Free RV Camping

Free RV Camping – Crowley Lake, California

Free RV Camping And Campgrounds

Free RV camping is different from free RV parking.

First, definitions…

  • RV Camping – Multiple day stays in an RV.
  • RV Parking – A place to spend the night in an RV.

Free RV parking locations are almost everywhere on public and private property. There are web sites devoted to cataloging free RV parking locations, and books such as Don Wrights Guide to Free Campgrounds can be especially useful to travelers looking for a free overnight RV parking spot.

Free RV camping sites are available on public lands and private property. We are aware of private lands owned by timber companies that allow free camping. Most free camping will be found on public lands. The best way to find free RV parking spots is to ask the local police or sheriff office. A phone call is all it takes, and you will be surprised at the great places they will direct you to, especially when dealing with smaller communities. Eastern USA travelers may have more difficultly finding free RV parking locations due to extensive privately owned property.

Keep the size of your vehicle in mind as you set out to remote locations. When it comes to finding free RV camping locations, the smaller the RV the better in many instances. You can get stuck and have a long walk through difficult country if you are not careful.

How To Find Great Free RV Camping Locations

Finding free RV camping locations becomes easy with some experience. You will have to explore if you want to find those great campsites that show up on the cover of RV magazines. Our Boondocking and Dispersed Camping section describes step by step how we find great free RV campsites.

In our opinion, you can’t find a good free RV camping site without a map. The only time that is not true is when you go with someone else or have very explicit directions. You must have maps to find free camping locations.

To help find free RV camping locations in the west, we recommend Benchmark Maps. For all other states, we like the National Geographic Recreation Atlas and DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer.

Electronic navigation is getting popular these days, and GPS enabled systems with topographical mapping software will get you almost anywhere. This equipment is great for the backcountry explorer with ATVs and 4×4’s and adventuresome RV campers.

Colorado Boondocking
Colorado Boondocking – Pike National Forest

We at do a lot of backcountry exploring using GPS applications and for our location in southern Nevada, our primary backcountry navigation app is GaiaGPS. Though not free, this relatively low-cost app offers route tracking, downloading of multiple topo and aerial maps including US Forest Service and National Park visitor maps. This app is available for IOS and Android.

Our other navigation app is called You Need A Map but it’s only available for IOS. The amount of information buried in this app is almost unbelievable. Historical locations we’ve not seen on any other map. We paid a few bucks and got the 3D upgrade, but the basic app is free.

Free RV Camping Ideas

Free RV camping is available on public lands extensively throughout the western USA, and to some extent in the eastern USA, where there are federal public lands. Some states allow free or low cost RV camping on public lands. For example, Arizona has a public lands recreation permit ($20) that allows free RV camping on state lands. Not quite free, but close. Colorado has some leased and owned lands allowing free RV camping to name just a couple of possibilities. Be creative, and check the public lands page links to the right for specific ideas.

Here’s a list of places to consider when looking for a free overnight RV camping or parking locations. We always recommend asking for overnight RV parking permission when looking for a free spot to spend the night. The smaller your RV, the better chances you will have finding places to stay if you choose not to ask permission. If you don’t ask permission, you end up “sneaking” into places and hoping nobody bothers you or issues you a trespassing ticket before you move on.

Be smart and Be Safe…Ask Permission.

  • Truck Stops – Asking permission is usually not a requirement Be considerate of the big rigs!
  • Walmart – Not all stores allow overnight RV parking due to city ordinances. Check store for policy.
  • Nightclubs – Had one too many or just pretending?
  • Grain Elevators – Ask where you can park your RV out of the way for the night.
  • Fraternal Organizations – VFW, Elks etc. may allow members free RV camping.
  • Cemetery – Sounds creepy to us, but we’ve also heard they may have water available.
  • Fairgrounds – State and County facilities may allow RV camping when not otherwise in use.
  • Parks – City, County, State, and Community parks often have free RV camping.
  • Churches – You can almost make “reservations” by calling ahead for permission.
  • Hotel Parking Lots – Assuming a nightclub/bar is inside, had one too many or just pretending
  • Truck Terminals – Parking areas for large trucks might allow you free RV camping permission.
  • RV Dealers – Pretty brave to us, but you could fit right in. Some dealers encourage overnight stays.
  • Cracker Barrel – These nationwide restaurants usually allow free overnight RV parking.
  • Movie Theaters – Too tired to drive home after the late show?
  • Highway Rest Areas – All rest areas allow a few hours of free RV parking, but noisy.
  • Drive In Movies – Got a small RV, park in the back row and enjoy the show. Fell asleep by accident right?
  • Vehicle Repair Shops – Need to see the repairman first thing in the morning?
  • Big Box Retailers – Kmart, Best Buy, Sams Club often allow free RV camping.
  • Roadside Parks & Picnic Areas – The early day version of the rest area.

As you can see, there are a lot of free RV camping and parking possibilities. If you are not asking permission, it’s best to keep a very low profile. If your RV has slide outs, jacks and TV antennas, don’t use them so as not to draw attention to yourself. Consider your surroundings carefully and if you feel uncomfortable with the area, move somewhere else.

The USA RV Camping Map has links to each states public land information sources, and many specific camping locations. Public lands offer the best free RV camping locations, but you have to do some homework usually to find the really great places, especially if you are in an unfamiliar area.

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