Is our campsite illegal?

“New rules announced for the use of motorized vehicles in the forest.”

That’s the statement written on the website for the Coconino National Forest.  Ken, a fellow camper here at Willard Springs, Arizona, dispersed camping area, alerts me to the new rules that went into effect May 1st.

“You know, you’re supposed to camp within 300 feet of the road.”

The road at Willard Springs

“What?” I respond with surprise.

(I’m definitely farther out than 300 feet.)

“I’m in an established campsite.  There’s a fire ring here and a flattened area.”

“Doesn’t matter, ” Ken continues.

“New rules.  Gail looked it up on the internet.  There’s a map which shows what kind of vehicles can go on different forest roads, and what side of the road you can camp on. It says you gotta be within 300 feet of the road.”

“How are people supposed to know?  What if they’re just passing through?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Ken says again, with finality.  “You’re supposed to find it on the internet or get one of their maps.”  Ken sees this as just another way people are hassled.

Of course, as soon as Ken leaves, I get online. 

I find an article dated April 30, 2012, at

“Restrictions on where drivers can and cannot legally travel on the Coconino National Forest begin tomorrow, as part of a national directive to limit off-road driving.

Driving across the forest at large will become illegal, and the forest will  be closing a little more than half of its roads – mainly lesser-used routes  heading to similar destinations . . . .  Car camping is allowed within 30 feet of roads in most of the forest, and within 300 feet in designated areas along another 300 miles of roads.

Paper maps of the new rules are available for free at Coconino National  Forest offices.”

I’m a bit confused by this.

I don’t think I’m “car camping.”  Or is this a term used to differentiate it from “tent camping?”  I’m going to have to do more research.  I’ve mulled this over and searched the National Forest website.  At this point I’ve decided to stay in this campsite.  If a ranger pays me a visit, I’ll beg to be grandfathered in.

One of a few campsites within 300 ft. of the road.

Of course, I have to leave by next Tuesday, May 8th, anyway. 

That will be the end of the fourteen days permitted for a camp in the National Forest.  Geesh.  The simple life isn’t always so simple.



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
This entry was posted in Simple living and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

105 Responses to Is our campsite illegal?

  1. LilNomad & Sasha says:

    “Down with the man!!”

  2. 101butterbean says:


      • 101butterbean says:

        Snopes supports everything Obama says and denies anything anti-Obama!!!
        Let’s let the argument rest as it is a he said she said, okay!! I’m sick of it!!

        • Sra. Julia says:

          Just call your local medical center/ hospital and talk to them. I called Tucson Medical Ctr. and they knew all about this bogus message on the web and get several calls a week about it. They say it all made up there is no such program.

          • hobopals says:

            People hurt their positions with false statements. Emails go viral without being verified. I’m not a fan of President Obama by any means, but facts are facts and I don’t make up my own. It’s not necessary, and only waters down your position, Butterbean. Thank you thatcase.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Is this THE Butterbean? I’ve missed you!

    • 101butterbean says:

      Howdy rvsue,
      Yes this is the butterbean and you can ‘block’ me if you want, but I am sick of the way we are losing everything that belongs to the people of America!! When we can’t get medically treated because we’re over 75 years old, I’m 76, then it’s all over.. Enjoy camping while you can.. My days are over!!

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Hi, Butterbean!

        I’m not going to ‘block’ you . . . unless you get REALLY, REALLY, REALLY rowdy. This is a topic that gets your dander up . .. We all have those topics!

  3. Jim Melvin says:

    Hi Sue,
    I would just stay put until a ranger approaches you and tells you that you are parked illegally. Chances are nobody will even say anything at all. Hope you don’t have to move.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Jim,

      That’s what I figure. A ranger drove down the road yesterday but he didn’t stop. If I’m told to move, of course, I will.

  4. Marica says:

    What sort of crazy new rule is that? Just so they can keep better tabs on who’s camping in dispersed areas? Stinks, if you ask me.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Reading the history of these new rules, a lot of it was initiated because of the damage being done by irresponsible OHV (off-highway vehicle) riders. Then, of course, everybody who drives a motorized vehicle is lumped together. I see the damage and I understand the need to control it somehow. Instead of going around a curve in a road, they grind across fresh ground in a shortcut, tearing up little oak trees, smashing flowers, making ruts for erosion . . . So everybody pays the price.

      • Marica says:

        Yes, sadly, a lot of OHV riders are irresponsible. The damage and the noise are aggravating. There are some who seem to delight in ripping up the earth, thereby giving them all a bad name.

  5. cathieok says:

    Have you seen a ranger since you’ve been there? I bet he/she would be a little confused by what was written. I can understand limiting the off road vehicles running around and tearing up the pastures, forests, erc.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I haven’t seen a ranger. Ken saw one drive past on the road. I think better public education is needed. People passing through (something I do and will do often) cannot be expected to find the NF office on a weekday and get a map before finding a place to camp for the night. Put up signs or something.

      • hobopals says:

        It may be a rule/law they’ve put in place that allows them the right to refuse use of land to those who are abusing it–sort of like a search warrant. With a rule in place, they have a law/rule behind them to ask anyone who is abusing the land to leave. That would be my guess.

  6. I would stay put. I bet no one comes along and if they do, how are you supposed to have known the new rules? Dang, rules, boundaries,and such……making life harder to enjoy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      If everyone would respect our forests, and I mean everyone, including boondockers and campers, would not leave trash, human waste, dog waste, garbage, chopped trees, and ruts across meadows, maybe we wouldn’t be saddled with so many restrictions. It is a shame.

      • Yup.. pack it in, pack it out! Where we were camping last weekend, an ATV came flying through, ripping through the campground and out again. When we were walking later there was a soda bottle and a can of beer laying in the road. Weren’t there during our morning walk. Of course we picked them up and hauled them home with us in our own garbage. sigh.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          It’s getting so responsible campers have a new slogan . . . “Pack it in, and pack it out, plus all the trash left by others before you.”

          • Sharpei Mom says:

            Our ATV group has riden together since 2000 and adopted that slogan then. Not all of us atv riders are squid’s!!! You will find that the majority of the damage from atv are the smaller sport quads riden by the younger dunner crowd.
            Most of us “old farts” have more respect (not saying all do)…always one bad apple.
            If I remember correctly…forestry will not be going from camp to camp but will be out in force at the major areas handing out info on the new rules, closer to Memorial day.

      • Chuck says:

        A M E N , Sue

  7. earthdancerimages says:

    I favor the stay put vote! The words ARE confusing and I doubt even the rangers understand them! I imagine a few of your neighbors have already gone over the 14 day limit, but over the 300 ft. one, too!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      The man who has an outstanding fine of $275 for staying too long somewhere else, left here this morning. I’m going to be sure to leave after 14 days, too.

      • Chuck says:

        What kind of ‘notice’ have you got since you got there? Are you sure ‘they’ know what day you arrived ?

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I dunno nuttin.

          • Sharpei Mom says:

            Unless they have spoke to you they don’t really know,most rangers do not have a problem staying a bit over the 14 days AS long as you DO NOT look like you are squatting. There are areas that they do patrole more because of this problem.

    • hobopals says:

      It may be a cost thing. If everyone camping is in view of the road, the rangers have less territory to cover; therefore fewer rangers needed, less gas needed, etc. I don’t know how they will enforce the 300 ft. law, but making a few examples out of one or two in an area will probably clear out quite a few of the others. First, you’d have to know if there is a stiff fine or jail attached to breaking the law/rule.

      • Chuck says:

        Easier to enforce, yes but I think they may be looking for drug smugglers/illegals after last years huge fires. JMHO…..

  8. klbexplores says:

    Interesting, the solution of only parking 300 ft from roads really doesn’t address the ORV tearing up the landscape or littering. Sounds like the rules were set so that they are enforceable rather than eliminate the problem. Desiring the simple life certain gets complicated!!! I can certainly see that a person might feel like they just hung out the “You are not welcome sign” It’s a sad state of affairs.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You make good points. Maybe “they” (NF service) feel they can’t distinguish between roads made by campers on their way to their campsite and OHVers on the way to h#*l and back. It’s a problem and a “sad state” any way you look at it.

  9. Gary says:

    I believe there is more to it than stopping damage to the forest. I think it is the federal government and the forest service personnel in the Flagstaff region in this case but some others also, being illogical while advancing a pet agenda of closing the forests to motorized vehicles, or RVs.,

    Anyway, here is a link to a thread in a forum on the Escapees’ site from last August concerning this change in the rules etc..

    My advice is to get within 300 feet of a designated dispersed camping road or out of the forest.


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Well, Gary. .. I went to the forum and read as much as I could stand. That’s pretty scary. Now you’ve got me thinking I need to break camp and move, first thing in the morning.

      Thanks for alerting me and for the link.

      • Sra. Julia says:

        EZ does it .. there is more to the story than just the article in the Flagstaff paper. Seems these campers had made themselves more than a camp they were living there and that is against the rules. They pled guilty and the fine was reduced. Seems their campsite was a mess and a conglomeration of junk. This was a judgement call by the Rangers and the way it was handled was IMHO poor. How future alledged infraction will be handled by that district is unknown. Usually after bad publicity the powers that be put in place stricter procedures for their people to follow to keep the unpleasantness level down. I find that during the season most of the Rangers are summer help and aren’t that well versed in handling the public. Those that have had Law Enforcement Training can be a little better. YMMV

        • hobopals says:

          I came across “squatters” in a national forest in NM. It isn’t a pretty sight, and in my opinion they were causing permanent damage to the land. Nails in trees, beer bottles, cigarette butts (fire danger). It is a shame that a few make it difficult for the many who respect the land and follow the law. People are people whether they are camping or not. Some are slobs, some are not. I’ve paid for state campgrounds where I had to spend an hour upon arrival cleaning up the site. I don’t imagine they live any differently when they return to their neighborhoods.

  10. Llanos says:

    I’m like the others Sue. I would feign ignorance. I would do so politely. I can not recall that you were given a camping permit. If not, how would the Rangers know for certain how long you have been camping? As long as there is room, why in the world does it matter how long you camp in one place?

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Read online of the current threat some are making to start forest fires…wonder if the 300 ft. rule is influenced by this? But as others have said…rules are being made in most every part of life. For whatever reasons. And it does not bode well for any of us. If only those who break rules could understandwhat they are doing to us all, themselves included. Thanks for sharing this. All things must be considered for future decisions.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Elizabeth,

      Sometimes I’ll stray from my usual “and the crew did this and that and I washed dishes” type entries because these issues are important to hear about and discuss. You’re right. . . “all things must be considered” . . .

  12. Sra. Julia says:

    It is not only Coconino National Forest, but all National Forests and the new rules are going to confuse and anger people.. I was up in South Dakota last summer and the N.F. there had already implemented their plan on motorized vehicles. I got the map and some clever person had made sure that the places one was allowed to camp were not accessible to RVs. I did find a spot a lovely spot but it was to close to the road and traffic. Later moved to another spot that was more off the roadway. The maps were very confusing and the roads are not well marked.
    I am not sure why the Forrest Service is being so restrictive to RV’rs, there is no public explanation provided that I could find.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I appreciate you weighing in on this topic, Julia. Apparently it is not only this NF district.

      I agree, the maps are very confusing. I opened the PDF file on the NF site for Coconino and you’d have to be acutely familiar with the area to find the road you’re on. And what about all these beautiful, established campsites that are more than 300 ft. from the road . . . like the one I’m in now. I’ve heard this camping area gets crowded in the summer. These new rules eliminate most — and that’s a big most — of the campsites here at Willard Springs.

      I’m nervous about it because there are no signs or markers to help a person abide by the new rules, and, like you said, the maps are nearly impossible to figure out.

  13. Sherry says:

    Oh dear, this sounds like a real mess. Perhaps started as you said Sue by a desire to control the truly inconsiderate. And I’m all for that. I don’t think ATVs etc should be allowed to desecrate the landscape. But how to control that without eliminating harmless use of our forests. If corporations and businesses including ranching can use public lands then people who do no damange certainly should be able to as well. I’ll be glued to the screen waiting to see the next episode..

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ll try to follow the rules and hope I’m treated right. Can’t do any better than that, right, Sherry? Tomorrow I’ll move out of this campsite.

      • Chuck says:

        Probably a good,safe move until you can get an accurate reading on these new ‘rules’. Might want to come back to NM STATE Parks…nice ones up north and some inexpensive campgrounds private pretty inexpensive!…..,Food for thought, kiddo

        • Pat says:

          Maybe that is what they want. No free camping, more money for the government.

          • Chuck says:

            more gov’t control……could be good after the fire in AZ started by drug smuggler/illegals….could be bad, ….why does Homeland Security need 16,000,000 .40 cal ammo??????

      • geogypsy2u says:

        So where to next?

  14. Pat says:

    I cannot believe the feds are making it harder for people who play by the rules to enjoy public land.

    • Chuck says:

      I can, the United Communist State of Mexifornio has been pulling stuff like this for years.Wanna keep campers out, bulldoze the road closed. EPA is the one behind these laws being passed and enforced in NF. Ranchers being driven off BLM leasing they’ve had for years and generations.
      Do you know the differance between a developer and a Sierra Club member????? A developer wants to build a home in the forest……the Sierra Club member already has one….

      • Bill & Kathy says:

        Chuck- One correction… they don’t bulldoze the road closed…they put up a locked gate with a sign saying ‘MEMBERS ONLY’ ! Cheers br

  15. Ed Smith says:

    Sue, I thought that the 14 day stay was at a single campsite, are you saying it’s for the whole forest?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I thought the same thing as you Ed. I read somewhere (NF site?) and heard from two other campers that it’s the whole forest. The campers rotate from Prescott NF to Coconino NF to Kaibab NF and back again. Yes, it’s trickier than the old “which cup has the pea under it” game.

      Rusty (Three Feathers, the mountain man) told me that Utah is more lax. He’s gone up there and after 14 days, if he crossed the road to another site, the rangers were fine with it. Of course, that may all be changed now.

  16. geogypsy2u says:

    Not that I’d want to be within 300 feet of a road, but I can understand why. This will certainly reduce some impact on the forest but also maybe keep a careless (not you) camper from starting the forest on fire far from the road.

    Have you seen a Forest Ranger? Remember that’s 13 days from when they find you.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ve driven away from my campsite a few times. A ranger could have come by then. They do drive through the area. A ranger could take a digital, dated photo of each rig as they drive by. I can’t risk it when $275 fines are being handed out!

  17. Chinle says:

    Sue, come on up to Utah. I’ve been camping here all my life and the only BLM ranger I ever had come and talk to me was trying to be sure I was OK (it was winter and I was holed up in my Casita, waiting for dog meds to arrive in the mail). There aren’t enough rangers here to enforce much of anything, which is good and bad. There’s so much cool backcountry that you could camp all year in the same spot and not be noticed, as long as it wasn’t a real obvious place.

    ATVers and dirt bikers are ruining a lot of places here in Utah, too. I get really put out with them, especially around Moab, where I’ve sen the landscape decimated in places. And of course, then come the rules. But not all of them are irresponsible. I used to have a Honda 250 dirt bike, a quiet four-stroke, but I rode it only on old roads. It was a lot of fun, but I kept wrecking it, so I sold it. I met a number of good people who also rode and weren’t destructive. And plenty who were…

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I think I read somewhere that there are approx. 52 million off-road vehicles in this country. Even if less than 1% are destructive, that’s a lot of ripped up land. As usual, it’s the minority that causes rules affecting everyone.

      I’m crossing my fingers hoping my packages arrive in the mail by Monday when I have to leave the area.

      • Chinle says:

        That’s the one thing I don’t like about RVing – when you find a really cool spot, and something comes and messes it up – usually other people, but in this case, rules and regs. 🙂


  18. The Forest Service has been working on these changes for a few years and it is done on a Forest by Forest basis. The Forests that are close to a major population center are more restrictive than remote ones. Also, few forests are as physically open as those in Arizona. In the Sierras, most places you can barely WALK 300 feet off the road much less drive 300 feet off the road. Plus with the huge population center in the heat of Phoenix means Arizona will be one of the most restricted and enforced in the country. There is an easy solution to that, in another month you leave and go up into Utah or Colorado where you will probably never see a Ranger.

    I assume car camping means using a vehicle as opposed to walking in. In other words, you leave your car close to the road and then walk in further beyond the 300 feet and set up your tent camp. It doesn’t matter which vehicle you are in.

    In the last 4 years I have been full-timing on public land, and I’ve seen so much damage done by the 4X4 rigs going ever deeper into the forest and desert, I am in favor of the changes. I certainly don’t think it is an infringement of our rights or freedoms. The job of the Forest Service is to maintain the health and usefullness of the Forests for future generations–A job they have done extremely well!

    If that means putting restrictions on a very few for the good of the very many, I’m okay with that. After all it is PUBLIC land, the needs of each user group has to restricted for the greater needs of the whole. As an RVer I want to be able to disperse camp. As a hiker I want to be able to walk without 4x4s zooming by everywhere. If I had an ATV I want a place set aside I can go ride. On and on it goes, every user group wants the whole forest and they SIMPLY CAN’T HAVE IT!

    If everyone is mad, that means they are doing there job well. Bob

    • Chinle says:

      Bob, you say wait another month to come up to Utah and Colorado – yes, for Colorado, no for Utah, unless you want to be in the high country. The desert is already heating up. And I will add that Colorado is starting to get more restrictive, depending on where you are, anyway. I, too, have heard that about Artizona being very restricitve, more so than many places out West. For fewest retrictions, try Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.

  19. Bill & Kathy says:

    Sue- Not to change the subject because your ‘bloggers’ are putting alot of good info out there, but this morning I could not access your blog by rvsueandcrew& I had to go to WordPress and when I do that I have to start with a blog you posted 2/26/12. Then I have to scroll down and enter your latest blog. No big deal but is it just me? Whenever… (ps-I second Chuck’s suggestion about NM Parks in Northern NM…how I wish I was there at our place now!!!) Cheers BR

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Bill . . . The easy way to get to my blog is to type the word rvsue either in the search box (Google, Bing, whatever) or the URL address line. You don’t type as that has nothing to do with my blog.

      Once you’ve typed rvsue, my blog will pop up at several places at the top of a list. Click on one to get to my blog. Once you’ve navigated your way to the present day, add my blog to your Favorites list. Then all you have to do from then on is click on my name in the Favorites list.

      I realize you probably know all this. I’m spelling it out for anyone who’s accessing my blog in a roundabout way . .. and I can tell from my admin. page that some readers are. So thanks for bringing it up.

      So remember . .. just type rvsue and click! Or if you like to do things perfectly, my blog address is . . . drumroll . . .

      • Bill & Kathy says:

        Suzy Q- Thank-you (x3) for the tech support. When I clicked ‘search history’ on Bing, it came up the whole thing. I never manually typed that in each time I logged in (I mean your special, important, ah, and all that but I need a little break here!) (shhhhh-stay cute) br

  20. Teri says:

    Hi Sue!!! Hope you have a fabulous weekend wherever you are!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thank you, Teri! What a breath of fresh air you are today. You have a fab weekend, too!

      • Teri says:

        I think I will…tonight my friend with the rat terrier is coming over. So that in itself is a super happy thing for me. I am an honorary aunt to all of my friend’s animals. (last night I got to see two German Shepherds that were adopted from the group I volunteer with) And since I am not a big crowd person, tomorrow I may have my own Cinco de Mayo celebration….perhaps chicken enchiladas and margaritas. I enjoy being at home. Hugs to Bridget and Spike. 🙂

  21. Gary says:

    Sue is not within the 300′ max distance of an approved dispersed camping road.

    Sue is also a full timer living in her RV which can be determined as her residing in a NF which is not allowed.

    Pretending to be ignorant of the regs/rules or actually being uninformed, is not an excuse, pretending is lying and usually a ranger will pick up on most lies quite quickly and not appreciate the dishonesty..

    These changes are/were done by the executive branch, not congress. IMO the changes are based in politics and are nothing more than payback to certain groups for voting correctly in the last election. And I’ve found that in general the local Flagstaff area is not all that RV friendly.


    • Chuck says:

      In total agreement with you, Gary. This will be enforced more in AZ as AZ NOT cooperating with the influx of illegals.

      • Gary says:

        Over the last 6.5 years we have boondocked a lot and I’ve never seen anyone in an RV looking anything like an illegal. From our experience, Flagstaff is the only area in AZ that is not RV friendly. Well there is that small anti RV segment in Quartzsite too.

        We should note that as yet, and they have had 3.5+ years, there haven’t been any RV/camping changes in BLM regs/rules; only in the national forests that certain back packing tenting type environmentalists’ call home.


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I like to think I’m enjoying a vacation trip to this National Forest. If I were living here, I’d be down at the Garden Center picking up plants for my garden!

  22. earthdancerimages says:

    Hey Sue, the weather up here in Zion is wonderful, sunny, breezy (not windy), cool just amazing! Our RV park is 90% full this wwekend with huge sunblocking, diesel pushing, million dollar babies! We are certainly the poor kids on the block! 😦 Chuck and I will go today and check out a few of the public lands roads and see if we can find something that you might like… and maybe Chinle too!

  23. Virginia says:

    Virginia says:

    Put more restrictions on dirt bikes and ATVs. If people like the noise that these things make and the speed which they travel at, go to a designated race track in town. Makes the laws more specific to target the real problem and leave the quiet campers alone who just want some peace and quiet in natural surroundings so they can hike, bike, fish and swim.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I understand your frustration and annoyance. One thing I’ve noticed — I may be wrong about this — the ATVers aren’t paying any attention to nature. Their eyes are straight ahead, looking for the next bump, gully, whatever, or they’re looking at each other. So I’m assuming the beauty of nature isn’t necessary for them to enjoy their rides. Places where they can kick up mud and bounce around with abandon would be good for them.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Chinle’s blog post (May 3) shows photos of a place in UT called Factory Butte which is specifically set aside for OHVs.

      • hobopals says:

        I think one thing some are forgetting is that there’s a percentage of all people in every recreational/living segment that are guilty of ruining the land. There’s been an ongoing issue with snow mobiles up around Yellowstone. Campers who make careless fires have been responsible for many forest fires. Trash and littering is common among campers, people who don’t pick up after their dogs, and people who don’t dispose of their waste, properly all damage the land and water. There are only so many rangers/police to go around, and unfortunately because of a few inconsiderate people, the laws/rules paint with broad brushes. JMO

  24. Barbara says:

    Hi Sue, I was reading a blog last night that was most interesting. The article under arizona boondocking regulation and gray water might interest you.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, Barbara. I’ll look it up.

      • 101butterbean says:

        Howdy rvsue, What did you find at Mello Mike’s site?? I didn’t find anything except generator talk!!

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I didn’t find what Barbara referred to. I clicked on the headings at the top. He talks about boondocking some.

          • 101butterbean says:

            Howdy, I dug a little deeper, under older blogs and found it about 3-5 days earlier…It’s about like Bob Difley’s on the same subject… Bob is another guru of ‘Boondocking’… He writes books too, also!!! I wish he’d comment on this!!!

  25. Lacy says:

    Hey Sue – I know you keep up w/ ‘the outside’ world but JUST IN CASE you haven’t heard, there’s gonna be a BEAUTIFUL full SUPERmoon (what they’re calling it) tomorrow night. When I heard about it, I first thought of you and what a glorious sight it’ll be from where you are. ENJOY!


  26. Pleinguy says:

    Don’t know if you’re still reading comments this far down, but… Whatever you do, DO NOT tell them you are living full-time in your rig. To them that means you are a squatter, so they can ticket you or even arrest you. Just say you are passing through; which is actually true. Remember that ignorance of the law will not help with a ranger intent on enforcing the rules. Take care!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, Pleinguy! It’s nice of you to voice your concern and to share this advice. I didn’t realize fulltiming is sometimes considered a bad thing . . . shows how naive I am!

Comments are closed.