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Where Are You Allowed To Go Backpacking


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Pammi Salem



Backpacking is a thrilling adventure that allows you to explore the great outdoors and immerse yourself in nature. It provides an opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and truly connect with the wilderness. However, it is important to know where you are allowed to go backpacking to ensure you are following the rules and regulations of the land.


When it comes to backpacking, there are various types of public lands and private properties that offer opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. These include national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, state parks, state forests, and even some private lands that allow backpacking. Each of these places has its own set of rules and regulations that govern where and how you can hike and camp.


In this article, we will explore the different types of land where you are allowed to go backpacking, giving you a comprehensive understanding of the options available to you.


National Parks

National parks are some of the most well-known and popular destinations for backpacking. With their stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems, national parks offer a unique and immersive experience for outdoor enthusiasts. However, it is important to note that not all national parks allow overnight backpacking, and those that do often require permits or reservations.


Each national park has its own set of rules and regulations regarding backpacking. Some parks have designated backcountry campsites that require a reservation, while others operate on a first-come, first-served basis. It is essential to check the specific regulations of the national park you plan to visit and obtain any necessary permits ahead of time.


When backpacking in national parks, it is important to follow Leave No Trace principles. These principles serve to minimize human impact on the environment and ensure that future generations can also enjoy the natural beauty of these areas. This includes packing out all trash, avoiding disturbing wildlife, and staying on designated trails.


Some popular national parks for backpacking include Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park, and Zion National Park. These parks offer a range of backpacking routes, from shorter day hikes to multi-day excursions. Whether you are seeking sweeping mountain vistas, breathtaking waterfalls, or unique geological features, national parks provide stunning backdrops for your backpacking adventures.


In summary, national parks are incredible places to go backpacking, with their diverse landscapes and iconic locations. However, be sure to familiarize yourself with the specific rules and regulations of each park and obtain any necessary permits. Respect the environment and practice Leave No Trace principles to ensure that these natural wonders remain pristine for future generations.


National Forests

National forests are vast expanses of public land that offer abundant opportunities for backpacking. Unlike national parks, national forests generally have fewer restrictions and permit requirements, making them a popular choice for backpackers.


One of the main advantages of backpacking in national forests is the vastness of their landscapes and the ability to explore remote and less crowded areas. National forests often have an extensive network of trails that cater to backpackers of all experience levels.


In national forests, there are usually designated campsites for backpackers, but dispersed camping is also allowed in many areas. Dispersed camping refers to setting up camp in non-designated sites, allowing for a more secluded and immersive wilderness experience. However, it is important to follow the guidelines set by the forest service, such as camping a certain distance from water sources and not camping in sensitive areas.


Popular national forests for backpacking include the Grand Teton National Forest, the Pisgah National Forest, and the Olympic National Forest. These forests offer a wide range of ecosystems and stunning landscapes, including mountains, forests, and pristine lakes.


When backpacking in national forests, it is crucial to be aware of any fire restrictions in place. Some national forests prohibit campfires altogether, while others may only allow fires in designated areas or during certain times of the year. Always check for any fire restrictions and practice responsible fire safety measures to prevent wildfires.


In summary, national forests provide backpackers with more flexibility and fewer restrictions compared to national parks. They offer vast landscapes to explore, with a range of trails and camping options. Just ensure you familiarize yourself with the specific regulations of the national forest you plan to visit and practice responsible wilderness ethics.


Wilderness Areas

Wilderness areas are pristine and protected lands that are designated to preserve their natural state and offer a true wilderness experience for backpackers. These areas are often remote and undisturbed, providing an opportunity for backpackers to truly disconnect from civilization and immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.


One of the defining characteristics of wilderness areas is their minimal human impact. Unlike national parks and forests, wilderness areas have stricter regulations and restrictions to ensure the preservation of their ecosystems. Backpackers must adhere to certain guidelines to minimize their impact on the environment and maintain the wilderness experience for future visitors.


When backpacking in wilderness areas, it is important to be prepared and self-sufficient. These areas may have limited or no facilities, so backpackers must carry their own food, water, and camping gear. Additionally, there may be restrictions on group size and camping locations to prevent overcrowding and protect fragile ecosystems.


Wilderness areas offer unique and diverse landscapes, ranging from towering mountains and alpine meadows to rugged deserts and ancient forests. Some popular wilderness areas for backpacking include the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, and the John Muir Wilderness in California.


Permits are often required for backpacking in wilderness areas, and they are typically limited to a certain number of people per day or season. It is important to check with the managing agency of the wilderness area you plan to visit and apply for permits well in advance.


Lastly, when backpacking in wilderness areas, it is essential to follow Leave No Trace principles. These principles emphasize minimizing human impact, such as properly disposing of waste, camping in designated areas, and respecting wildlife. By practicing Leave No Trace, you contribute to the preservation of these pristine wilderness areas.


In summary, wilderness areas offer backpackers the chance to experience unspoiled nature and solitude. They come with stricter regulations and permit requirements, but they provide a unique opportunity to disconnect from civilization and connect with the wilderness. If you’re seeking a true backcountry adventure, exploring wilderness areas is an excellent choice.


Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages vast areas of public land throughout the United States, offering diverse opportunities for backpacking enthusiasts. BLM land is known for its wide-open spaces, stunning landscapes, and a more relaxed approach to outdoor recreation.


One of the unique aspects of backpacking on BLM land is the accessibility and freedom it provides. In many areas, backpackers have the freedom to explore and camp on BLM land without the need for permits or reservations. This makes it an attractive option for those who seek a more spontaneous and less structured backpacking experience.


BLM land offers a wide range of landscapes, including deserts, grasslands, forests, and canyons. Whether you want to hike through the colorful canyons of Utah, traverse the desert landscapes of Arizona, or wander through the expansive plains of Montana, BLM land has something for everyone.


When backpacking on BLM land, it is essential to practice responsible land use. This means leaving no trace of your visit, packing out all trash, and respecting wildlife and natural habitats. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of any specific regulations or restrictions in the particular area you plan to visit, as BLM land can vary in its management policies.


BLM land also offers opportunities for dispersed camping, which means setting up camp outside of designated areas. However, it is crucial to follow the rules and guidelines set by the BLM to ensure minimal impact on the environment and the preservation of these vast landscapes.


Popular BLM land destinations for backpackers include the California Desert Conservation Area, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada, and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.


In summary, BLM land provides backpackers with a sense of freedom and unrestricted access to vast and diverse landscapes. It allows for more spontaneous adventures and a chance to immerse oneself in the beauty of the great outdoors. By practicing responsible land use, backpackers can ensure the preservation of these unique public lands for future generations to enjoy.


State Parks

State parks are wonderful destinations for backpackers, offering a wide range of natural beauty, recreational activities, and well-maintained trails. These parks are managed at the state level and often provide a more intimate and accessible outdoor experience compared to national parks or forests.


State parks offer diverse landscapes and ecosystems, including mountains, forests, lakes, and coastal areas. Each state park has its own unique attractions and features, providing backpackers with a variety of options for their adventures.


One of the advantages of backpacking in state parks is the availability of amenities and facilities. Many state parks have designated camping areas with amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. This can be particularly appealing for backpackers who appreciate a comfortable camping experience or those who are just starting out and want to ease into backpacking gradually.


Some state parks require permits for overnight backpacking, especially for popular trails or during peak seasons. It is important to check with the specific state park you plan to visit to understand their regulations and obtain any necessary permits or reservations.


State parks often host a variety of recreational activities in addition to backpacking, such as fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing. This makes them a great choice for backpackers who want to combine different outdoor experiences during their trip.


Popular state parks for backpacking include the Adirondack State Park in New York, the Great Smoky Mountains State Park in Tennessee, and the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California. These parks boast stunning scenery, well-maintained trails, and a wealth of outdoor opportunities.


When backpacking in state parks, it is important to follow the park’s rules and regulations regarding camping, hiking, and wildlife encounters. Additionally, practicing Leave No Trace principles is crucial to preserve the natural beauty and integrity of these areas for future visitors.


In summary, state parks provide backpackers with accessible and diverse outdoor experiences. They offer well-maintained trails, camping amenities, and a variety of recreational activities. Whether you are a seasoned backpacker or new to the adventure, state parks are an excellent choice for your next backpacking trip.


State Forests

State forests are often overlooked gems for backpackers, offering secluded wilderness areas, well-marked trails, and a more rugged and adventurous experience. These forests are managed by state agencies and provide ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and connect with nature.


State forests offer a diverse range of landscapes, including woodlands, wetlands, and rolling hills. They are often less crowded than national parks or state parks, providing backpackers with a greater sense of solitude and tranquility.


One of the advantages of backpacking in state forests is the abundance of trails and the ability to explore off the beaten path. Many state forests have a network of well-maintained trails, enabling backpackers to venture deep into the wilderness and discover hidden gems.


State forests may have designated camping areas, but they also allow for dispersed camping in certain areas. This means campers can set up their tents and enjoy the solitude of the forest without the need for designated campsites. However, it is important to check for any specific regulations or restrictions in the state forest you plan to visit.


State forests are often managed for multiple uses, including recreational activities such as hiking, camping, and hunting. Before heading out on a backpacking trip, it is essential to familiarize yourself with any hunting seasons or closures in the state forest to ensure your safety.


Popular state forests for backpacking include the Shawnee State Forest in Ohio, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, and the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. These forests offer rugged trails, scenic vistas, and opportunities to observe an abundance of wildlife.


When backpacking in state forests, it is important to practice good land stewardship and adhere to Leave No Trace principles. This includes packing out all trash, camping responsibly, and being respectful of wildlife and the natural environment. By doing so, you contribute to the preservation and sustainability of these forests for future generations.


In summary, state forests offer backpackers the chance to immerse themselves in nature, explore lesser-known areas, and experience the beauty of the wilderness. With their abundance of trails and tranquil surroundings, state forests are a great choice for backpackers seeking a more rugged and adventurous outdoor experience.


Private Land

While public lands like national parks, national forests, and state parks offer plenty of options for backpacking, it’s important to remember that there are also opportunities to explore private lands. Private landowners may open up their properties for recreational activities, including backpacking, providing unique and exclusive experiences for outdoor enthusiasts.


Backpacking on private land offers a chance to venture off the beaten path and explore lesser-known areas. These lands may offer diverse landscapes, ranging from rolling hills and forests to scenic lakes and rivers. Backpackers can enjoy the beauty of nature away from larger crowds and experience a more intimate connection with the land.


To access private land for backpacking, it is crucial to obtain permission from the landowner beforehand. Some private landowners may have specific guidelines or requirements for visitors, such as signing liability waivers or paying a fee. Respecting the landowner’s rules and property boundaries is essential to ensure a positive relationship and continued access for future backpackers.


One of the benefits of backpacking on private land is the potential for unique amenities and accommodations. Some private properties offer well-maintained trails, rustic camping areas, or even backcountry lodges for backpackers to rest and recharge after a day of hiking. These amenities can enhance the overall backpacking experience and provide a comfortable and enjoyable adventure.


Private lands typically have their own set of regulations and guidelines for backpackers to follow. These may include restrictions on campfires, specific camping locations, or limiting the number of visitors at a time. It is important to respect these rules and practice responsible outdoor ethics to ensure the continued use and enjoyment of these private lands.


Backpacking on private land also provides an opportunity to support local landowners and communities. Some landowners operate backpacking outfitters or offer guided tours, providing additional services and generating economic benefits for the surrounding area. Supporting local businesses and landowners can help sustain these unique backpacking opportunities.


In summary, exploring private land for backpacking can offer access to exclusive and diverse landscapes. However, it is crucial to obtain permission from the landowner and adhere to their guidelines. Backpacking on private land provides a chance for a more personal and intimate wilderness experience, while also supporting local landowners and their communities.



Knowing where you are allowed to go backpacking is crucial to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable outdoor adventure. From national parks to state forests, wilderness areas to private lands, there are a variety of options available for backpackers to explore and connect with nature.


National parks offer iconic landscapes and well-maintained trails, but it’s important to check for permit requirements and follow specific regulations. National forests provide more flexibility and freedom to explore, with dispersed camping options and a variety of ecosystems to discover.


Wilderness areas offer a true backcountry experience, with minimal human impact and stricter regulations to protect the land. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land provides vast landscapes and accessibility, with opportunities for spontaneous backpacking adventures.


State parks offer a range of amenities and recreational activities, making them a great choice for backpackers seeking a comfortable camping experience. State forests provide rugged trails, solitude, and a chance to connect with nature on a more intimate level.


Lastly, private land offers unique and exclusive backpacking opportunities, often with special amenities and accommodations. However, it’s crucial to obtain permission from the landowner and respect their guidelines.


In conclusion, there is a wide array of options for backpackers to choose from when planning their outdoor adventures. Each type of land offers its own unique features and experiences. Regardless of the destination, it is important to be prepared, follow regulations, and practice Leave No Trace principles to ensure the preservation of these natural areas for future generations.


So go ahead, lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and embark on a journey through the breathtaking landscapes and incredible wilderness that awaits. Happy backpacking!