Touring Cyclists Always Welcome Camping

Apr 12, 2012

Last week we heard about a fantastic development via the Virginia Bicycling Federation about the Virginia State Park System. They announced a new policy that ensures long distance touring cyclists will always have a spot to pitch a tent in their parks, even when designated spots are filled. Yea Virginia!

While Washington, Oregon, and California have a number of hiker/biker-specific campgrounds and generally friendly approaches to traveling cyclists, Virginia is only the third state I know of to have an official policy. (Nevada and Michigan are the other two.) I've read that New York has an unofficial guideline but it can fluctuate based on who is managing the park when a cyclist rolls in. I'm guessing this could be widely true across the country.

Wouldn't it be great to have a resource that listed all state park systems with official policies to welcome touring cyclists, even if the campground is full? Or if there was a nationwide policy in place so you would never need to worry about finding a spot to camp in any state park? We can dream, right?

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your experiences camping in state parks. What other states have policies along these lines, official or unofficial? If you can provide a link to that information, all the better. I will compile what you submit to me either directly or via a comment on this post, as collective knowledge, and publish it for everyone's reference.

Photo: A beautiful example of camping with bicycles in a state park. This site is in Harriman State Park in Idaho. Photo from e-lame's Flickr photostream.

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GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.

Comments

Brian Clissold

This is fantastic! Does this apply only to state parks (both in Virginia and Michigan) or does it extend to Federal Wilderness areas as well?

April 12, 2012, 1:33 PM
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Jenn, Cartographer

Hi Brian: As far as I know, it is only for the state parks. Also, by current definition, wilderness areas are inaccessible to traveling cyclists so it can't apply.

April 12, 2012, 2:50 PM
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silvia

When I rode cross-country in 2000, I was worried about getting a camping spot in Yellowstone and sent the faster rider ahead. Turned out there was no need to worry ... Yellowstone won't turn away hikers and bicyclists (or so I was told then at the entrance)

April 12, 2012, 9:39 PM
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Tandem.cap

In the early 70s, my two buddies and I were turned away from camping at a New York state park campground -- because we weren't old enough. After biking 80 miles on a hot day, the ranger turned us away because, according to the rules of that era, one of us needed to be at least 18, whereas two of us were 15 and one 16. So we rode on another 25 miles as it grew dark. That ranger welcomed us (took pity on us) and let us camp. I hope that New York's policies have changed since then!

April 12, 2012, 10:17 PM
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mz

Since June 1999, Indiana's Department of Natural Resources (DNR-it operates the Indiana State Parks) has a bicycle-friendly policy for touring cyclists when the campground is full. Bicycle Indiana has confirmed with DNR that the policy is still in effect and the DNR team sent the policy document to State Parks and Rec Areas as of 03.26.2012.

See http://www.bicycleindiana.org/images/DNRPolicy.pdf

http://bicycleindiana.org/

April 13, 2012, 1:56 AM
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Nick W

For the record, Indiana state park will turn you away if campgrounds are full.

While bike touring this weekend on a S24O (self supported, minimal load, camping), I was turned away from an Indiana state park this past weekend. A park gate attendant and two rangers had never heard of the "no-turn-away" policy.

July 29, 2014, 8:50 AM
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adventure!

As far as I know, Oregon State Parks have the same policy as Virginia, but I don't think it's as publicized. I've talked to a ranger in a campground that doesn't have specific hiker/biker sites and he said he's put cyclists in the day use area when the regular sites fill up.

Compare that to Vermont. A few years back I was planning a tour through that state and I asked the State Parks Dept. if they had the "no bicyclist turned away" policy. They basically laughed at me. Hopefully things have changed.

April 13, 2012, 5:17 AM
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Mike Juvrud

For several years Minnesota has had a similar policy for all State Parks. They will not turn away anyone arriving by bicycle or on foot. I've tested this at 20+ MN state parks over the years, and every time the park rangers were aware of the policy and happy to make a spot for my tent. Most of the parks, especially the popular ones, have had overflow sites reserved for hikers/cyclists for many years.

http://mplsbikelove.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=220305.

From experience on multiple bike camping trips in many states - Florida State Parks are the most strict. They will turn you away without batting an eye, regardless of the conditions.

April 13, 2012, 5:58 AM
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Jenn, Cartographer

This is all great information! Thanks for chiming in with your stories positive and negative.

April 13, 2012, 10:56 AM
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Chuck Harmon

If Adventure Cycling is getting involved in this, which I think is a great idea, they should also include Provincial parks in Canada. Last year while cycling around Lake Erie I met a couple of touring cyclists that were turned away from a Provincial Park campground because all of the designated camping spaces were full. They could have easily found space for two tired touring cyclists.

April 18, 2012, 6:51 PM
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Tombos Project Site

Indiana has the same policy. Here is copy found on www.bicycleindiana.org

http://www.bicycleindiana.org/images/DNRPolicy.pdf

April 19, 2012, 10:47 AM
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Jenn, Cartographer

Hi Chuck, At this time Adventure Cycling is not taking this on in an official capacity, I simply wanted to begin collecting the information to be able to share in one place. I can definitely include any policy information shared about the provincial park system in Canada as well. The more the merrier!

April 20, 2012, 10:43 AM
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Anonymous

Wisconsin also has this policy, although it is not advertised.

Some state parks have specific bicycle camping spots (Newport State Park, in Door County, is one....we camped at a site next to this one on 4th of July weekend and it went unused...even as they were turning away other campers!), while other parks will ensure you have a place to sleep even if all camping spots are full.

April 20, 2012, 9:49 PM
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Lukas Herbert

I have experienced the Wisconsin policy as well. I called ahead to reserve a campsite once, and I was told "no more room". But then as soon as I said I was on a bike, I was told "oh, don't worry about it. It's our policy to accommodate you.

I live in New York and I am not too sure about that unofficial guideline. I've camped at lots of state parks, and the people working the check in are always clueless, no matter what park you go to. I am guessing it is the result of seasonal employment coupled with poor training. I mean, it's bad - I've even gone to places with lots of hiking trails and asked "where are the hiking trails?" and just gotten a shrug - "I don't know". Plus, if you want to reserve online, you need to do a 2-day minimum, which means you pay double if you are a bike tourist and only need to stay for one night. But better to pay double than risk being turned away...which is a serious risk.

April 23, 2012, 12:54 PM
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Joseph

If you can plan fairly far ahead you can reserve yurts or in some parks cabins in Oregon State Parks along the coast. These are fairly big units so a small group traveling together could tour the Oregon coast in style.

http://www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/reserve.shtml

April 26, 2012, 10:58 PM
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adventure!

You'd have to plan really far in advance for that! The yurts pretty much run full during the summer. If I were to try a tour like that, I would aim for shorter days, in case anything happens en route. If for some reason you run behind and can't make it to your destination for the night, you might not be able to make it to the next scheduled one the next day, etc etc, cascading down the line.

April 27, 2012, 12:26 AM
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Joseph

Yes that could happen. I always carry a tide chart too. You can camp on any beach in Oregon if it is not in front of a state park.

April 27, 2012, 3:55 PM
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Anonymous

I've been doing "bike overnight's" long before I heard it called that. In New Hampshire and Vermont campground managers have been instructed to "Make accommodations when ever possible for anyone traveling by self propelled motion", that is by foot (hiking/ backpacking), water (canoe/ kayak), and bicycle. I'm not sure if it's "official" policy, but it was mentioned to me in a number of campgrounds. I've written a number of times to my home state's Department of Environmental Management (DEM), but have never received a reply.

April 29, 2012, 12:17 AM
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Anonymous

When this article was first published on ACA's website, I passed it along to Dr. Stuart Johnson, the head of Louisiana's Office of State Parks. He seemed very interested in the idea and stated that they would "pursue" a similar policy. Exactly what that means, I don't know. But if enough people express similar interests to their parks departments, maybe more states will follow suit.

April 29, 2012, 10:04 PM
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Anonymous

Last year we did a tour which included staying in Markleeville, CA and riding the California Alps. We pulled in to Grover's Hot Springs campground and were delighted to find out that we could camp for $3 each per night in the deserted picnic area. We had the entire place to ourselves, besides the deer and squirrels that wandered in to camp. Wonderful!

May 1, 2012, 1:01 PM
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Jenn, Cartographer

Wow, more great info and leads! Thanks everyone. I hope to have something together in the near-ish future. In the meantime, feel free to continue the thread.

May 2, 2012, 3:00 PM
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tandemman

Does anybody have a link for the Michigan regulations? I evidently am not as good with google queries as I thought I was . . .

July 30, 2012, 6:30 PM
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Joseph calamia

got turned away at Ionia state park after 70 miles riding 26 September 2014. Ranger never wouldn't listen.

Ended up finding so nice folks down the road who gave me a room.

November 8, 2014, 8:15 PM
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