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How to tag areas where camping is prohibited?

Posted by valhikes on 15 March 2023 in English. Last updated on 28 March 2023.

I expect this is only a problem in those places that have wild camping allowed as the norm. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands fall into this category and cover a lot of the western United States and a little of the eastern ones. I’ve failed at finding an answer via search engine. There could be something on the wiki for the tourism=camp_site tag, but it’s not there now.

For me, this question has come up specifically in mapping backcountry (hiking) areas where camping is generally allowed wherever a person might want to settle for the night, but there is often a lake where camping has been banned outright. This is more than the usual banning of camping within 100 feet of water that is often found in Congressionally designated Wilderness areas. This is for singled out areas.

Some examples:

Sheep Lake in West Elk Wilderness. (38.7534N, 107.2366WSee rule 6 here.) No camping within ¼ mile.

Gilpin Lake, Gold Creek Lake, and Three Island Lake in Mount Zirkel Wilderness. (40.7825N, 106.6793WSee here.) No camping within ¼ mile.

Shadow Lake in Ansel Adams Wilderness. (37.6946N, 119.1243WSee here.) No camping at the lake or between the trail and creek.

Thousand Island Lake in Ansel Adams Wilderness. (37.7202N, 119.1796WSame link.) No camping within ¼ mile of the outlet.

Lower Golden Trout Lake in John Muir Wilderness. (37.2410N, 118.7207WSame link.) No camping within 500 feet of the lake.

Crystal Lake in Hoover Wilderness. (38.0003N, 119.2454WSame link.) No camping at lake. There’s quite a few more at this link, but this covers all the wildernesses represented.

Geneva Lake (and many more) in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. (39.0969N, 107.0775WSee here.) Camping in designated (numbered) sites only. Sites have been marked at Geneva Lake, but not at Capitol Lake, for instance. Included to show a less restrictive case.

While I wouldn’t expect to see the blanket regulation (no camping within 100 feet of water) represented on the map, I would like to see these special cases.

As a second subject, it would be nice if larger areas could be marked for camping or no, particularly when the answer is an unexpected one. Bureau of Land Management generally allows camping wherever you like, but the Lacks Creek Management Area (boundaries seem to be unmarked currently) only allows camping in designated sites. The Forest Service also generally allows dispersed camping, but not in particular areas like the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area (another missing thing). My local California State Parks are pretty clear: only in designated sites, but the National Parks can get a little complicated. Usually it is a no. Nearby Redwood National Park is designated only except for seasonal dispersed backpacking camps on Redwood Creek gravel bars. Congressionally designated wilderness areas of Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Yosemite National Park all do allow dispersed camping (with various restrictions like those above). Death Valley National Park gets complicated. There’s no dispersed camping in the parts that were National Monument, but the part added when it became a park, very roughly half the area, does allow dispersed camping. It certainly would be nice to be able to add that blanket information to the boundary relation.

But I’m mostly interested in the very small areas where camping is prohibited in an otherwise permissive area. tourism=camp_site, access=no? And then I get a red area marked with a tent with a circle and a bar through it on my map?

Location: Gunnison County, Colorado, United States


Comment from giggls on 28 March 2023 at 07:39

Hello, I am Sven, the Author of

I strongly discourage mapping those places as tourism=camp_site as doing this will be a hint to do the opposite even if access=no is added.

This is even more inadequate given the fact that tourism=camp_site and access=private is valid tagging for campsites not open to the general public.

I could well imagine a new tag which I could even render on as prohibited area.

Comment from Matija Nalis on 28 March 2023 at 17:19

there exist

so I guess marking the area and tagging it with camping=no would be what you want (you can also add other tags that may apply of the camping is prohibited for specific reason, e.g. boundary=protected_area or leisure=nature_reserve etc.)

Comment from valhikes on 28 March 2023 at 19:20

@giggls: Looks like an alright map. The legend doesn’t tell me what red ! marks mean.

I didn’t mark any with tourism=camp_site + access=no since that seems to capture that no one is allowed entry, which is inaccurate, but there is camping somehow. That and any map not understanding would likely explicitly mark it to encourage camping rather than discourage made it far too unappealing.

@Matija Nalis: This does appear to be a good tag, but with some reservations. I see it has few uses now and is only ranked “in use”. That usually indicates it has never been proposed or discussed, just added to the wiki. There does seem to be a proposal page for the wiki, too, but it has no information. I’m not sure of the usual process of this. In order to gain visibility, it should be marked under “see also” on tourism=campsite.

I personally would want more than “yes” or “no”. There is already a mention of “dispersed” getting used, which is much better to use on large areas than “yes” in my view. (But perhaps this is emotion rather than reason. Can I argue this?) I would also want something for “in designated sites only” for forests that have “yellow post sites” or the examples in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness above. The word “designated” wouldn’t cut it since it has different implications.

Anyway, although the camping key needs discussed and expanded, it is sufficiently satisfying to me to start using on the forbidden sites at least.

@giggls So red areas where there are camping=no tags?

Comment from Matija Nalis on 28 March 2023 at 21:26

I see it has few uses now and is only ranked “in use”.

It means it was tagged under policy (since at least 2009 it seems: , and someone finally had enough time to document it at wiki in 2020.

If its usage continues to grow, one day it will be eligible for most-coveted status “de-facto”, see

“approved” status just means there was some discussion, and dozen or two people didn’t find big problems with that idea. You’ll have to look at taginfo statistics on the side to decide how popular it is indeed. “de-facto” however means it is actively used by tens of thousands of people, despite never been been officially proposed via (so “de-facto” is beefed-up “in-use”; and “approved” might be closed to “in-use” or “de-facto”, depending on the usage statistics)

The purpose proposal process and “approved” status is there to find out more obvious problems, work out some kinks, perhaps gets extended a little bit to cover less popular use cases, and to give it more exposure. As such, due to “more eyes will see more problems” paradigm, it will often (but not always) produce somewhat better results then ATYL and “in-use” (depending on luck, how simple the tag is and how experienced and much effort person inventing the tag has put into it). So that is why it is preferred. But it requires much more effort and time, so it is always a hard choice…

Having said that, “camping=yes/no” on areas seems simple enough to me, so I don’t see any barriers on using it, especially since it has been documented on the wiki and nobody raised concerns in last 2+ years.

There does seem to be a proposal page for the wiki, too, but it has no information.

hmmm, where exactly, I’m not seeing it?

In order to gain visibility, it should be marked under “see also” on tourism=campsite.

Thanks, good catch, I’ve linked it now.

Also, if you’re interested, usually you’ll get more exposure (and thus more chance for useful answer) for your tagging issues if you ask tagging questions in forum

That might be too much exposure sometimes, though. I’ve only stumbled on this blog entry by chance as it was featured in OSM Weekly, so, glad I could help.

I would also want something for “in designated sites only” for forests that have “yellow post sites” or the examples in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness above. The word “designated” wouldn’t cut it since it has different implications.

Why do you think “camping=designated” would have different implications? It looks reasonable to me. It would be good to document on the wiki what you used it for, if you end up doing it. But if only specific sub-areas have allowed camping, I’d indeed use “camping=designated” just on those smaller areas where it is signed, instead of marking much larger area and “camping=dispersed” (which I’d probably use only if the areas were not fixed, as described on the wiki)

Comment from giggls on 29 March 2023 at 12:25

@valhikes: The red ! mean that these sites need work. See bugs tab. Often they do not even even have a name tag or have only a name tag.

Regarding “camping=designated” I am strongly against this idea because this is basically the default in many countries.

This is also the default in US-National-Parks, where the actual spots where camping is allowed are usually mapped as (mostly backcountry) campsites (node or small polygon) which does make a lot more sense than a surrounding polygon tagged “camping=designated”.

@valhikes: Jepp I think about rendering camping=no areas as something like this in OpenCampingMap. Should not be too similar to osm carto rendering of military areas though.

Comment from valhikes on 29 March 2023 at 17:54

I would expect to see camping=no on half the city parks if it was getting much use. (Keeping in mind it likely applies to most city parks.) The statistics I saw put it at a little over 1000. That’s minute compared to what it could be. It has not raised itself to “de-facto”. There’s actually more using the key “camp” than “camping”, usually with “yes”, but no one has documented that. (I would support camping over camp for this use. I don’t know what they are using it for.)

Currently, values with the camping key are mostly “no” (848) followed by “dispersed” (215) and “yes” (52). The value “dispersed” probably deserves a better explanation than “there is use”. There should be something that distinguishes dispersed from yes as well.

I found the proposal page via the “what links here” tool on the left of the page. It is sometimes amusing and often informative to look at this automatically generated page. It is also how I confirmed that I hadn’t just missed the link from camp_site when I failed to find it the first time.

Why I wouldn’t use camping=designated is due to the parallels of how “designated” is used. If I have a highway=path marked foot=yes, then I know I am allowed to walk along it. If it is marked foot=designated, then I know it was built for that purpose. It is a stronger form of “yes”. I would expect to find an area that is reserved for camping over other uses, which isn’t what I’m trying to capture. These places where specific sites have been marked in an area that otherwise allows dispersed camping are generally where there was overuse before. The marked sites are usually to consolidate the impact to smaller areas and enforce greater distances between camps. It reduces the area getting used for camping. Other people have used “designated” (21) and “designated_-_fee” (29), but I have not determined what their purpose was.

A possible better tag might be camping=sites. A more long winded possibility might be camping=designated_sites_only. This would be for an area that is not a campground but has had camping limited to designated sites, as is the situation at certain lakes in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and yellow post sites. That is different from marking the whole of, say, Sue-meg State Park (California) where camping is allowed in developed campgrounds only, by the density of the sites. One might mark such a place as camping=developed_only. I don’t see being default as much of an argument against.

And, yes, this is getting to the point where it should be stuck on the forum rather than a diary post. I was really attempting to gather thoughts and leave an opening for someone to say “there already is one” prior to making a post. Also, I’ve not actually signed up for the forum yet. Once upon a time, I was on Usenet, but I was getting too emotionally tied up in things there and it was unhealthy. That probably won’t happen on an OSM forum. One would hope. I hadn’t realized this got featured. People do seem to use their diary for full on research papers sometimes. That’s the sort of thing that should be getting featured, surely.

@giggls: I wasn’t finding difference in the “bugs” listed for sites marked with and without red bangs. I’ll look more closely. Maybe play with getting the tagging more complete in some local areas and see how it looks an hour later.

Here are more suggestions for rendering a no camping area: Wallpaper the area with tents marked with a red circle with a line through it. (But these aren’t universal no signs?) Decorate the area with red exes over the usual tent wallpaper similar to paths and roads that are not for public use.

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