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Questions about long term free/cheap camping near Jackson, WY


Original Post
Ryan Strickland · · Idyllwild, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 131

I am wondering about free/cheap camping near Jackson from June-August 2018. I was offered a pretty cool part time job there, but I don't want to pay for housing because it would just negate the money a make working. As I understand it, you cannot stay in dispersed camping areas in Jackson Ranger District for longer than 5 days. 

Does anybody know of a place less than 1 hour away from Jackson where I can legally camp for 14-21 days at a time or longer that is free or cheap? I'm willing to pay up to $15/day, but preferably less. I don't need electricity or running water. The area needs to be accessible to a 2wd truck. The AAC Campground is a no-go, since my wife will be with me and $30/day is too much to spend for that amount of time. I know there are numerous forest service campgrounds in the area, but do they often get booked up and unavailable for long periods?

I'm open to other suggestions if you have them. If somebody owned land in the area and wouldn't mind me camping on it, I would pay a fair price. The key for me is that the location must be reliable. I don't want to find myself stuck camping illegally or at Walmart all summer. 

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Pinedale, WY · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 215

Hoback Canyon would be your best bet.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

What about Curtis Canyon?

I'd also keep an eye on what Jackson is doing this year about in-town car camping.  Last year they had a pilot program.  I think, however, that it is the businesses that purchase  (parking) sites for employees.

IJMayer · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 95

+1 for Curtis. You do have to drive through Jackson to get to and from GTNP, but the views are pretty sick.

Ryan Strickland · · Idyllwild, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 131

Thank you all for your responses. You guys think I can count on getting sites at Curtis and Hoback all summer? I assume they have a 14 day limit, which is okay so long as I can get a new site! I was looking at reservations for other forest service campgrounds and they seem completely booked from July-August. I don't want to find myself in a jam part way through the summer. 

I can camp in my truck when needed, but I'd prefer to setup a tent and leave it up for 2 weeks or so at a time.

Sorry if these questions are foolish, I've never been to the area. I know I can find long term free/cheap camping all over California without too much effort. Since I'm trying to hold a job and climb while in Jackson, I don't want to be stressing about where I'm going to camp. 

Curtis Baird · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 181

Curtis Canyon, I am referring to the primitive areas past the developed campground.  I do not know about leaving a tent long term.  Probably closest camping to Jackson you'll get.  Plus it has some of the best sunsets.  

Terrible Terry · · Pinedale,Wy · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 0

Shadow Mountain 

IJMayer · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 95

there is primitive camping in Curtis Canyon that's free, but strangely within eyesight of the FS campground. I wouldn't leave a tent there, but there always seemed to be plenty of room, even on a busy July weekend. 

Ryan Strickland · · Idyllwild, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 131

From what I've researched, you cannot stay in dispersed camping areas in Jackson Ranger District for longer than 5 days from May-September. Is this not enforced at all? They claim you cannot return to camp in the same area for 30 days after reaching your 5 day limit. I don't want to be fleeing the rangers all summer!

Here's the forest service flyer where I'm getting this information. That information was linked to directly from this website

Thank you all again for your help. I've emailed my potential employer to see if he has any alternative suggestions. It just doesn't make sense for me to lose money in this venture, since it's just a part-time job (albeit a very cool one) and I'm employed full-time during the school year. 

Jonathan Foster-Moore · · Boston, MA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 70

Definitely check out Shadow Mountain!

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Pinedale, WY · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 215

Realize that if you decide to poach up on Shadow, there’s gonna be about 200 other “locals” doing the same exact thing.

Howard · · Costa Mesa, CA · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 2,167

What's the best way to dirtbag around Jackson in current conditions?  Anyone doing it right now?  Thanks.

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

DavisMeschke Guillotine wrote:

Hoback Canyon would be your best bet.

Hoback Canyon proper is off limits to camping between Memorial Day and Labor day.

Teton Climber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 3


Ryan from California:



"Free/cheap camping near Jackson from June-August 2018"


You and everybody else wants the golden ticket: free & cheap in Jackson. You have a 'cool part-time job' that doesn't pay the bills or allow you to save money? Does your wife work? Between the two of you, that's a full-time gig. That's at least two grand a month.

First off, I'm all for being a dirt baggin' climber or whatever. Nothing wrong with living on the cheap and enjoying life especially if you're young. I've done it. I hope you find someone who can lend you their driveway or back lawn for the summer. Truth is, I'd do it in a heartbeat. In Maui. Beverly Hills. Hampton's. Some French/Spanish island with tiki girls and coco bras. Everybody who wants to be homeless belongs somewhere. All the better if it's next to the wealthy. They used to write guide books for Europe that were called something like Paris on $5 a day.....back when San Francisco was actually full of hippies instead of Uber drivers. Good luck making a go of it at $15, or "less". That sounds ambitiously cheap but a little expensive at the same time.

Our tourist town depends on car campers to service the 2nd-home owners and the tourists who almost demand a subsidized vacation. We can't run our town without exploiting someone, almost everyone, and you're the perfect target for a low-income part-time job while you waste away the summer, or whatever it is you're doing. Since you have a wife, that means the two of you can really help improve the bottom line of our service industry which can never find enough workers to f-over. A job at one the park's hotels may be just the ticket. They all have housing. It can be a fun job - depending on what you do. Won't pay anything but that's not important. It's about cool stuff and living it up in Jackson.

Now, having said that, you can indeed sleep in your car or inside a tent outside of Jackson, and for free, but it takes a certain skill set to pull it off. It may be more stress than you can handle. You can even sleep in town but that's much harder to get away with. Possible, but also illegal. We love screwing with our summer workers. We hate the idea of 'em out in public without getting a dime for our landlords or our parking lots. We have an image to promote to outsiders about our hamlet and homeless encampments ain't a part of it unless you're living the sponsored #vanlife. Those people get paid to be dirtbags nowadays so a job may not be necessary. Times have changed. We actually try to help people stay homeless. We have so many boring sponsored special people in Jackson Hole that it makes my head spin. A few started out as dirtbags. The cool ones.

In reality, everybody who wants to be homeless belongs here. And if we could legally hide you up Curtis Canyon, we would. If we are hiring homeless people then we can pay you less. We do our best to jam 20 people in a 3 bedroom trailer whenever possible and the town rented out parking spaces to car campers last year so you can't say we aren't trying to improve the standard of living for river guides and motel cleaners. BTW, some river guides actually live out of their cars parked on their employer's property - in town. Our secret. I know an employee at St John's Medical Center that slept in his car in their parking lot. Shhh.

You really can make $20/hr mowing lawns. Perhaps that's too much work. Sitting, all day, on a tractor. Yawn. You really can find a room to rent if you put forth the effort: here, Alpine, Victor, etc. All the temporary visa workers find housing. If you hire on with the employers offering up dorm rooms, you're all set to go. Try the golf courses - Shooting Star, Snake River Sporting Club. The Jackson Hole Mtn Resort loves dishing out big bucks to new summer hires - something around $10/hr. They have overpriced dorm housing to get back all the money they pay you. Don't work there, really, please. Visa workers from Mexico make around $16/hr working landscaping jobs. I don't know all the tricks they use to find housing, literally, thousands of 'em, but they do. And they SAVE MONEY! I know construction workers who are staying at man camps for free on construction sites within 10 minutes of downtown Jackson. Meanwhile, we have employees in Jackson who commute from Swan Valley, Idaho. It's cheap to rent down there. If you like guns and tractors all the better. If they can get by doing pissy work in Jackson, so can you. 

The Climbers Ranch is cheap, actually. Hotels run ten times that nightly rate. You can make $210/week in Jackson being a bump on a log. That pays for the Ranch until they kick you out. You can camp for up to 10 days during the high season in the park for $35: $3.50 a day. Get a job at the Rec Center in Jackson and they will probably let you stay in the parking lot for free with showers and a pool to pee in.

You can car camp for free at some of the public camping sites. They do set a limit on your time but you can just move to a new location. Kids and adults do this EVERY YEAR in Jackson Hole. I won't tell you all the secret locations because, you know, they are secret but some are listed here. The fact is that all sorts of tricks are employed to camp in the forest out of sight and out of the reach of the people who police the public lands. I think we had an RV parking in the highway pullout just south of town for most of the winter. In plain sight. 

Why limit yourself to Jackson? I'll bet the Mexicans here on a visa will be happy to rent you a room in Mexico. Wouldn't that be cool? Lovin' and livin' by the beach in Mexico. If only I spoke better Spanish.

Let's be honest, if you can't figure out how to be a dirtbag, you're not worthy of the dirtbagin' lifestyle and you need to focus on being just another a boring adult with a real job, a real home, and a lousy marriage with two annoying kids and a golden retriever.

I don't have time to edit this and correct any errors in my thought process, spelling, grammar, unintentional sarcasm, or the utter stupidity that comes out of my brain late at night but the message should be pretty simple: If you can beat the system, you're either Donald Trump -or- a true patriot. If you're in Jackson, welcome home. You belong here. To paraphrase what Harry Shearer used to say on KCRW, we're “the home of the homeless".

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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