The BEST Las Vegas Free Dispersed Camping

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Many people associate Las Vegas with bright lights, busy casinos, and crowds of tourists, but that’s only part of the story. Head just beyond the city limits and you’ll find a fantastic outdoor playground. And with over half of Nevada dedicated to public lands, opportunities for free dispersed camping are abundant. From dramatic canyons to peaceful deserts to lakefront vistas, the Las Vegas area is the perfect place for your next dispersed camping adventure.

In this guide, we’ll cover all of the essential information needed to plan a Las Vegas dispersed camping trip and we’ll share our favorite spots near Sin City. Let’s get started.

Paved road heading towards the horizon with red rocks and desert landscape on either side.

The Basics

This section provides an overview of all of the need-to-know information for dispersed camping near Las Vegas. Be sure to read up so you know the rules and regulations, what to pack to be prepared, and more.

When to Dispersed Camp Near Las Vegas

Las Vegas summers can be brutally hot, but it’s possible to camp year round in the region. In warmer months, places like Mt. Charleston and Mack’s Canyon provide a cool escape. During the winter, head to the desert for beautiful camping weather. It’s important to come prepared for a variety of weather elements, as temperatures drop significantly at nighttime and rain and wind events can be very powerful.

What to Bring

You shouldn’t expect any amenities when dispersed camping near Las Vegas so you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient.

While we’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs,  below are some of our favorite items specifically for Las Vegas dispersed camping:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – None of the camping areas included in this guide have a reliable water source. As such, a portable water container is essential.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Map – We prefer downloadable GPS maps via the Gaia GPS app. You can get 20% off your annual membership here.
  • Portable Toilet and Privacy Tent – Camping in the desert provides wide open views, but not much privacy for doing your business. This set-up is convenient and helps you minimize your impacts on the environment.
Dispersed Camping Checklist

Our dispersed camping checklist has everything you need.

Want to know the essentials for your next camping trip?

Our dispersed camping checklist has all the camping essentials plus specific items for dispersed camping.

Rules, Fees & Campfires

Those looking for dispersed camping near Las Vegas will find tons of great options. The majority of dispersed camping opportunities can be found on BLM lands, in Humboldt -Toiyabe National Forest, or in Lake Mead National Recreation Area (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 near Las Vegas 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. You can find contact information for the Southern Nevada District Office here.

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

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. Most of the dispersed camping near Las Vegas is located with the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. 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.

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

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Another great option for dispersed camping near Las Vegas 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.

Map of Lake Mead NRA
Lake Mead NRA. (Click to enlarge).

Leave No Trace Dispersed Camping

One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping in the Las Vegas region is to follow Leave No Trace principles. The wilderness here is fragile and it is our responsibility to minimize our impact and keep the forest open to future campers.

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 here

The Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Las Vegas

Now that you have a general overview of what dispersed camping near Las Vegas is all about, we’ve gathered a list of the top dispersed campsites in the area.

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

If you’re looking for more awesome camping opportunities in the greater Las Vegas area, be sure to check out the following:

Find Your Next Dispersed Campsite

Learn how to find the best campsite locations BEFORE you head out. No more showing up to crowded sites with all the good spots taken!

Easily identify camping areas
Find free camping on public land
Use offline apps to locate sites
Learn through video tutorials

Mack’s Canyon

Restrooms: None
Distance to Las Vegas: 50 miles

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 about 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. If Mack’s Canyon is full, neighboring Champion Road 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
Distance to Las Vegas: 35 miles

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 mile (mostly paved) 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.

Government Wash

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Distance to Las Vegas: 25 miles

Government Wash is a 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.

Kingman Wash

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Distance to Las Vegas: 40 miles

Kingman Wash is a scenic dispersed camping area on the shores of Lake Mead. Campers can enjoy easy access to swimming, kayaking, SUPing from this waterfront location. There are also good hiking trails in the area, including to the summit of Fortification Hill. Although it can get pretty crowded at Kingman Wash, there’s typically space for everyone in this large area.

It takes just under an hour to reach Kingman Wash from Las Vegas, and the final stretch of road can be sandy and rugged. A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended, although not always necessary. Take the weather elements seriously here, as the wind can be ferocious and it gets extremely muddy after it rains. It is free to camp at Kingman Wash, but you’ll need to pay a fee to enter Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Boxcar Cove

Restrooms: Vault toilet
Distance to Las Vegas: 30 miles

Boxcar Cove is another popular dispersed camping location in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It is situated on the northern shore of Las Vegas Bay, providing good access to plenty of great hiking and fishing spots. In addition to being just 45 minutes from Las Vegas, you’ll also be less than an hour from Valley of Fire State Park.

Boxcar Cove is a large open area with plenty of level sites to set up camp. There is a vault toilet nearby, but make sure you bring your own TP. As the water levels in Lake Mead continue to decrease, the shoreline has become extremely muddy. Do not attempt to drive your vehicle too close to the water, as it’s likely that you’ll get stuck. The road can be pretty rugged in places, and is best attempted with 4WD. As with all of the popular sites on Lake Mead, there can be a lot of other campers and quite a bit of trash. Do your part to pack out as much as you can.

Jean/Roach Dry Lake Beds

Restrooms: None
Distance to Las Vegas: 30 miles

If you’re looking for a tranquil nature experience, this is definitely not the dispersed camping area for you. However, Jean and Roach dry lake beds are perfect if you are into off-roading, shooting, or other rowdy endeavors. This wide open section of BLM desert is just half an hour from Las Vegas, but it certainly feels like the middle of nowhere.

You can stay on paved roads for most of the approach to the camping area, after which you’ll be on dirt roads or off-road. Nails and broken glass are abundant, so use caution and have a plan in place in the event of a flat tire. There is heavy truck traffic during the daytime hours, so many prefer to camp further from the road. Be sure to check out the dramatic Seven Magic Mountains art installation nearby.

Wheeler Pass Road

Restrooms: None
Distance to Las Vegas: 65 miles

There are tons of beautiful places for dispersed camping all along Wheeler Pass Road, starting just half a mile from the town of Pahrump. This area has great views and is close to Mt. Charleston. Lower down, you’ll find larger spots suitable for big rigs and then you’ll see plenty of small and medium sites as you climb higher towards the pass. Wheeler Pass Campground (really just a spacious pull out area) is another nice option about 10 miles up the road.

Wheeler Pass Road is fairly well-maintained, although it can be washboarded in some places. This dispersed camping area is managed by the BLM, so there is a 14-night limit for all campers. Although there are no amenities along Wheeler Pass Road, you can find plenty of services in Pahrump.

Have a Great Trip!

You don’t have to travel far from Las Vegas to find amazing dispersed camping areas. From mountain passes to open deserts, there’s no shortage of wild places to explore. 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!

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