Author Topic: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast  (Read 1351 times)

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Offline travellingfoxes

Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« on: October 26, 2013, 12:59:11 pm »
Gday guys

My wife and myself are looking at riding the Northern Tier and Pacific coast. Statring Portland, Maine to Astoria, Oregon then up to Vancouver then down to Imperial beach, California. Starting Mid April 2014.

We are allowing aprox 7 months to complete. Any Advice on these routes of 'must do' or 'must don't' would be greatly appreciated.

We notice alot of people talking about free camping/ wild/ parks etc. If anyone could explain this to us it would be great as we usually just pull off the side of the road in Australia and 'bush camp' where ever we think it is safe enough or 'less exposed' for the night.

Are there specific designated free camp areas?? We have also heard of a site 'Warm Showers' would this be of any benefit to us?

Thank everyone for any advice you may be willing to share.

Ken and Jules
Travellingfoxes   

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2013, 01:22:11 pm »
The pacific coast has a series of public facilities spaced adequately for cycle tourists.  Prices range from $5 to $25 per campsite.  The northern tier is more difficult and it might be necessary sometimes to ask locals where you can camp.

Stealth camping is usually illegal, but if you are stealthy enough obviously you'd get away with it.  I mean, if you are caught, it's not stealth camping, now is it?
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline mbattisti

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2013, 03:10:25 pm »
I would highly recommend taking advantage of "warmshowers" hosts along the way.   I have had very good experiences for the most part.  check out their website to learn more about how it works.     https://www.warmshowers.org/

Offline John Nelson

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2013, 09:27:47 pm »
Warm Showers is great. I stayed with a number of them on the Northern Tier (and even more on the TransAm). The ACA maps identify possible camping spots. I found, however, that camping on the Northern Tier was quite a bit more expensive than camping on the TransAm. Vegetation in New England is often so dense that it will be challenging to simply "find a space" to camp. A lot of the eastern part of the Northern Tier is popular vacation territory. Private, and expensive, campgrounds abound, but public campground and free camping are harder to find. I camped in several town parks that weren't listed as camping places, and never had any problems doing do. The best free camping was along the Erie Canal in New York. Camping in random spots by the side of the road should be practical in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana.

One "don't miss" on the Northern Tier is the Adventure Cyclists Bunkhouse in Dalbo, Minnesota. But the number one don't miss on the NT is Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. It's the best cycling I've done in my life. I also recommend that you don't skip Mackinac Island between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. The Bacon family hostel outside Colville, Washington is also high on my list.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2013, 09:59:38 am »
On the pacific coast I really don't see any need for stealth camping.  At least in Oregon and California the state parks had hiker biker sites for $4-10.  I found it to be a plus to run elbows with other tourists.

I have not done the NT, but my experience on the TA and on the ST males me think it should be easy to stay for free a major portion of the time with no need for stealth.  On both the TA and the ST I managed to stay for free the majority of the time with no need for stealth

Warmshowers hosts can be nice, but seldom work out for me.  Most seem to want some notice and I seldom decide which town I will stop in until I am there.  I don't want to be rude by showing up without notice or giving notice and not showing up.  I do sometimes use them as a starting point for the tour since at that point I am likely to know my arrival date and time in advance.

Offline geegee

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2013, 11:20:30 am »
Some logging companies set up free campgrounds as some sort of goodwill gesture, sometimes with a bit of amusing propaganda. I've stayed in a few of them in Washington state and BC.

You probably won't come across a lot of public land heading up to Vancouver, but if you wander beyond to the rest of BC, state-owned wilderness in Canada is referred to as "Crown Land". It is legal for residents to free camp in Crown land, and technically non-residents need to purchase permit but hardly anybody checks for these.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2013, 10:44:02 am by geegee »

Offline indyfabz

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2013, 09:51:41 am »
On the NT, I think Waterton Village in Alberta, Canada is a "must do." Great place for a day off and some hiking. There is a nice town campsite on the shore of the lake. And the ride back into MT on Chief Mountain Highway is quite nice. It's my understanding that a side trip off the route to Many Glacier in Glacier National Park is well worth it.

You can camp for free on most national forest land. It's called "dispersed camping":

http://camping.about.com/od/campingadviceandtips/a/dispersedcamping.htm

Probably won't help you much on most of the NT as you don't pass through too much national forest land.

You should find free/cheap camping available in places like city parks and fairgrounds, at least in the west and midwest. I can remember staying in such places in IA, MN, ND, MT, ID and WA. And,, as noted, you can always ask around in a town if there is a place to camp. Personally, I like to stay in or close to towns with at least some services like groceries. It's also a good way to meet people.

Expect private campgrounds in the east to be more expensive than in the midwest and west. In some case, they can be significantly more expensive. State parks and established Forest Service and Bureau of Land Managment campground are usually less expensive than private campgrounds.

It's illegal to wild camp in Glacier National Park. However, there are hiker/biker sites at most (if not all) campgrounds within the park. The last time I was there (in '09) the rate was $5/person/night. Note that Logan Pass in the park will probably not open until at least mid-June. It could be even later. The alternative (Marias Pass) simply does not compare, and it's a long, arduous way around if you find yourself in St. Mary and Logan Pass is closed. If you can, it's worth scheduling your trip so you will have a good chance to ride Logan Pass.

Offline jamawani

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2013, 10:39:53 am »
I see that you are new and that you are from Australia, but you offer very little info about yourselves.
Starting the Northern Tier route in Maine in mid-April isn't exactly a great idea.
If you were from Russia, Canada, even the South Island - then maybe.
The average High and Low are 10/0 C in the lower elevations - colder in the mountains.
There is a good chance of snow - plus cold rain every third day.
Not to mention that most facilities do no open until mid May or later.

In the Australian bush, if you get soaked in a storm, you can dry out quickly the next day.
Not so if you have a week of steady, cold drizzle in northern New England.
Even if it is "doable" you are likely to be miserable.
Granted, you might hit a warm, dry spell just perfectly - but not likely.
I would strongly recommend starting significantly further south in mid-April -
Then work your way diagonally north.

As for free camping -
On almost all National Forest (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands -
You can camp for free for up to 14 days as long as you are 1/4 to 1/2 mile from developed sites. (varies)
These are federal lands comparable to Crown Lands in Australia.  Fire restrictions are likely to apply.
Random camping is NOT permitted in most National Parks (NPS) -
Although many offer free backcountry camping by permit, sometimes only a short distance from the road.
National Wildlife Areas and Refuges rarely offer any camping at all and huge fines for those who do.

State and local agencies offer fewer free camping options.
Some state forests offer free camping - also some state wildlife areas do.
Montana used to offer extensive free camping at Fishing Access Sites - but these have been reduced.
(I'm guessing cost and vandalism - plus liability issues.  It's a modern world.)
Usually state sites a re small and require advance knowledge/research -
But some of them are quite lovely and out-of-the-way.

Here's a link to Montana's state sites -
http://fwp.mt.gov/fishing/searchFas.html

Yellowstone River, Miles City

Offline mbattisti

Re: Free camping/bush camping Northern tier and Pacific coast
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2013, 07:59:48 pm »
The Bacon family hostel outside Colville, Washington is also high on my list.

When my wife and I arrived there after a long, hot day in the saddle, we discovered 3 half gallons of ice cream in the hostel's freezer.  Doesn't get much better than that!