Leaving RV’s on U.S. Forest Service public land in order to reserve a favorite camp spot—is inviting a tow

“Ghost campers” won’t be tolerated


Yellow Stone National Park (FLICKR)

An example of some high dollar RV’s

Marcus Reichley

The U.S. Forest Service recently posted on Twitter reminding people that national forest grounds are not for trailer or RV storage.

“The Coconino National Forest is NOT your storage facility,” the post said. “Yesterday evening, our staff towed four high dollar RVs from public lands that had been there, unoccupied, for months. Please don’t leave your land yachts behind!”

According to the Forest Service, the RV’s had been left there for months unoccupied before finally being towed away.

This is an issue for many who live near National Forests like Coconino or The Tonto and are familiar with, the empty RV’s have been referred to as “ghost campers” by some. 

Campers come in the Spring to claim a good spot, and will leave their RV’s there for months at a time, leaving no space for other campers and burdening local wildlife.

Arizona locals who live near popular camping areas have taken to social media to voice their frustration with these “ghost campers.”

Many residents especially near the Tonto or Coconino National Forests have witnessed their experiences with “ghost campers” on the popular Arizona Sub-Reddit, it’s been reported by many that it’s “not unusual” for people to set up large caravans and “camp” there for months at a time.

A general tone of the responses over the recent removal of abandoned RV’s was, “it’s about time” is the general sentiment for most of these residents, “good! Now Tonto next” said one resident. 

Residents have also reported people making a “pseudo-residence on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land” and acting as if they “own the federal land.”

Reportedly some people may actually be squatting illegally on federal land—but the recent removals of abandoned vehicles appeared from not-so-polite campers that didn’t want to lose their favorite camping spot and simply left their vehicles in order to secure the area.

While it may be common sense to most people, the laws surrounding leaving an RV unattended are a bit vague and depends on which agency manages the land in question.

The U.S. Forest Service in particular states that “you are not to abandon any personal belongings” but does not specify how long you can leave a campsite unattended until it is considered abandoned.

Whereas BLM, (Bureau of Land Management) limits the amount of time you can leave your personal belongings unattended to no more than 72 hours.

Northeast Valley News spoke to Prescott resident Adam Darby about his personal encounters with people “hogging up” national forest land.

“I have never personally reported anyone but it’s super common to encounter campers that are empty, we always know that a good chunk of them are just leaving their vehicles there to sorta hog up all the good camp space, Darby said.

Residents are reportedly following up on abandoned property at campground areas that were “tagged as abandoned” by local authorities. 

Along with their recent message warning potential ghost campers of staying away, this signals to some that the U.S. Forest has taken a more active role this summer in ensuring that the practice of abandoning RV’s—is no longer an issue.