How to Find Free RV Campsites
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Exploring North America’s natural treasures in the comfort of an RV is a glorious and rewarding pursuit that many dream of. While an RV is a cost-effective travel option, the expenses can add up significantly if you’re going on a long adventure.
Many RV parks with full hook-ups cost around $30-$100 per night. Stay longer, and costs will quickly go through the roof. Luckily, there are many great options for free RV camping and parking in North America.
But how exactly do you find free places to camp in an RV?
In this post, we’re going to show you how to research and unearth locations you can park your RV without paying a dime so you can reduce the expenses of your adventures.
And you don’t have to own a motorhome to enjoy epic travels. You can simply rent an RV from any of the cities in the US and have an unforgettable trip. Use Go RV Rentals to discover all RV rentals near you and compare prices.
Now buckle up and learn how to find free places to RV camp in the US.
First, What is Free RV Camping?
Free camping is camping in an area where you aren’t required to pay any fees. It can take many forms or names, such as dispersed camping, boondocking, dry camping, or primitive camping. In most cases, reservations aren’t usually made for free camping areas, and they tend to run on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There are also various styles of free camping. Some RVers specifically want areas with full hookups, while others don’t mind the lack of amenities. Check out our guide on the best free RV campsites with hookups. If you’re looking for more primitive camping, we have another helpful post on the best places to RV camp for free without hookups.
Free RV Camping vs. Free Overnight RV Parking
There is a slight difference between free RV overnight parking and free RV camping. Parking lot camping, also known as lot docking, is a type of free overnight camping where you park your rig in the parking lots of some commercial properties or at a rest stop, only after you’re granted permission.
These parking areas allow travelers to catch some sleep or rest before hitting the road again. They can also help you take shelter in bad weather. Still, overnight camping isn’t technically camping since you aren’t allowed to open RV slides or set out your camp furniture. In a free RV campsite or campground, you don’t have to ask permission, and recreational activities are allowed.
What are the Benefits of Free RV Camping?
Below are some of the most popular reasons why people love free RV campsites in the US.
- It Obviously Saves Money – Say your trip will last two weeks. Camping in a private campground generally costs $38 per night, which means you could spend upwards of $532 just to sleep. Why not put that money in the pocket and splurge it on more exciting activities?
- Many Free Camping Spots Provide Seclusion and Peace – Commercial camping areas often feel more like a busy town of RV campers rather than a peaceful escape. Many free campsites are located off the beaten path, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in nature and away from distractions.
- No-Fee Campgrounds Offer More Opportunities for Adventure – Boondocking gives you the freedom to roam further away from the usual attraction sites without being tied down to a specific campground. You’ll discover a lot more diversity in the landscape and stumble upon incredible scenery and recreation opportunities.
- Camping for Free Offers Convenience – When all you need is a place to park your rig and rest for the night during a long road trip, you’ll be glad to find free RV camping near highways.
However, no-cost campsites aren’t always perfect. Some, especially those in remote areas, have a few downsides. Many of the roads are often unmaintained, the sites have no amenities like showers and toilets, and cell service can be patchy.
Resources to Find Free RV Camping
There are plenty of resources available to help you track down areas to RV camp for free anywhere in the US. Here are the most trusted:
1. Websites and Apps for Finding Free Campsites
Here are the best apps for finding free RV campgrounds and parking.
- Allstays App – The app is geared toward convenient and cost-effective boondocking sites. Use it to find free overnight RV parking near your location.
- Campendium Website and App – It’s an awesome camping resource that allows you to search for free camping by state. Plus, you can read reviews and see pictures.
- net – This is a map-based search engine to help you find free camping near you. You can also use it to plan your route and share places you’ve discovered.
- iOverlander – Helps you find user-submitted campsites and places with utilities like dump stations and water.
- FreeRoam – This desktop and mobile app allows you to find free campsites in National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lands. You can also use it to see route details and cell coverage.
2. Paper Maps and Guidebooks
Although you can get all the information you need online for free, it doesn’t hurt to have a paper map or guidebook. Sometimes, cell service can be notoriously spotty in remote areas. Some great paper options include National Geographic Maps and Benchmark Road Atlases.
If you don’t want to fork out money for paper maps, head to the ranger’s office first thing when you arrive at your destination. Many of them provide free public maps that you can take with you. They also have a huge map on the wall, and you can use your phone to take pictures of the area you are interested in.
3. Talk to Park Rangers
Use a digital map to search for a ranger station near the area you plan to explore and go talk to the park rangers. The friendly folks in the hats know their parks inside and out and will share with you insider information, such as the top spots to hit, road conditions, and things to look out for along the way. And, of course, the best places to RV camp without paying.
4. Local Sources
If you’re traveling through a small community, a law enforcement officer might be able to direct you to a great place to RV camp for free. They can also update you on the local regulations concerning boondocking or lot docking. Note that some local laws prohibit sleeping in your vehicle overnight.
Exactly Where to Find Free RV Camping and Parking in the US
Whether you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path place to escape the crowds or are trying to stay closer to the city or highway, here are places you can camp or park an RV free of cost.
Where Can I Find Free RV Camping?
These are the different types of land where free camping is allowed. Note that each type of land is unique and may not be suitable for your type of RV. To discover a place that matches your style of camping, always use the apps and websites above to learn more details and view other campers’ reviews.
- National Forests and Grasslands – You are allowed to camp for free in US National Forests and Grasslands, unless the rules state otherwise. Regulations are different depending on the area, so check ahead. Planning a trip to a national park? Read our post and (discover free RV camping near popular national parks.)
- Bureau of Land Management Lands – BLM lands are federally owned spaces that often allow free RV parking outside developed campgrounds.
- State Lands – Some forests that are managed at a state level might be open for camping. Permits may be required, although they can often be obtained either for free or at a very low cost.
- Parks – Many city, county, and community parks often have free RV camping. Most do this to attract more visitors who’ll promote local business.
- Fairgrounds – Once the event is over, most fairgrounds are available for the RVing public. And they welcome River for free or very cheap.
- Other Public Lands – Some organizations such as water management districts, trust lands, conservation areas, and federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers manage a number of campsites that you can use for free.
- Harvest Hosts – Love camping on beautiful countryside farms? For a small annual fee, this program gives RVers access to over 1,500 RV-friendly farms, breweries, wineries, vineyards, and museums.
Where Can I Park My RV for Free Overnight?
Free overnight RV parking mostly occurs on business properties, often alongside a busy highway or even in a laid-back suburban spot. Whether you don’t want to stray too far from the main road or harsh weather conditions force you to pull over, these free places to park overnight will come in handy.
- Commercial Parking Lots – Many Walmarts across the country allow RVs to stay overnight in their parking lot. Some other businesses like Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, and Costco also allow boondocking for RVers.
- Rest Stops – There are plenty of truck stops and rest stops along major freeways where drivers can pull over and rest. Some allow overnight parking and you can also fuel up or buy food.
- Casinos – With their welcoming attitudes and excellent security presence, casinos are great places to park your mobile abode.
- Moochdock Parking – This involves parking for free on a friend’s or family’s property. On their driveway, on the street, or somewhere on their land.
- Airstream Courtesy Parking – Some Airstream owners are in a network that offers free parking to fellow Airstreamers. Other brands of RVs have similar clubs.
- Other Parking Options – There are many other options for overnight parking. They include visitors’ centers, trailheads, restaurants, hotels, motels, and even churches.
How to Be a Responsible When RV Camping for Free
To ensure these free camping spots will be available in the future, be a responsible and respectful camper. Bring your trash bag, pack out all your waste, be quiet especially at night, do not set up camp on vegetation, respect wildlife, observe fire restrictions, obey all the rules, and leave the site better than you found it.
Also, remember that businesses that permit free overnight parking on their premises expect you to avoid recreational activities. So, refrain from any activities that might disturb other overnight guests or the businesses’ patrons.
And as a thanks to the businesses, it’s a good idea to spend a little money there, if you can. You can fuel your rig, dine, or purchase some supplies.
Save Money With Free RV Camping
Free campgrounds are an awesome way to slash your overall travel budget and focus on the experiences you truly value.
Whether you just need a place to sleep for the night or you want to relax somewhere with lovely surrounding views, this guide will help you find decent and safe places to stay without paying a dime in campground accommodation fees.