How To Find Free Camping In The USA & Canada In 2023

Did you know that there are plenty of great places for free camping? If you want to learn how to save money, this can be a great way to explore new places while saving money! When camping, the cost of your nightly stays can vary widely. There are so many amazingly beautiful places to camp…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: August 10, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Did you know that there are plenty of great places for free camping? If you want to learn how to save money, this can be a great way to explore new places while saving money!

When camping, the cost of your nightly stays can vary widely.

There are so many amazingly beautiful places to camp for free in the United States, and then there are campground resorts that charge $150+ a night, and sometimes even over $200 per night!

Even if you’re just looking for a place to set up your tent, you may easily spend over $30 a night in some of the more desirable camping locations.

Plus, more and more people are starting to camp. Campgrounds are becoming busier, and this is probably one of the reasons why campgrounds are starting to charge an arm and a leg for a camping spot.

But, there are plenty of great places to camp for free that have amazing views, and you may not have a neighbor for miles.

Many people don’t realize that you can actually camp for free and still go on an amazing vacation that you’ll remember for decades.

We love free camping. You often get a large amount of space to yourself in a place with amazing views and beautiful trails close by. If you’re not wanting the typical campground amenities, then a free campsite may be just want you are looking for.

And, who doesn’t love getting something for free?!

If you’re looking for “campgrounds near me” then this is where you should be!

Related articles on traveling and RVing:

How to find free camping spots:

What is free camping?

Wondering what is boondocking or what is dispersed camping?

Free camping is sometimes called boondocking, primitive camping, backcountry camping (sometimes there is a fee for this, though), dispersed camping, dry camping, wild camping, and more. These are all slightly different ways to camp for free.

Free camping is when you camp for free in your RV, campervan, tent, car, and more.

Whether you are in an RV or tent camping, there are free camping spots all over the United States.

Before you find free camping spots.

Before you hurry off and start free camping all over the United States, there are some things you should know first about dispersed campsites.

Know the rules: When looking for free camping spots, make sure you pay attention to the rules. Many places have rules on the amount of days you can stay in one spot or area (there’s usually a 14 day limit). Also, make sure to keep your area clean (leave no trace principles are important!). I like to pick up a bag’s worth of trash or more as a thank you for the free stay when staying at free camping sites.

Amenities: Free camping spots do not have RV hookups for electricity, sewer, or water. There usually aren’t bathrooms or picnic tables, but occasionally there are. Also, free camping spots are usually in undeveloped areas. I did recently stay in a free campsite that had both a toilet and a picnic table, and the next closest designated campsite was about half a mile away. This is not the norm, though, and we were pleasantly surprised when we found this.

Space and maneuverability: If you’re in a big RV, then you’ll want to make sure that the roads to and from the campground are safe for traveling with such a heavy load. When we had our smaller RV, we were able to find free campsites without worrying about the roads as much. However, some roads are absolutely horrible and/or extremely muddy, which means you may bottom out (we’ve seen RVs that have been stuck on the road!).

Cell service: Lots of free campsites do not have good cell service, so you may need to do your research if you need cell service to work or get something done.

Ask questions: If you find a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) free camping spot that you may want to camp at, you can usually just call the regional office, talk to rangers, and ask if they allow BLM free camping. You can even go into ranger stations and ask about free camping sites too. Also, ask if there is anything else you should know about, such as whether or not your RV can fit, rules on fire rings, or where the nearest potable water station is.

Lastly, there are a few different types of free camping in the US:

  • Public land camping – this includes BLM areas, national forests, Forest Service (USFS), and more. Most of these allow you to recreationally camp for free. This is usually the best type of free camping and is usually open to both tent and RV campers. If you are looking for free campgrounds for a tent or if you are traveling by bike, then free campgrounds on public land are probably what you are wanting. They often lead to better views and a more fun experience.
  • Parking lot camping – This is usually for those looking for a quick overnight stop in an RV. This includes parking at a Walmart, truck stop, casinos, rest areas, etc. You always want to make sure that you have permission when parking in the parking lot of a store. I often just call the store and ask to speak to the store manager. Also, we always make sure to go in and buy something as a thank you.
  • Free camping at wineries – Yes, you may be able to overnight park at wineries for free if you are traveling by RV! Harvest Hosts is a membership camping program that costs $44 for one year, and it allows you to camp for one night at various wineries around the United States. And, you do need to be self-contained (an RV with a bathroom). You can read about Harvest Hosts on Gone With The Wynns’ website (they are my favorite bloggers!).

Related: Becoming an RV Family – How We Travel Full-Time With 4 Kids and 2 Dogs

Look online for free camping.

What is the best free camping app? How do I find free overnight camping near me?

To find free camp stays, I recommend searching the Campendium app, All Stays, and Free Campsites. I often look at these sites when choosing where we will go next.

Free camping can include something like parking at a Walmart (this is for when you are trying to get somewhere and just need a place to rest and/or sleep) to staying on amazing BLM land in national forests. There are no hookups, but many RVs are fine for a week with no hookups anyway.

Here’s how to find free campsites on each of the websites I listed above:

Are you looking for free camping and cheap campsites? Here, you'll see how to find free campsites, cheap camping, free RV camping, and free campgrounds.

Campendium

Go to Campendium’s website and find their link called “Free Camping.” Scroll down and you’ll see almost all of the states listed, and just click on one to find free camping in that state.

You can sort the options by highest rated (I like to sort this way), the type of free camping, the recreational options available in the area, and more.

To see the highest rated free camping spot in Arizona, I clicked on Loy Butte Road. I can easily see that it is free, the road is dirt, the maximum stay is 14 days, and RV and tent camping is allowed. Plus, there is both Verizon and AT&T service. You can also see people’s reviews of their stay and if anyone has linked blog posts to the area.

If you want to learn how to find dispersed camping, Campendium is one of my favorite camping apps to do so.

Are you looking for free camping and cheap campsites? Here, you'll see how to find free campsites, cheap camping, free RV camping, and free campgrounds.

All Stays

With All Stays, you just head to their website and click on “Camping” at the top. Then, you’ll click on the state you are interested in visiting.

You can either click on the area in the state you are interested in or the “Campgrounds Map.”

Then, on the right hand side of the website, it’ll say “Map Filters.” You can find free camping at public lands, Casinos, Walmarts, truck stops, state parks, national parks, and more.

After that, you can click on different spots on the map which tell you whether they are free or not. Super easy, and they have many, many spots listed!

Are you looking for free camping and cheap campsites? Here, you'll see how to find free campsites, cheap camping, free RV camping, and free campgrounds.

Free Campsites

This is the very first website I used when we started RVing – Freecampsites.net

Their website is very easy to use. On the front page, you’ll see an interactive map. All you need to do is zoom in on the area that you are thinking about traveling too and you’ll see various little camping symbols pop up.

After clicking on one, you’ll see the rating, the exact location, the available activities, notes about the free campsite, and reviews from people who have stayed there in the past.

As you can see, there are several ways to find free campgrounds all around the United States, and you can even read the reviews from others who have stayed in the free campsites. This makes finding free RV camping and free tent camping very easy!

Related: How To Take A 10 Day Trip To Hawaii For $22.40 – Flights & Accommodations Included

Other websites to find free camping in the US

There are many other websites that you can use to find free camping as well, such as The Dyrt and iOverlander. These two will help you to learn how to find BLM dispersed camping too.

The Dyrt PRO cost $35.99 per year and you can even search offline when you are in their app. This is very nice because many free camping areas do not have wifi available.

Workamp for free campsites.

Workamping is another option to find free campsites, and is more suited for those who are traveling by RV.

Workamping is usually an arrangement between an RVer and a company (such as an RV park or campground) or even a state or national park, on the beach, etc. The idea is that the camper gets to stay for free in exchange for work.

Sometimes you just get a free, one night stay, but places may also offer free stay until you stop working. It all depends on the work you do, how long you do it for, and what your arrangement is with the campground.

Workamping jobs can include working at the office of a campground, cleaning bathrooms, managing reservations, maintenance at the campground, even managing their social media or filming a video for their website. I’ve even heard of people who have offered their services as a nighttime security watch in exchange for a free place to park behind a business.

Related article: How To Make Money While RVing

We have met many workampers that absolutely love it. Many get to stay for free in beautiful areas and are sometimes even paid an hourly wage.

So, how does a person find a workamping job? Workamping jobs can be found in many different ways. I recommend:

  • Contacting RV parks and campgrounds to see if they have any openings, or you can send them a pitch of your own. You could pitch something like providing a freelance service such as social media management or filming a video.
  • Joining RV-related Facebook groups as there are usually workamping jobs posted weekly.
  • KOA has a website specifically for those wanting to work at their campgrounds, which you can find here.
  • Look at campground bulletin boards. Many of the campground and RV parks we stay at have workamping positions posted on their bulletin boards. When we were traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway, we came across many great workamping positions at the beautiful state and national parks. These campgrounds were desperately looking for workampers to help manage their campground. And, some campgrounds were even temporarily closing because they couldn’t find anyone to help manage the campground!

Workamping is a great way to get free campsites while traveling to new places. We have met many people who have retired early and decided to fund their travels by workamping, which sounds like a lot of fun to me!

What state has the most free camping?
One of my most favorite free camping locations.

Questions about free camping.

In this blog post, I also want to answer some common questions that you may have about finding free campsites.

Here are some questions you may have about free camping:

Can Google Maps show campgrounds?

Yes, Google Maps can definitely show you where some campgrounds are. However, Google Maps most likely will not show you all of your options, though.

There have been many times when I have searched for camp spots and nothing has popped up on Google Maps. Plus, Google Maps will most likely not show you free campsites. So, you will need to use other free camping apps in order to see what is available to you.

I like to use the satellite views on Google Maps as well to get a better idea of where I am going. This can allow me to see what the roads look like (or, if there is even a road), what the free campsites look like, the general area, and more.

What do I need to think about when free camping?

Free camping may throw some hurdles at you that you need to think about such as:

  • The weather. If it is going to rain a lot, you may want to make sure that you can get in and out of your free campsite. Many free campsites tend to be more difficult to drive to, due to them being more out in nature. If I know that an area is going to be really muddy, I will skip it usually as I do not want to ruin the area or the roads by driving on them.
  • Do you need 4-wheel drive? Many boondocking spots may require you to have more clearance with your vehicle and even 4WD. Some may even have height limits due to overhanging rock walls.
  • Can you have a fire? With the amount of wildfires happening, you may not be allowed to have a fire or bring in firewood from other areas or states. This is definitely something that you want to be mindful of.
  • Where can you get water? If you need drinking water, then you may want to have a general idea of where you can fill up. Also, just because there is a hose does not mean that it is potable. Sometimes, water stations are there just to clean out your black tank, so you do not want to stick those same lines into your drinking water tank.
  • Is there a good place to put your tent? If you are looking for free tent stays, then this may be very important for you.
  • Where will you throw away your trash? Are there trash cans nearby the free camping location you’re interested in?
  • Where can you dump your toilet and grey tank? This will be important as eventually you will have to dump your RV tanks so it is nice to know beforehand in case you need to dump before, during, or after your free camp stay.
  • Does the free campsite have cell service? If you need to work, then this may be important for you. Some free campsites do not have any cell service for miles.
  • Can the free camping are accommodate your size? If your RV is on the bigger side, then you may not always fit. This may be due to overhanging trees or cliff sides, narrow roads, and more.

And more!

As you RV or camp more, you will probably have additional questions and things that you like to think about when making a decision on where you would like to camp for free.

You may be able to find the answers to these questions by asking around, doing a little research, using the free camping apps mentioned above, reading reviews, looking at Google satellite view, and more. I always like to do as much research as possible so that I am not disappointed or surprised when I get to a free campsite.

Are you looking for free camping and cheap campsites? Here, you'll see how to find free campsites, cheap camping, free RV camping, and free campgrounds.

What do you do when a free campsite turns out not to be what you expected?

This has happened to use a few times. And, I’m sure it will happen to you as well if you camp for free enough.

It can be disappointing, but it does happen.

This may happen because the area has too many other free campers and there’s not enough room, the weather has been bad and has made the road not safe, or the area was simply not what we expected.

If this is the case, there are things you can do.

For us, we always like to have a backup option. This may even be something as simple as an RV park nearby or even a Walmart. Or, it may be another boondocking spot that is nearby.

We always try to get to a dispersed camping site a little earlier in the day, instead of at night time. This way we don’t feel rushed to find a campsite and can find the best free campsite for us to enjoy.

We actually have a simple rule that we always like to follow when RVing – Don’t drive or find campsites at night. We find that we get too tired if we are driving all day and into the night. Sure, if we are just going to a Walmart then we generally do not mind. But, we try not to find free dispersed camping in a new area at night time as you just never know what you will find.

Can you camp on the beach?

Some beaches allow for camping and RV stays. You will want to ask and see what options you have.

We have camped on the beach many times over the years, on both the east coast and west coast of the United States.

Can you set up camp anywhere?

No, you cannot set up camp anywhere that you would like, but you do have many options for free camping as you have learned from the free camping article above.

Where can you camp for free in the US?

In general, it is easier to find free campsites out west in the U.S. than it is on the east coast. The western U.S. simply just has more plentiful BLM land and outdoors to explore, and the land is more vast.

You do have many options, and I have camped for free in many areas over the years!

Some areas are more difficult to find free camping, though, such as Florida. Many people want to RV or camp in Florida, and the land is limited (such as in the Florida Keys), which makes finding free camping a little more difficult. I recommend looking at the best free camping apps above to see what options may be available for you.

How to find free camping

As you can see, there are many options for free camping. We have free camped many, many times over the years and it’s been some of our best camping spots.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you have any additional questions on how to find free camping, please leave them as a comment below and I will help you out the best that I can.

Enjoy and I hope you find the best free campsite near you!

Are you interested in finding free camping? Where’s your next trip to?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I love AllStays app. It shows locations of camping supply and sporting good stores, places where you can find LP gas, dump sites and RV repair stations. Highly recommend it.

  2. Michelle, your posts about RVing and camping are opening up a whole other world I never even thought of. I love the idea of parking at wineries (who wouldn’t?) and workamping. I appreciate out-of-the-box ideas for living the life you want to live. So, this is awesome. My wife would love parking at a winery! I’ll have to share this with her.

    Thanks for the great tips. We have to try this with our son! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Mustard Seed Money

    I had no idea that there were free camping spots. My wife and I aren’t huge campers but given the word free I have a feeling that my wife will jump in with both feet ๐Ÿ™‚ I will definitely have to check it out on our next adventure.

  4. Wow! I didn’t know there were so many free options for an RV. I would have just assumed it was parking at the local Walmart.

    My wife and I usually backpack in to remote areas here in Colorado to avoid the crowds and annoying neighbors. There is nothing better than be out in the mountains a lone for the night. Plus you don’t have to pay for the camp spot! This year should be a fun new challenge with our little one.

    – Adam

  5. Great resource, Michelle. I love Camping. I love Free. I love combining the two into Free Camping!

    Another resource I was recently turned onto by Derek of How Do I Money is https://www.boondockerswelcome.com/ — he said it was a lifesaver when he and his family toured the states in an RV on a book tour.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. I’ve never heard of that one, great to know!

      1. Good post Michelle. I was going to mention Boondockers Welcome also. We just joined but looks useful.

        We find the reviews on Campendium.com to be the most detailed for boondocking spots. We’re outside Sedona now loving the spot we found on Campendium. Our solar is cranking. The LTE reception is good. The views are amazing and it’s free. Life is good.

        1. It definitely sounds like life is good ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. That’s still pretty cheap!

  7. So happy to see your new post! I went camping once and had to pay a fee for it. It wasn’t too bad, but it’s great to know there are free options too. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Melissa

    Absolutely perfect timing! We are thinking about getting one of those camping memberships where you can camp at certain sites around the country for $9/$10 per night. Do you have a camping membership anywhere? I need to read some reviews on them. But free camping is always ideal! I agree with Dave, the wineries and workamping sound awesome! Bookmarked this post for future reference. Thanks Michelle!

    1. No, we don’t have camping memberships anywhere, unless you count PassPortAmerica or GoodSam.

      We choose places that are next to things that we enjoy doing, and none of those places has actually been near one of the true membership campgrounds that you are probably talking about.

  9. Great article, helpful links!! We’re 14 months from FIRE, heading out in a 5th wheel in summer 2018. I’ve filed your article, great resource as we prepare for launch!!

  10. Awesome timing! Karla and I were just looking for some boondocking options. We found some spots nearby here in the Francis Marion National Forest that we plan to check out in the next few days. It’s great to have these additional resources for sure!

  11. Another good one that we use is Ultimatecampgrounds because it lists all public campgrounds including BLM, Forest Service, and Fish and Game. The best resource we’ve found for free camping.

    1. Thanks! I’ll look into this one.

  12. Michael

    Wow, fantastic post Michelle! Very resourceful. I have bookmarked this post for reference. I never know there is such a thing as free camping.

    I certainly plan on checking it for my next camping trip.

  13. Melissa

    This is awesome! Wish you had written it before we planned our huge camping trip this summer ๐Ÿ™‚ But no worries – we did end up paying for a majority of campsites, but it’s only because my husband hasn’t ever *truly* camped and I haven’t *truly* camped (i.e. camped without running water access) in over ten years.

    That said, how are running water or toilet facilities factored into the free camping spots? In the past I’ve set up my own running water dispensing station at camp sites, but I’ve gotten spoiled by the running water camp sites I’ve stayed in recently.

    Also, have you ever run into any issues with fire? I know in AZ, BLM or the Forest Service will sometimes shut down campgrounds seemingly without warning because of fire danger or an actual fire. Have you ever encountered a closed campsite or had issues with building your own fire to cook food?

    Thank you for this timely post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Most of the time, there is no running water or toilet facilities. I mentioned that briefly in the post but I understand that would be important to many people who don’t have RVs.

      We have an RV, and in our Jeep we have a stove kit, so we’ve never really built a fire that was 100% needed in order to cook.

  14. Thanks for sharing these sites. We usually pay for a campsite, and yes, they average about $20 to $30 bucks a night! However, in my experience, free camp sites usually mean minimal amenities, i.e. no running water, no camp host, fairly remote location. So, we usually opt for a paid spot because we like glamping more than camping. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. It really depends on what you want. For us, we like to be further away from people when we are Jeeping. If we’re in the RV, then we’re fine with anywhere that’s near trails.

  15. These are great ideas! We LOVE camping and normally get out 5-6 times a year. Will definitely try some of these =)

  16. Mat

    Very interesting!

  17. Ree Klein

    We love dry camping in our 34′ RV. You have to plan a bit more, like carefully watch how full the black tank is because you should never just dump your black tank out in the wilderness, you need enough fuel for your generator and propane to run the fridge. We can make it about eight days before needing to dump tanks or get additional water.

    Here are a couple of additional sites I use where you can find free camping spots. One thing I would recommend is that you leave reviews. When you search for spots, reviews can be very useful and so I try to give back to the community in the same way.

    http://www.rvparkreviews.com
    http://www.Recreation.gov (This site lists campgrounds built by the Army Corps of Engineers. These are often sites that charge a fee, but they are beautiful parks for a very reasonable price. Here is where we found the beautiful Foss State Park in Oklahoma… a lakeside spot, cement pad, full HU and only $25!)
    http://www.riderplanet-usa.com/

    Happy camping!

    1. The first one is one of my favorites. I didn’t even know that they listed free spots on there!

      1. Ree Klein

        It’s not common, but we found the Brush Memorial Park campground on RV Park Reviews. It’s a great overnight stay if you’re passing through, has some full HU spots and the best part is that the first night is free! We could walk into the little town for dinner and there was a festival going on that weekend at the park across the street. Pretty fun!

  18. I work camped for 6 years. Great experience. You meet many people, and learn a lot! If you are reliable and take pride in your work, campgrounds will be very happy to get you to back every season.

  19. Too cool. When I toured across the US on bicycle with a friend, we only paid for a place to stay 4 times (2 hotels, 2 campgrouds in Yellowstone). There are free places to stay pretty much anywhere. You can search on stealth camping which is a technique used by many touring cyclists since your vehicle can disappear too. I also stayed many nights in city parks after asking the local police department if it would be okay. Another wonderful place to camp is behind churches, granted it isn’t a Sunday.

    Thanks for another fun post.

  20. I had no idea that free camping existed outside of the Walmart parking lots. This is perfect as we are planning our summer/fall camping. Looking forward to utilizing the sites you have listed and saving some money along the way.

  21. Jane Goodman

    Seems a bit slanted. The screenshots use the same locations for the first two directories but then you picked a different location for the third. Why? If you had used the same location for all three, it would be obvious that https://freecampsites.net has more entries than the other two combined.

    1. It’s not slanted at all. It’s just how I took screenshots of the different websites. Please don’t try to find something negative when there isn’t.

  22. Amie J Samuel

    I am planning a romantic trip for two to Galena, IL in July … but all of the hotels were fully booked!! I had my finger on the Book It! button for the last room at $250 for one night when it was booked out from under me … So I got a camping spot for $15 in the Apple River Canyon State Park instead. It’s a 35 minute drive to Galena from there, but well worth it for a $235 nightly savings. We also camped at a beautiful spot in the Ozarks for 3 nights for free over Memorial Day Weekend! We’ve never paid more than $20, and that was in the Rockies. I would never pay $200 for a campsite!

  23. Brandi

    Workamp is such a great idea. I had never heard of this until I was actually camping and a lady told me she did this. I love the idea and it is a win win for the RV park plus the RVer or Workamper as you say. Stay. shower and sleep for free.

  24. TERRI JO LANE

    Anyone know of places near Savannah Georgia area.

    1. Have you checked the websites I mention in this article?

  25. Caden Dahl

    One of the things I’ve learned with RV’s is that free is one of my favorite words. Now the next time that we do go out of town, I will for sure look for a few free places to camp as I would be able to save some money that way. As you said, most if not all public land is open to free camping. Perhaps I’ll take a trip to a national park or another place close!

  26. We LOVE boondocking / dispersed camping in our Airstream and strongly believe that the best camping locations are free! But we found it a little challenging to know where we could legally camp in an RV on US Forest Service Land. Thankfully the USFS developed a new interactive map that helps finding free dispersed camping locations in national forests much easier. We made a free tutorial to show others how to use the online mapping tool combined with free Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) available from the USFS to find legal boondocking locations in our national forests.

  27. Everytime I go backpacking I always check for the camp sites. Thanks for adding a few more to my list! I find the more rural you go the cheaper and often free, campsites you’ll find. However most of the time backpacking you can camp nearly anywhere (dependent on fire restrictions).

    Thanks for sharing!
    -Andrew (formally Wallet Squirrel) =)