Dispersed Camping

What is dispersed camping?

  • A tent near a river at night, lit from inside. The moon is shining brightly.“Dispersed camping” is the term used for camping anywhere outside of a developed campground, including in some campgrounds with minimal development.
  • Dispersed camping is free, and permitted almost everywhere on the Flathead National Forest.
  • Camping in undeveloped areas requires you to help keep the sites in good condition.

Rules for dispersed camping

  • Groups over 75 people are not allowed.
  • Dispersed camping is NOT allowed near developed recreation areas including campgrounds, trailheads and day-use areas.
  • Water, restrooms, and trash cans are not provided. Pack out all your trash.
  • There is a 16-day stay limit at any site. After that you must move 5-miles away, and you can not return to your original campsite for 7 days.
  • Use existing fire rings. Avoid creating new fire rings. Your fire must be attended at all times and be dead out before leaving.
  • Contact a local office about possible campfire restrictions before you go.
  • Be bear aware and know the food storage regulations before camping. These regulations are strictly enforced.
  • Additional rules or regulations may apply to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Flathead Wild and Scenic River corridor.

Human Waste Disposal

Dispersed camping generally means no bathrooms. Keep your site clean for the next campers and prevent disease spread and pollution of water by following these rules:

  • Urinate on rocks and avoiding vegetation if possible, and well away from water and camp.
  • Do not leave toilet paper or wipes on the ground after you pee. Carry a zipper-lock plastic bag and pack out your toilet paper.
  • Dig a cathole 6-8 inches deep and 8-inches wide at least 200-feet away from water, camp and trails to bury feces. Cover all waste with the soil you removed, and sprinkle the disturbed ground with leaves, pine needles, or other organic debris.
  • If you carry a portable camping toilet, treat and pack out all treated waste and dispose of according to instructions on the digestant.

The Flathead Wild and Scenic River Corridor rules require all solid human waste be carried out in leak-proof manner and disposed of properly off-forest.

Camping with a vehicle

  • Motorized use is limited to roads and trails designated on the Motor Vehicle Use Map.
  • Know and follow all seasonal closures and never go beyond gates or other barriers on roads.
  • Do not park or camp in front of closed gates. This prevents authorized users, including emergency responders, from accessing the road.
  • Find and select your campsite on foot and scout the most direct route to your campsite for your vehicle.
  • Driving your vehicle more than 300 feet from a motorized route for purposes of dispersed camping is prohibited.
  • You may not cut or damage trees or vegetation to access your campsite.
  • Never drive across wet areas or areas with soft ground.

Dispersed Camping Areas

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  • Current alerts and closures
  • Bear Safety and Food storage
  • Get a Map
  • Find out if you need a permit