowdy on weekends, but you can find a more peaceful experience if you go mid-week and/or in the off-season.

The roads in the area can be a rugged and washboard at times, although it is typically manageable for all vehicles. It is very important that campers set up 100 yards away from the hot springs and do their part in packing out all waste, including human waste. Consider bringing a portable toilet, as it is hard to bury waste in the desert. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out the incredible ancient Shoshone pictographs at Toquima Cave.

Stewart’s Point

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

Stewarts Point is located on a scenic outcropping that overlooks the Overton Arm section of Lake Mead. The large camping area has plenty of flat sites, including a handful with gorgeous lake views. There is a vault toilet near the entrance of the camping area. Although there isn’t much in the immediate vicinity, Stewarts Point is about a twenty minutes’ drive from the town of Overton and Valley of Fire State Park.

The road can be pretty rugged in places and is best attempted with a high-clearance vehicle (although not impossible with lower clearance). Keep in mind that while the camping at Stewart’s Point is free, you will need to pay a fee to enter Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Government Wash

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: 
None
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

Government Wash is another great dispersed camping area overlooking Lake Mead. It is located in the Las Vegas Bay area of Lake Mead NRA, which has tons of great hiking and fishing opportunities. It’s also just half an hour from the city of Las Vegas, making it a convenient basecamp for exploring the area.

Government Wash is huge, with room for hundreds of campers. It is extremely popular with RVs and van-lifers, so don’t expect to find solitude here. It can get very windy at times- be sure to secure all of your belongings before leaving your campsite!

There are vault toilets at the entrance of the camping area, as well as a few dumpsters throughout. The road is accessible for all vehicles, although it gets more rugged as you get closer to the lake. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay a fee to enter Lake Mead NRA if you want to camp at Government Wash.

Have a Great Trip!

Over half of all of Nevada’s lands are public, making it a fantastic place for dispersed camping. From lush canyons to open deserts, you can find a wide range of beautiful places to sleep out under the stars in the Silver State. We hope that with the help of this guide you’re well on your way to planning your next adventure. Happy camping and remember to Leave No Trace!

2 thoughts on “Dispersed Camping in Nevada: The Complete Guide”

  1. WOW, you two offer a great review of those options at lake mead. I’ll be going through there first time, boondocking in March, my primary goal is to take advantage of Quartzsite, when it starts up for the 7 months. Meanwhile, I was also interested in the Flagstaff area, do you have a interactive map? Thanks, Rik
    peridotengineeringnm@gmail.com

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