Dispersed Camping at Shawnee National Forest

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Rank 0

Traveler II

I'm trying to plan a few trips for the summer and one of the places I'm interested in is Shawnee National Forest. I've never done an overland trip before, and truth be told, this will be my first year exploring the outdoors with my Jeep. On the other hand, I've gone car camping tons of times and have everything I need to be self-reliant. Being that I'm new to this hobby, I was wondering what I can do to discover primitive camp sites at Shawnee. I've seen a number of youtubers that will just drive through the national forest and set camp up wherever they park. Since regular camping at Shawnee is on a first come/first serve basis, I'd like to use dispersed camping as a backup. It looks like a number of people will just use Gaia GPS and follow a road and pull off and camp. I've tried to look at the Shawnee maps and maybe to an experienced traveler it makes sense. But to me, I'm a bit confused.

If anybody can help me with this it would be great. Basically I'd like to know where I can drive, where I can't, and maybe a couple of examples of where to camp in case the regular sites are full.


Rank V

Advocate III

Newark, Oh
Member #


In Ohio there are recommendations for dispersed camping. I don't have them in front of me, 100' for water sources, time limits, etc. I have often wished I'd gone dispersed as to camping at a site(mostly on big holidays). sorry I couldn't help more, Ron
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Rank V

Advocate III

Sheridan, IN, USA
Member #


Generally speaking National Forests and most State Forests along with BLM land allow dispersed camping. I have no experience with Shawnee but what I have experienced is just as easy as it sounds, you'll drive out, see a place to pull over (generally best to use an existing site) and set up camp. Sometimes the rules seem confusing because they always talk about not camping within so many feet of a regular developed campsite but then list the dispersed areas like they are developed areas. My goal would be to aim for the dispersed sites and use the regular camping as a backup in case something goes wrong., kind of the opposite of what you stated. The MVUM is a good resource, and Gaia has an overlay for it, but seems to be more common out west in my limited experience. Looks like Shawnee only has Forest roads open, no trails for OHV (4 wheelers).