General Question

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Can one legally live in the woods?

Asked by ParaParaYukiko (6111points) September 4th, 2011

A friend of mine has moved from New England to the hills of Colorado, with the intention of becoming a hermit. However, apparently laws prevent him from doing that. Other than hiding out and ignoring such laws, is there any way of living off the land and being one with nature?

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18 Answers

Judi's avatar

He has to buy a little piece of it.

incendiary_dan's avatar

The only legal way is to own the land, get permission from the person who owns the land, or move regularly between spots in national parks (which only let you camp for so much time in one place).

Coloma's avatar

Sure. You just have to own the property or lease it/rent it.

Gone are the days will you can just stake a claim and gain land ownership over a period of improvements. haha

It might be possible to hide out on some remote BLM land somewhere, but, you’ll be rousted by the powers that be if you are discovered.

gailcalled's avatar

I can live in the 20 acres of woodland that I own. But I can’t stray onto my neighbors’ property that abut mine.

FluffyChicken's avatar

He’ll have to buy or rent a bit of it, or he could find some kindly folks that own a lot of land that don’t mind a squatter.

OR he could get European citizenship somehow, as there are squatters rights in certain countries in Europe.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I should mention that I’ve known a handful of people who have done it anyway, sometimes for years. If your friend doesn’t mind keeping the size of their shelter down, and/or perhaps it being subterranean or semi-subterranean, they might be able to pull it off.

I also don’t advise being a hermit 100%. We’re social animals who require at least occasional contact with others of our species. Unless, of course, we’re talking hermits like that old Monty Python skit. Most of all, it’s good to have people occasionally checking on you, in case you get sick or hurt. Lots of minor injuries can really mess you up if you don’t have just basic help. A turned ankle can really put a damper on your subsistance activities.

YARNLADY's avatar

In the western U. S. the taxpayers own from roughly 40% to 85% of the land, and most of the rest is under private ownership.

In the East, however, in the bottom 10 states the taxpayers own less than 2% of the land. Perhaps there might be some “free roaming” land there.


A single person could probably get away with living off the land as long as he kept moving and didn’t create any trouble.

Nullo's avatar

AFAIK you could live in a national park, in a non-permanent fashion.

flutherother's avatar

There was a guy who used to live in a temporary lean to on the north eastern shores of Loch Lomond catching rabbits and fish to eat. Nobody bothered him though it was probably illegal. I don’t know what he did in winter. I’m pretty sure you could do something similar in Colorado. If he speaks to some of the guys in a local bar I’m sure they could give him some tips on where to go and what to look out for. It would be a good idea to get on the right side of the natives from the start.

Zaku's avatar

Depends on who has authority over humans in the particular forest(s) the person wants to live in, and also how the person wants to live there, and whether that’s a problem or not. One can get permission from someone who owns land or controls who’s allowed to stay there, whether that’s a park ranger or a rancher or other land owner or custodian.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

I believe there are some public lands where you can camp for extended periods.

Coloma's avatar

I have 4 acres of unused land, but…I’d want a live in handy man. lolol

You can homestead on my back 40 in exchange for yard work and honey dos. hahaha

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Coloma I was thinking the same thing! But certainly living on your property would have much higher priority in the eyes of any red blooded male. I also have some pretty isolated property in the hills of Steuben County. No electricity, now well. but the re is a year round pond that we stocked with bass. There is even a 20 ft Argosy trailer on it if the right someone is willing to stay a while and clean it up.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko Here is a link to a blog about free sleeping on public lands.
There are some blm lands in Colorado.

laureth's avatar

Like folks said, you gotta own it or get permission from someone who does,if you want to live there legally. The hard part, if you just want to “live in the woods” (perhaps subsisting off of your hunting, gathering, or gardening efforts) is paying property taxes (or rent), which require you to remain working in the cash economy, at least a little bit.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko If you are looking for a place you can use my Argosy. But you’d better do it before winter sets in. Mo sugu sugoooku samui ni narimasu.

(Tokoro de, Tada desu, yo)

filmfann's avatar

I admire your friends tenacity, and I would certainly love to live off-the-grid as well, but you end up looking like the Unibomber. Bin Laden was thought to live in a cave for a long time, but it turns out he was in town watching porn.
A subterrainian shelter is probably the best way to do it, but of course you would have to build it without being noticed. You would have to look for a good water supply, and an area that is game friendly. Well, it won’t be when your friend moves there, I guess.
There are miles of wilderness in the Sierras. People camp there (I did, for a week). I suppose it could be done, but I am not sure to what end. It might be a good idea if you are trying to escape a warrent, if you are prepared, and can stand not having the little conveniences we all are spoiled on.

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