For those wanting to rough it out in nature or save a few bucks while doing so, free camping is an excellent option.
In my years of exploring the great outdoors, I have found that there is nothing more satisfying than finding a dispersed campsite. There’s a certain thrill in not having any electronics or crowds nearby and being able to spend all your time relaxing under the stars with nature!
Here are a handful of great resources to find free campsites:
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National park campsites are some of the best places to offer free camping areas in the US and Canada. From the rugged beauty of Alberta’s Banff National Park to the majestic mountains of Alaska’s Denali National Park, there is no shortage of incredible camping spots.
Explore these amazing sites and enjoy their stunning views without spending a dime!
Best of all, amenities like the picnic table, fire ring and more are well-equipped. So don’t wait – get out there and explore nature for free!
Quick tips for free camping in national parks:
- Check the park’s website to find out if they allow free camping.
- Research in advance to determine the best times of year for optimal weather and insect-free camping.
- Pack plenty of supplies, including food, water, outdoor gear, and a first aid kit.
- Follow all rules posted at the campsite to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
- Spotty cell service.
- Usually have RV dump facilities.
National Forests or Grasslands
Another great free camping option is national forests. These areas offer an abundance of beautiful, remote free campsites, as well as opportunities for exploring nature and wildlife.
From the vast pine forests of Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest to the majestic peaks of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, you can find a stunning spot to camp almost anywhere in the US and Canada.
Research in advance to determine which areas are open for camping, as some may require permits or fees, you may also find information about wildlife viewing, hiking trails, fishing areas, and more!
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
If you’re looking for some of the most remote and wild camping spots around, then BLM land is worth exploring.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees around 248 million acres of public lands in the US, with nearly half open for camping.
The agency’s website also has a wealth of information on free camping opportunities in its regions.
They often come with plenty of amenities like fire rings and picnic tables, but keep in mind that many don’t have restrooms or trash service.
That being said, these spots offer an authentic wilderness experience away from it all – perfect for any outdoor enthusiast!
National Wildlife Refuges (Wildlife Management Area)
National Wildlife Refuges provide a great opportunity to camp for free in the US and Canada.
These sites offer plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities as well as hiking trails, fishing areas, and sometimes even RV hookups.
Be sure to check ahead for rules regarding open fires and free campsite closures due to weather or other factors.
You can find a list of refuges that allow dispersed camping below.
Another great way to go camping without spending any money is by taking advantage of state parks’ free camping options.
Many state parks offer free primitive camping sites or free RV parking, usually for short stays of three days or less.
State parks also have some camp site for first come, first served, and popular sites are booked up months in advance.
So plan ahead if you want to secure your spot. You may find amenities like fire pits, picnic tables, fishing docks, RV hookups, and family-friendly trails – perfect for any outdoor adventure!
Recreation.gov or individual state park website
Many counties across the US offer free camping in their parks. County parks are often an undiscovered gem for campers, with plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy nature.
While some county parks may charge a fee for camping, many do not, so be sure to check your destination to see what’s available.
You can also find information about trails, fishing spots, picnic areas, and other amenities on the county park website.
So don’t miss out on this great way to save money while still enjoying the outdoors!
In addition to state and national parks, many cities offer free camping in their parks. Check with your local city or town for information about free camping sites or dispersed camping areas.
You may have to pay a small fee for a permit or campground reservation, but these are usually minimal charges compared to the cost of paying for a campsite at a private campground.
Smaller federal agencies such as the National Guard and Marine Corps
For those interested in a more remote and rustic camping experience, the National Guard and Marine Corps offer the free campsite through their military bases.
These sites can often be found on or near military installations, but they may require you to get special permission to access them.
Additionally, some of these sites only allow campers who are active-duty military personnel or veterans. But if you’re eligible for this type of camping, you’ll enjoy discounts on many services like RV hookups and other amenities that aren’t available at most public parks.
Entities such as water control districts, trusts, and protected zones free camping
The Water Control Districts, Trusts, and Protected Zones across the US often offer some of the best free camping sites.
These areas are maintained by local entities and are generally open to the public – though they may require you to get special permission to access them.
Many of these sites have great amenities like the fire ring, picnic table, fishing dock, and trails – perfect for any outdoor adventure!
Canada Crown land (Canada)
In Canada, free camping is available on public land known as Crown Land.
This land belongs to the government and is managed by local entities such as provincial parks, forests, conservation areas, wildlife management areas, and military bases.
Campers are allowed to stay in these areas for up to 14-days without needing a special permit or paying any fees – making it an ideal option for those looking for a cost-effective way to camp.
Check out the regulations and camping fees on the Crown land website.
Walmart Parking Lots
If you’re looking to go camping in the USA without spending any money, then Walmart might be right up your alley.
Many Walmarts across the US allow RVers and tent campers free overnight parking – just make sure to check with local store managers first before setting up camp.
Keep in mind that most Walmarts have a maximum stay of one night and have specific rules on things like noise, generators, and pets.
As with any other form of camping, it’s important to take safety precautions when staying at a Walmart. Make sure you lock up your valuables and keep them out of sight when not in use.
Additionally, pay attention to the store’s hours – some Walmarts may close at night or have restricted access after certain times.
Finally, always follow the store’s rules and regulations so you can enjoy your camping experience without any issues.
Rest Stops & Truck Stops
Rest stops and truck stops are excellent options for those looking to camp without spending any money.
Many of these sites will allow you to stay for free, but make sure to check with the manager first before setting up camp.
Keep in mind that most rest stops and truck stops have a maximum stay of one night, so plan accordingly.
Gas stops are a great way to get free camping in the USA. Most gas stops and convenience stores allow RVers and tent campers to stay for free, assuming they purchase a certain amount of fuel or supplies from the store.
This is a great option if you need a place to sleep while driving across the country. But keep in mind that if the gas station you stay at has lots of trucks, the noise level might be high because of the engine or generator noises.
Here are some popular overnight gas stops for the road trip:
- Pilots (or Flying J) gas station
- Love’s Travel Stock
Some of them even offer hair cut, movie theaters, showers, etc.
Casino Parking Lots
If you’re feeling lucky, then why not try camping in a casino parking lot?
Many of the larger casinos across the US offer free overnight RV parking and tent camping, provided that you purchase a certain amount of chips or supplies from them.
This is an excellent way to save money on your road trip since it can be much cheaper than staying at a hotel or developed campgrounds. Just make sure to check with the casino first before setting up camp.
Sporting Goods Stores Parking Lots
Many sporting goods stores across the US allow RVers and tents to park overnight for free.
This is a great option if you’re in need of some outdoor gear or want to stock up on supplies for your camping trip.
Be sure to check with the store before setting up camp.
Home Improvement Stores Parking Lots
Many big-name stores like Home Depot and Lowes allow RVers and tent campers overnight parking for free – just make sure to check with the manager first before setting up.
Keep in mind that they usually have a maximum stay of one night, so plan accordingly.
Churches Parking Lots
If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay during your road trip, then why not try camping at a church parking lot?
Many churches across the US offer free overnight RV, tent, and car camping provided that you stay out of sight and are respectful of their grounds.
Police Stations and Fire Departments
If you’re in search of a safe and secure place to free camping for the night, then why not consider camping at a police station or fire department?
Many law enforcement agencies and fire departments across the US allow overnight RV, tent, and car camping.
Don’t call 911 😂 …Use google maps and search for the police station or fire department address and contact numbers.
Other free camping areas to consider:
- Pharmacies like CVS, Walgreen, etc.
- Sam’s Club
- Cracker Barrel
- Residential streets
- Google Maps Search
Places to avoid overnight camping or parking
- Military bases
- Private property
- Construction sites
- Business parking lot
Simple rules for free camping:
- Always park in allowed areas
- Respect other campers and the locals
- Follow all local laws and regulations
- Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it
- Do not stay more than one night without permission from the property owners
- Generators must be used with consideration for others
- Don’t damage any vegetation or wildlife
- Dispose of your trash properly
- Follow fire restrictions
By following these simple rules, you will be able to enjoy free camping safely and responsibly!
Basic items for the free camping:
- Loud whistle
- Sleeping bags
- Flashlight and lanterns
- Camp chairs or hammocks
- Camping stove and cookware
- Food supplies and water containers
- First aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen, etc.
The bottom line
With a little bit of research and planning (try google maps trip planner), you can find free camping spots almost anywhere in the US and Canada. Whether you’re looking for a place for overnight parking while driving across the country or need an inexpensive spot to camp during your vacation, there are lots of great options out there. Be sure to read up on the local laws before setting up camp and always follow the rules so you can have a safe and enjoyable free camping experience.