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.
And, who doesn't love getting something for free?!
Free camping is sometimes called boondocking, dispersed camping, wild camping, and more. Whether you are in an RV or tent camping, there are free camping spots all over the United States.
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
How to find free camping spots:
Before you find free camping spots.
Before you hurry off and start camping all over the United States, there are some things you should know first.
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. I like to pick up a bag's worth of trash or more as a thank you for the free stay.
Free camping spots do not have RV hookups for electricity, sewer, or water. There usually aren't bathrooms, but occasionally there are. Also, free camping spots are usually in undeveloped areas.
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!).
If you find a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) spot that you may want to camp at, you can usually just call the regional office and ask if they allow free camping. Also, ask if there is anything else you should know about, such as whether or not your RV can fit.
Lastly, there are a few different types of free camping:
- Public land camping – this includes BLM areas, national forests, 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, 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 stay 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Are you interested in finding free camping? Where's your next trip to?
Join the free Master Your Money course!
Join the free email course and finally learn how to manage your money better, pay off debt, save more money, and reach financial freedom.