Author Topic: Camping Permits  (Read 615 times)

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Offline jas

Camping Permits
« on: December 06, 2021, 12:05:07 pm »
Hi everyone. I will be travelling Seattle to Washington DC next summer. I plan to camp along the way trying to stick to as many of the rail trails as possible. As I will be travelling through many different States with probably many different land owners I am a little confused on how to find what permits I need to complete to cycle various paths, camp in certain areas, who and how I contact! Can anyone sum this up for me or provide a useful link? Many thanks. Jason

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2021, 12:58:41 pm »
I am planning the exact trip in reverse. You can take many bike trails leaving Seattle that will link you to the Palouse to Cascades Trail. That is rideable by loaded touring bike as far as Ellensburg, WA. Ask to join Friends of the Palouse to Cascades Trail on Facebook for more information. Once you get to Ellensburg I would suggest the old Vantage Highway over to the Columbia River but do not attempt to cross the bridge in Vantage - follow roads south along the river and cross on the newly reconstructed Beverly Bridge. The trail is too rough to ride on a touring bike east of the Columbia but you can parallel the route on decent roads over to Plumber/Harrison (State Park Camping) area where you can pick up the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene, which is paved through ID. From there to Missoula is either an Interstate ride or do what we are planning and jump off the trail in Enaville, ID and take NF-9 to Montana Secondary Road 471 over to Thompson Falls. (There is a campground in Pritchard)

From Thompson Falls you can pick up 200 through Paradise then catch 93 into Missoula. From Missoula follow the TransAM Maps 4,5, & 6 and then pick up the TransAm Eastern Express Route https://www.easternexpressroute.com/ ( will be taken over by the Adventure Cycling Association at the beginning of 2022) in Walden, CO. That will get you to Washington, DC.
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Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2021, 02:24:08 pm »
You need to research each trail to learn available camping options, if any.  Some trails prohibit camping along their entire length. Many trails pass through private land.  You won't get a "permit" unless you ask permission from a land owner.  Who owns which parcels usually will not be clear. 

Offline jas

Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2021, 02:52:29 pm »
Thanks for replies. I have the route planned and know where about I shall be stopping each night. But I’m sure it won’t all go to plan and there will be a few occasions where I have to rethink my nightly resting spots. My worries are how to go about finding a legitimate place to stay, who to contact, local sheriff or wardens etc. Travelling from the UK which maybe why a little anxious. I read some towns allow overnight camping on community parks etc but others do not. Thanks

Offline John Nelson

Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2021, 03:47:07 pm »
This is a complicated question, and there is no simple answer.

Some towns explicitly allow camping in their city park, and some explicitly prohibit it. Most towns, however, neither explicitly allow nor explicitly permit it. What do you do in those cases? It depends on your risk tolerance. In many cases, if you were to ask the local police, they would probably say "no", but if you simply camp there without asking, they probably won't interrupt you. But note the "probably" words in that sentence. This is where the risk comes in.

One advantage of following an ACA route is that in most towns, they have already investigated and negotiated this for you. If you are on some random route, the towns may not see many bicycle tourists, and may not have even thought about whether to allow or prohibit a bicycle tourist to spend the night in their town park.

I think most of us have done a little bit of everything conceivable in these cases. If there is no explicit sign prohibiting camping, I've just camped. In all cases but one, it's gone off without a hitch. In one town, a police officer woke me up in the middle of the night, but after determining that I wasn't a threat, and that running me off at 2:30 in the morning wasn't really feasible, permitted me to finish out the night. I've even camped on the back lawn of the police station before without permission. That worked well too.

In a pinch, I have camped in places where it was explicitly prohibited. I don't like to do that of course, but sometimes it's getting dark and you have no alternatives. In those cases, it's best to set up after dark, stay out of sight as much as possible, and leave at first light. But you might not get a very restful night's sleep.

To hedge the risk a bit, you should research all the known legal places to camp along your route. In places where there is no known legal place, you could call the local police, sheriff, fire stations and churches. Rather than ask where you can "camp" (which might bring up images of a big deal with a campfire), you might just ask if they know of any place where you can "pitch a tent" or "sleep on the floor" for the night. Make it clear that you will only be there one night and don't plan to take up residence there. Of course you are going to need a bathroom too, so ask if they know of a bathroom that will be open overnight (which often results in them deciding to leave the park bathroom unlocked for that night). I've even attached a note to the bathroom door asking if they could leave this unlocked tonight.

Good luck!

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2021, 04:06:36 pm »
Sorry, you did not mention you had your route planned. The route I offered (and links) are established routes and the links and maps provide detailed information on camping, lodging, and services. Without knowing where you are traveling it is hard to offer and meaningful advice about a particular area.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline staehpj1

Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2021, 05:18:40 pm »
John's comments are good.  I'll add that a lot of it is a learned  ability to assess what is or isn't going to be okay.  I learned in large part by riding the trans america using the ACA maps.  I assumed that the reason it was so easy to stay in all the town parks in the middle of the US was that a trail had been blazed on the ACA route, but when I later toured in other parts of the country I decided it was more of a matter of knowing where and how to stay.

It is harder closer to either coast, but in a lot of the country I might just set up camp stay.  I typically might talk to someone about the place where I am about to camp without actually asking permission.  While picking up supplies in the general store, I might say, "I am biking across the country.  Do you think anyone would bother me if I pitch my tent for the night in that park over there."

People always say to ask the local cops or firehouse, but more often than not I am in a town too small to have local cops.

When there wasn't an obvious place to stay I'd ask if people had seen where others had camped or if they knew of a place where no one would mind.

Offline jas

Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2021, 05:27:05 pm »
Thanks everyone. Yes my route is very similar to the eastern route and thanks again for the website link with all the excellent information on. I will probably tweak my plans a bit looking at these maps.

Offline David W Pratt

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Re: Camping Permits
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2021, 03:23:05 pm »
National Parks now use a web based system for reservations.  You have to use it even if you are at the park and they have vacancies.  I found it difficult, but people tell me it is easier if you have the app for it installed on your phone.  My advice would be to do that prior to leaving.