What You Need to Know About Dispersed Camping in Mammoth Lakes

When you think of camping in the wilderness surrounding Mammoth Lakes, you probably don’t think of crowded campsites and a packed reservation system, but that’s what you’ll find in Mammoth Lakes’ most popular campsites during the summer and fall months.

Mammoth Lakes attracts visitors from all over the world year-round, so camping in the most popular areas will require weeks or even months of planning ahead during peak season. However, dispersed camping is a great option if you can’t get a reservation or are trying to avoid crowded campgrounds. The ASO Mammoth team has put together a basic guide to dispersed camping in the area. Check it out and stop by ASO Mammoth before you head outside for all your outdoor gear needs!

What Dispersed Camping Means

If your idea of camping is going out into the wilderness, finding a decent spot, and setting up camp then you already have a pretty good idea of what dispersed camping is. Dispersed camping is camping on public lands away from developed sites like campgrounds.

With how vast the public lands are around mammoth lakes, that leaves tons of options for where you can camp, but there are some restrictions for dispersed campers you need to know about. First off, you must be an experienced camper who knows the challenges of camping away from developed campsites. There are no facilities, stores, or places to store your food away from wildlife like bears, so you must bring all of the proper gear and experience with you. If you do not have camping experience, then you should not try dispersed camping until you do.

Dispersed Campers must also:

  • Leave a specific camping location after 14 days of use. After the first 14 days of camping at one location, the campers can move to another spot outside of a 25-mile radius for another 14 days of use. After 28 days of camping, the campers must leave public land.
  • Not dispose of any trash, hazardous material, or sewage at their campsite.
  • Not drive off established roads.
  • Follow all rules concerning fire. If a fire permit is required, then you must obtain one before you begin your trip.

There are other guidelines that dispersed campers should follow. They include:

  • Using pre-established campsites. Although dispersed campers will avoid developed campsites, in the wilderness there are campsites where vegetation has already been flattened by previous campers. To avoid altering the natural habitat, you should try to use pre-established campsites.
  • Use fire rings for campfires. Another benefit of using a pre-established campsite is that they often come with fire rings. You should always use a fire ring to avoid sparking forest fires.
  • Camping away from water. To avoid any pollution reaching water sources, you should camp 100 feet away from water.

Where to Disperse Camp in Mammoth Lakes

Fortunately, most of the land surrounding Mammoth Lakes is publicly owned so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from for dispersed camping.

The closest land you’ll find is in the Inyo National Forest which surrounds Mammoth Lakes, but if you’re looking for more land then the Sierra National Forest is also nearby. If you’re looking for more land outside of that, then remember that any Bureau of Land Management land is also available for dispersed camping.

Always check ahead of your trip for the status and weather of the area you plan to camp in. National Forests and BLM land can be closed due to weather events or fire danger, so check beforehand to make sure that your trip is still safe before you walk out the door.

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