Author Topic: Where to camp  (Read 15119 times)

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Offline coolcatpete

Where to camp
« on: July 14, 2008, 01:53:55 pm »
Just curious, on these long bike trips where do most people camp.  I plan to bike from Central NY to Madison WI, and I am having trouble finding places to camp along the way.

Offline litespeed

Where to camp
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2008, 03:40:53 pm »
In order of preference I like KOA's, state parks, municipal campgrounds and private campgrounds. There are also campgrounds owned by water districts, the Forestry Service, etc. For KOA's pick up a catalogue at any one of them or go online ( and ask for one. Good road maps or road atlas's (Rand McNally is best) indicate campgrounds with little green triangles.

The upper midwest - Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan - is the best. Plenty of the towns have their own campground. Lots of bicycle tourists camp in the wild but I like my shower and a bit of security.

KOA's are always quiet at night. State parks and private campgrounds are occasionally noisy on the weekends, especially if they are near a big city.

On your route campgrounds abound.

Offline DaveB

Where to camp
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2008, 08:15:58 pm »
KOA's are always quiet at night.
With one exception.  KOA's all seem to be located near railroad tracks (the land is probably cheaper there)!  

If train whistles in the middle of the night aren't a problem, KOA's have a lot to recommend them. :)

Offline bktourer1

Where to camp
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2008, 09:38:51 pm »
Look into   Hosters usually will have a room, let you camp in their yard or offer other assistance

Offline rlovisa

Where to camp
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2008, 11:07:09 pm »
What are the current prevailing thoughts about stealth camping?  Heard the term used recently and I assume its camping in public or private areas without specific permission.  I have been looking at the Atlantic Coast trail maps, roughly between NJ-PA and the VA-NC state lines to determine daily ride mileage based on how far apart the camp grounds might be.  Not much shown for camping, so I too was considering what the options might be.

Offline RussellSeaton

Where to camp
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2008, 10:10:13 am »
Stealth camping is camping in non camping areas out of view.  Side of the road, etc.  In parts of the USA with large public land areas, such as the west, there are plenty of places to stealth camp.  Although in most parks its illegal to camp anywhere except the official campgrounds.  But in the midwest and east, there are not public areas along the road.  Its all privately owned property.  So you are almost certainly trespassing if you stealth camp.  You might not be bothered by this, but the land owner might not want people trespassing on their private property.  Do you want people walking through and/or camping on your lawn in town?

Logistical problems with stealth camping are no source of water, bathrooms.  I like to clean up well after a bike ride.

Offline litespeed

Where to camp
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2008, 12:50:35 pm »
KOA's are often located near train tracks or freeways. The only one that bothered me was the one in Scottsbluff, NE. A train every few minutes plus a crossing requiring blasts on the horn. Still, I got my sleep. The only things that really bother me at night are drunks and barking dogs.

You might consider crossing Lake Michigan on the ferry from Ludington MI to Manitowoc WI. It's a huge, well-appointed ship and, believe it or not, runs on steam. A very enjoyable ride.

My favorite campground of all is the municipal one in Reed City MI. It's on your route. It's a delightful facility and well worth a stop.

Offline Peaks

Where to camp
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2008, 07:58:31 pm »
If you are using ACA maps, then there are usually plenty of options.  

If you are self contained, then don't overplan.  Just go as far as you like on any given day.  

Offline driftlessregion

Where to camp
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2008, 11:32:43 pm »
Warmshowers is great. I used it recently and had a wonderful visit with our hosts. Thanks Paul and Monica!

Offline staehpj1

Where to camp
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2008, 08:32:09 am »
Most of my experience is with the TransAmerica and some improvised alternate sections along the way, so it may or may not apply to your route.  I try to avoid both KOAs and stealth camping as much as possible.

On the TA I think I managed to stay for an average of something a bit less than $5 per night (including motel stays and other lodging), but that was sharing site costs three ways.  Some places charged per site, some per head, and some per tent.  Since we were three in one tent we stayed pretty cheaply most places.

Our favorite campsites were city parks that let us stay for free, followed by state parks.  Hiker biker sites were great and had the advantage of never turning us away because they were full.  That said we often opted for a "regular" site because when splitting it three ways it was often cheaper (hiker biker sites usually charged per person).

Staying in churches and in peoples homes was nice when we had the opportunity.

We stayed in 1 KOA and a few KOA-like campgrounds, but generally avoided them when we could due to the higher costs.

I only stealth camp when I have to and that never happened on the TA.

We didn't use on our trip, but I have since looked into it.  It looks like an OK option where there is a host at a location that you want to stay.  On most tours that will probably only be once in a while.

We generally found that if we were somewhere that there was no attractive option campground wise, we could find an impromptu place to stay if we asked around.  Asking store clerks, wait staff, city park managers, and the local police were all successful at one time or another on the trip.

Also asking bike tourists going the other way led to some leads on good places to stay and we returned the favor by sharing what we could about where we had been.

This message was edited by staehpj1 on 8-4-08 @ 4:33 AM

Offline freightbike

Where to camp
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2008, 07:58:11 pm »
 I use a couple of paper back books called "Don Wright's Guide to FREE Campgrounds". Put out by Cottage Publications,Inc. PO Box 2832. Elkhart IN 46515-2832. Ph. 1-800-272-5518. They have eastern and western editions. Not complete by any means but a sure help to me

May the wind at your back always smell like home.
May the wind at your back always smell like home.

Offline MrBent

Where to camp
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2008, 11:09:33 am »
I used a combination of all techniques on my cross country ride last year.  Most of the time, it was possible to roll into these little towns and get permission to flop in the town park, fairgrounds, etc. As mentioned, the ACA maps are excellent about pointing out options.  Lots of times, I got taken in by very nice locals, and this was one of the best things about my ride--meeting great people who are so generous.  I wasn't in  Muscatine, Iowa, more than five minutes before I had a place to stay--amazing.

If I didn't have a warmshowers host(check out couchsurfing too!), I'd roll into town and hit the library first.  You can usually find out everything you need to know there.  I simply could not afford to pay for a place to flop every night--nor did I want to.  I camped under a cell tower in Maine, behind a utility shed in Kansas, in the woods in NY, CO, NM and elsewhere.  The thrill and challenge of finding a place to camp provided a real spice to the journey--and often the best camping.  I HATE KOA's with a special passion.  Besides being very expensive (about $25/night out west), they are freakin' noisy so close to freeways and such.  The only good one I've stayed in was in Mt.  Shasta, CA.--very nice with great views of the mountain.

Be flexible and creative.  It's all part of the adventure.



Offline tgpelz

Where to camp
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2008, 11:44:35 pm »
I call stealth camping 'Diving In'.  

I do not do it often, but when I have, I try to be at least 100 yards off the road, in a wooded area.

I do prefer a shower and a warm meal.

Usually, I have not had to "dive in".   I stop and ask people where I could camp.  When the see the bike and the load I have, they direct me to their yard, of a near by city park.

I have never tried that in a large metropolitan area.  Too often there are people in those area who "just wanted a little fun" with my bike, etc.   I don't like explaining why they got hurt.

I do plan my rides to be able to spend the night at a camp ground.   Makes more sense.

I have ridden through a town, found a policeman and asked him/her where I could camp.  They have been quite friendly and helpful.

Most midwest (WI, MN, MI for certain) state parks are required to let a touring cyclist pitch the tent somewhere, even if they are full.   Not true with private grounds.

Offline rcrampton

Where to camp
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2008, 11:04:02 pm »
I tend to stealth camp because I really like the peace and quiet of being alone. I do like to clean up regularly so I'll try to find a water source somewhere nearby so at a minimum I can wash up a little if I can't take a shower.

I've had great camping in National Forest and BLM land which are wide open for camping.

We've stayed in some really nice state parks (Washington, Oregon for example) for very good rates.

My least favorite tends to be lager "family" campgrounds like KOAs, and dead last would be a hotel, although I've stayed there to dry off after a long day in the rain once. I think I wore out their hair drier!

Offline raybo

Where to camp
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2008, 11:12:36 am »
I would suggest looking at and  I used both of them to find hosts on a recent bike trip to France.  Both require a free registration, which involve answering questions and providing personal data.

Many, if not all, states have pages listing the state parks where camping is allowed.  Try to find them for the states you are in.

This page provides 17 links to gerneral information about camping in the US.


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