Dispersed Camping on Public Lands

Dispersed camping on public lands (aka Boondocking) is any camping, which is not in a designated campground or in a "Closed to Camping" area. Most of Nevada’s public lands are open to dispersed camping, unless otherwise noted. Typically, dispersed camping is allowed in a location for up to 14 days, subject to local restrictions. In the early 2020s,  Covid created a huge increase in "Boondocking" to the detriment of Western public lands. To mitigate damaged inflicted by irresponsible users, many places that were once open for Dispersed Camping have now been restricted by new regulations. To help assure dispersed camping will always be part of exploring Nevada’s public lands, basic Backcountry Ethics should be observed.

Backcountry Ethics
“The more popular backcountry use becomes, the more important backcountry ethics become.”

Drive only on designated routes.

Camp only in previously disturbed areas and on durable surfaces. This is particularly critical for Boondocking.

Do not build structures from wood (like shelters) or from stones (like fire rings). (See Campfire sidebar on the left.)

Camp and walk on durable surfaces. If hiking cross-country (not following a trail), it's important to hike on areas where your footsteps will have the least impact. Trampling of vegetation, fragile soil crusts, and animal burrows should be avoided. Walking in canyons with flowing water can have damaging effects on riparian habitats. Avoid walking in the water if possible. Other low impact areas include desert pavement and dry, gravelly washes. When hiking in large groups cross-country, disperse into smaller groups of 3 or 4 and do not walk single file as this creates trails that can last for years.


Backpacking is a great way to immerse yourself into the truly wild and roadless areas of Nevada’s public lands. When choosing a campsite, avoid areas with organic ground cover. Instead, choose areas on rock, sand or gravel. Cooking areas should be located away from sleeping areas. This "spreading out" will reduce impact in a concentrated area. Disperse large groups to reduce impacts. Avoid camping near water sources, as it will disturb the wildlife that depend on these precious waters.

Human waste disposal. To prevent pollution of water or spread of disease, you must dispose of solid waste properly. Dig a "cat-hole" with a small trowel 4-6 inches deep and at least 200 yards from any water source or campsite. After use, the cat-hole should be covered with soil and disguised with natural material. (Learn more in the Doing Your Business sidebar on the left)