Boondocking in Missouri

Last updated on January 13th, 2022 at 10:17 am. Originally published on April 14th, 2021

From the Northern Plains around Kansas City and Independence to the Ozark Plateau around Springfield and Branson, you can find terrific places to go boondocking in Missouri. There are also fantastic free camping in Missouri locations in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. While boondocking, you can take in games featuring Missouri professional sports teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, and the St. Louis Blues. Branson is one of the best places to catch live shows in the world. There are many amusement parks, like Silver Dollar City, Worlds of Fun, and Six Flags St. Louis, to visit on a hot summer day. From the Missouri River to the Mississippi River, there are fantastic places to camp in Missouri for free. 

St. Louis, Missouri downtown cityscape on the river at dusk.

Boondocking Sites in Missouri

Roberts Bluff Access

Roberts Bluff Access is an excellent place to boondock when exploring the Pilot Grove Area. Enjoy easy access to the Lamine River boat launch to go fishing for bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. A handicap-accessible restroom is available. 

Haysler A. Poague Conservation Area

Designated free camping sites are available at Haysler A. Poague Conservation Area near Clinton. This site was a former strip mine, and you can go fishing for black bass, catfish, and sunfish in the lake. This is also a fantastic place to go deer, rabbit, turkey, quail, and squirrel hunting seasonally. Each site is very secluded and usually close to a body of water. 

Montrose Wildlife Management Area

There are two free campgrounds at Montrose Wildlife Management Area near Montrose. If you are going to launch a boat onto Deepwater Creek, the boat ramp is in the bigger campground. The nearby electric generating plant makes the water warmer at this location, which often means that the fish are more active, making them easier to catch. This is an excellent place to go birdwatching with American white pelicans often being spotted. 

Fiery Fork Conservation Area

The Fiery Fork Conservation Area near Climax Springs is a great place to go on a hiking adventure. It is especially beautiful in the springtime when the smooth spiderwort is blooming. There is a handicap-accessible restroom. 

Devil’s Backbone Wilderness Campground

Devil’s Backbone Wilderness near Dove is an excellent place to boondock in Missouri. There are 13 miles of nearby hiking trails. Many are lined with azalea and dogwood trees, making this a wonderful place for a springtime camping adventure. The sugar maple and sweet gum trees often make it a great spot to enjoy in the fall. There is no water or services at this location. 

Bell Mountain Wilderness Campground

Bell Mountain Wilderness Campground near Belleview is an excellent place for a hike through the gorges on either side of Sugar Creek. This campground is near the St. Francois Mountains, some of the oldest mountains in the United States. 

Beaver Lake Recreation Area

Beaver Lake Recreation Area near Poplar Bluff is a fantastic place to camp if you fish Beaver Lake, which is regularly stocked with catfish and bluegill. A small boat ramp is available. There are numerous nearby hiking trails where you may see wildlife as they come to the lake for a drink. 

Where to Boondock in Missouri

There are numerous conservation areas across the state that offer free camping in Missouri. Many of these conservation areas are on the eastern or western edges of the state. You can also find terrific opportunities for boondocking in Missouri in Mark Twain National Forest. Many of these forest campsites give you easy access to all that the Ozarks have to offer. 

Free Camping in Missouri

When preparing for your boondocking trip, there are different factors that you need to keep in mind. Many free camping sites do not offer water that is safe to drink. Therefore, you need to bring your own. You should plan for at least 13 cups of water per day just for drinking, and you may need extra for cooking, doing dishes, and completing other needs. Think about bringing large water coolers and individual water bottles that you can refill throughout your journey. You can sometimes cut down on the amount of water you need to haul by filling your water coolers at gas stations or other locations where you stop during your camping trip. 

Think about how you are going to carry your trash out. You do not want to ruin the beauty of these areas, and trash service is often not available. Consider how you will take out what trash you bring with you. If you see litter while out hiking, boating, or exploring, consider adding it to yours. Plastic bins with tight-fitting lids are often a great solution. 

There are many terrific places to go boondocking in Missouri. You may even want to start your adventure at a conservation area in one corner of the state and work your way around the state to ensure you see all parts of it. Be sure to leave time to explore the beautiful lakes and trails in Mark Twain National Forest. Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about boondocking in Missouri. 

Missouri is a fabulous place to go camping for free. There are so many opportunities that you will want to take advantage of near lakes and streams. There are also great places to camp near beautiful hiking trails. Most are not too far from towns, so you can explore them as you travel along. If you don’t have an RV, then take advantage of this opportunity by renting one at

Looking for more options? Check out the 14 best camping spots in Missouri!

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