Free camping in Arizona
and rules on long term camping

First, here's the official word on FREE CAMPING on Arizona's public lands. The state calls this "Dispersed Recreation Camping." Winter visitors in RVs (often referred to as "Snowbirds") call it "Boondocking."

From the Bureau of Land Management:

Camping on public lands away from developed recreation facilities is referred to as "dispersed camping." Most of the public lands in Arizona are open to dispersed camping, as long as such use does not conflict with other authorized uses or occurs in areas posted "closed to camping," or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources.

Dispersed camping is allowed on Public Lands in Arizona for no more than a period of 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days. The 28-day period begins when a camper initially occupies a specific location on public lands. The 14 day limit may be reached either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28 day period. After the 14th day of occupation, the camper must move outside of a 25 mile radius of the previous location until the 29th day since the initial occupation. The purpose of this special rule is to prevent damage to sensitive resources caused by continual use of any particular areas. In addition, campers must not leave any personal property unattended for more than 10 days.


Pay $40 a week or $180 for an entire seven-month season

The program, which was instituted in 1983, established designated LTVAs and identified an annual long-term use season from September 15 to April 15. During the long-term season, visitors who wish to camp on public lands in one location for extended periods must stay in the designated LTVAs and purchase an LTVA permit.

The purpose of the LTVA program is to provide areas for long-term winter camping use. The sites designated as LTVAs are, in most cases, the traditional use area of long-term visitors. Designated sites were selected using criteria developed during the land management planning process, and environmental assessment were completed for each site location.

The program was established to safely and properly accommodate the increasing demand for long-term winter visitation and to provide natural resource protection through improved management of this use. The designation of LTVAs assures that specific locations are available for long-term use year after year, and that inappropriate areas are not used for extended periods.

Visitors may camp without an LTVA permit outside of LTVAs, on public lands not otherwise posted or closed to camping, for up to 14 days in any 28-day period.

The following supplemental rules apply year-long to all public land users who enter the LTVAs.

A permit is required to camp in a designated LTVA between September 15 and April 15. The permit authorizes the permittee to camp within any designated LTVA using those camping or dwelling unit(s) indicated on the permit between the period from September 15 to April 15. There are two types of permits: Long-term and short-visit. The long-term permit fee is $180 U.S. funds only, for the entire season and any part of the season. The short-term permit is $40 for fourteen consecutive days. The short-visit permit may be renewed an unlimited number of times for the cost of $40 for fourteen consecutive days. No refunds are made on permit fees.

To be valid, the short-visit permit or long-term permit decal must be affixed at the time of purchase, with the adhesive backing, to the bottom right-hand corner of the windshield of all transportation vehicles and in a clearly visible location on all camping units. A maximum of two secondary vehicles is permitted. The permit may not be reassigned or transferred by the permittee.

Camping units or campsites must not be left unoccupied within any LTVA for periods of greater than 5 days unless approved in advance by an authorized BLM officer. A minimum of 15 feet of space must be maintained between dwelling units.

Campers, trailers, and other dwelling units must remain mobile. Wheels must remain on all wheeled vehicles. Pickup campers may be set on jacks manufactured for that purpose.

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in accordance with applicable state time zone standards. Operation of audio devices or motorized equipment, including generators, in a manner that makes unreasonable noise as determined by the authorized BLM officer is prohibited. Amplified music is allowed only within La Posa and Imperial Dam LTVAs and only in locations designated by BLM or when approved in advance by an authorized BLM officer.

Campers may not block roads or trails commonly in public use with their parked vehicles, stones, wooden barricades, or by any other means.

Fixed structures of any type are restricted and must conform to posted policies. This includes, but is not limited to fences, dog runs, storage units, and windbreaks. Alterations to the natural landscape are not allowed. Painting rocks or defacing or damaging any natural or archaeological feature is prohibited.

Boarding of livestock (horses, cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) within LTVA boundaries is permitted only when approved in advance by an authorized BLM officer.

Pets must be kept on a leash at all times. Keep an eye on your pets. Unattended and unwatched pets may fall prey to coyotes or other desert predators. Pet owners are responsible for clean-up and sanitary disposal of pet waste.

Do not disturb any archaeological or historical values including, but not limited to, petroglyphs, ruins, historic buildings, and artifacts that may occur on public lands.

Place all trash in designated receptacles. Absolutely no dumping of sewage, gray water, or garbage on the ground. Sanitary dump station locations are shown in the LTVA brochure. LTVA permits are required for dumping within all LTVA campgrounds except for the Midland LTVA.

Self-Contained Vehicles: In Pilot Knob, Dunes Vista, Midland, Tamarisk, and Hot Springs LTVAs, camping is restricted to self-contained camping units only. Self-contained units must have a permanent affixed waste water holding tank of 10-gallon minimum capacity. Port-a-potty systems, or systems which utilize portable holding tanks, or permanent holding tanks of less than 10-gallon capacity are not considered to be self-contained. The La Posa, Imperial Dam, and Mule Mountain LTVAs are restricted to self-contained camping units, except within 500 feet of a vault or rest room.

Campfires are permitted in LTVAs subject to all local, state, and Federal regulations. Comply with posted rules.

No wood collection is permitted within the LTVAs. A maximum of 1 cubic yard (3' x 3' x 3') of firewood will be allowed per individual or group campfire at any one time. Please contact the nearest BLM office for current regulations concerning wood collection.

Motorized vehicles must remain on existing roads, trails, and washes.

The discharge or use of firearms or weapons is prohibited inside or within one-half mile of the LAVAs.

Any commercial activity requires a vending permit. Please contact the nearest BLM office for information on vending or concession permits.

Perimeter Camping: No camping is allowed within 1 mile of the Hot Spring, Tamarisk, and Pilot Knob LTVA boundaries.

Length of Stay (in off-season). From April 16th through September 14th, the fee is $15 daily per vehicle or $75 annually per vehicle, for up to 5 people per vehicle.  There will be a $1 per person fee charged for each person over the 5 person limit. Length of stay in an LTVA between April 16 and September 14 is limited to 14 days in a 28-day period. After the 14th day of occupation campers must move outside of a 25-mile radius of the previous location.