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 Much Does It Cost To RV?
- How To Travel On A Budget And Still Have The Time Of Your Life
- What It’s Like Living In An RV
- The Ultimate Guide To Getting Started RVing
- Yes, You Can Save Enough Money For Long-Term Travel
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!).
Look online for free camping.
What is the best free camping app? How do I find free overnight camping near me?
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:
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?