October 3rd 2020 was supposed to be the date of our wedding, followed by a big international honeymoon trip but then, you know….global pandemic. It gave us the opportunity to embark on a more local and socially distant trip, which was amazing. We got a (contactless) van rental the weekend of our wedding so we could road trip without having to interact with people for our….wait for it…..vanmoon.
After campervanning around New Zealand we were also looking forward to trying out some dispersed camping in the U.S (also known as freedom camping in New Zealand). In some places it was necessary because the campgrounds closed in October due to winter (Grand Teton), and in some places we just wanted to avoid the crowds and difficulty in getting camping reservations (Grand Canyon). Researching dispersed camping means a lot of time on google maps satellite locating forest roads and looking for pullouts, which is a very fun quarantine project.
Some National Parks are completely surrounded by National Forests and BLM lands and dispersed camping is super easy to find, but some of the more popular, city adjacent, or other National Park adjacent parks are a little bit more challenging. But its worth it, especially for parks like Yosemite where even the National Forest Campgrounds nearby are sometimes up to $100 a night. Between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks there is about a five mile strip of National Forest land, with one forest road for dispersed camping. I wouldn’t call it traditional dispersed camping since there are clearly marked and numbered sites with really nice pit toilets but it is free camping. Getting there at the beginning of the weekend, after dark, we had to go a long long way down the road before someone kindly offered to share their site with us, and I have to say it was quite a way to introduce ourselves to driving the van. Probably shouldn’t have dilly dallied at Jenny Lake for quite so long in Grand Teton taking photos….I’ve included the dispersed camping info at the end of the post to make sure you at least scroll through my pictures first.
Grassy Lake Road, also called Ashton Flagg Ranch Road off of John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. Camping begins after passing the ranch (after the no camping signs end, don’t be alarmed by those signs just keep driving). You’ll see numbered sites, with pieces of notebook paper on them telling you if they’re full or not. The first campsite is at 44.104126, -110.687343 but there are plenty more after that. You can see on the map how close the camping is to the Yellowstone entrance.