Everybody loves a good last-minute camping trip. There’s something magical about the spontaneity of deciding to leave one morning and being on the road by lunchtime. It feels adventurous and is definitely good for the soul.
That said, the growing popularity of RVing can make it difficult to take these kinds of trips. Campgrounds are often booked up months in advance in more popular areas, and even in less popular places, getting a campsite at the last second can be difficult thanks to the advent of online reservations.
Fortunately, people still find ways of going camping without reservations. If you’re looking to take a spontaneous trip, you need to look into walk-up campsites.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping Tips
Before we dive into our list of no-reserve camping spots around the country, let’s go over some first-come, first-serve camping tips and basics. These will help you get a feel for what no-reservation camping is and how to get a first-come, first-serve campsite.
What is it?
Not sure what no-reservation camping is? It’s camping without having to make reservations, of course! It involves driving into the campground the day you wish to stay and simply requesting an open site.
In some areas, this can feel very risky, but by knowing where to go and when to get there, you can significantly raise your chances of snagging a site.
There are some campgrounds that only offer sites on a first-come, first-serve basis. Others set aside a few sites that cannot be reserved in advance. If you can find these campgrounds, you’ll have much better luck finding these walk-up campsites so you can camp whenever the urge strikes.
How do you get it?
To stay in a walk-up campsite, you only need to arrive with your camping gear and a way to pay. That said, if you’re worried about getting a site, arriving just before checkout time can help, as it means you’ll be able to jump into a site as the previous campers are clearing out.
- Arrive mid-week. Arriving during the middle of the week (when most people are not traveling) can help ensure you find a site.
- Have a backup plan. Sometimes you won’t be able to snag a site at your first choice of campgrounds. Always have another campground or a hotel in mind just in case.
- Keep it small. The smaller your rig is, the more spots you’ll be able to squeeze into. For this reason, we recommend going with a smaller RV if you plan on doing a lot of first-come, first-serve camping.
- Carry cash. A lot of campgrounds don’t have a way to accept a credit card. Since you’ll be paying in person, you’ll definitely want the means to do so, making cash a necessity.
- Know the difference. Some campgrounds advertise “walk-in” campsites. These are sites that are some distance from the nearest parking, requiring the user to walk in and pitch a tent. These should not be confused with walk-up campsites, which are the sites rented on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The 50 Best First-Come, First-Serve Campgrounds in the US
Now that you understand the basics, we can discuss where to find these first-come, first-serve campsites. If you’re wondering, “Where can I find no-reserve camping near me?” you’ve come to the right place.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Alabama
- Wehle Tract — Owned by the Forever Wild Land Trust, Wehle Tract offers first-come, first-serve camping in Alabama on select weekends only. Sites include power and water, and no camping fees are charged.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Alaska
- Eagle River Campground — One of the few full-hookup state park campgrounds in Alaska, Eagle River Campground in Chugach State Park sets half of its sites aside for walk-up campers.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Arizona
- Desert View Campground — This Grand Canyon campground may not offer hookups, and vehicles may be limited to a total length of 30 feet, but Desert View Campground is some of the best no-reservation camping in Arizona.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Arkansas
- Tyler Bend Campground — Located in Buffalo National River and run by the NPS, Tyler Bend campground is an option for first-come, first-serve camping in Arkansas. This campground offers flush toilets, hot showers, a water fill-up, and a dump station—and, half of their campsites are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in California
- Pinnacles National Park — A gorgeous park with lots of great hiking, Pinnacles National Park is a wonderful place to camp. Most of the first-come, first-serve RV sites have electrical hookups, and water is available throughout the park.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Colorado
- Kelly Flats Campground — Are you looking for “first-come, first-serve camping near me” in Colorado? Kelly Flats Campground is a great option. There are 19 primitive RV sites available here, as well as vault toilets and drinking water.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Connecticut
- Rocky Neck State Park — Rocky Neck State Park does not hold sites for walk-up campers year-round. That said, first-come, first-serve sites are available mid-May and most of September, and we highly recommend checking them out.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Delaware
- Redden State Forest — The dry camping in Redden State Forest is a great option for those looking for “walk-up camping near me” in Delaware. The forest is beautiful, and every campsite offers a gorgeous view.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Florida
- Ocala National Forest — The boondocking options in Ocala National Forest are absolutely beautiful. No booking is necessary, and during the winter this area offers some fabulous weather.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Georgia
- Dockery Lake Campground — Georgia is home to tons of walk-up camping within their national forest sites. All of these options are dry camping, but well worth the extra effort required to boondock. We especially love Dockery Lake Campground.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Hawaii
- Nāmakanipaio — Nāmakanipaio is located inside of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and is a fabulous place to stay while visiting the park. It is a drive-in campground and includes restrooms, water, picnic tables, and barbecue pits.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Idaho
- Stanley Lake Campground — Looking for first-come, first-serve camping in Idaho? We recommend Stanley Lake Campground, which is perfectly situated near the water in Sawtooth National Forest. This campground has some reservable sites as well as a few walk-up sites.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Illinois
- Illinois Beach State Park — Most of the Illinois state parks have a handful of first-come, first-serve sites available. Our favorite of these is Illinois Beach State Park. The park has hundreds of sites and offers full hookups.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Indiana
- Dunewood Campground — Located inside of Indiana Dunes National Park, Dunewood Campground has a total of 32 walk-up sites. While none of the sites in this campground offer hookups themselves, water and a dump station are both available.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Iowa
- Maquoketa Caves State Park — The state parks in Iowa rent 25% of their sites on a first-come, first-serve basis. In our opinion, the best of these parks is Maquoketa Caves State Park. The caves are tons of fun to explore and the bat population is amazing to watch.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Kansas
- Minooka at Wilson Lake — Minooka at Wilson Lake is a super popular campground in Kansas. The campground sets aside 10% of their electric-only sites for walk-up visitors, and we highly recommend taking advantage of this fact.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Kentucky
- Koomer Ridge Campground — Some of the best “last-minute camping sites near me” in Kentucky can be found in Koomer Ridge Campground in Daniel Boone National Forest. This campground offers flush toilets, showers, fresh water, and more.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Louisiana
- Kincaid Recreation Area — Kincaid Recreation Area has two camping loops. Both include full-hookup sites, all of which are rented to the first walk-up customer who requests them. Additionally, the park has plenty of recreational opportunities.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Maine
- Lamoine State Park — This gorgeous park is in the perfect location. Bar Harbor is nearby, and the ocean is lapping almost at your doorstep when you stay here. While the majority of the Lamoine State Park campsites are reservable, a handful cannot be reserved in advance.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Maryland
- Assateague Island National Seashore — Want to do some last-minute camping in Maryland? From mid-November through mid-March, the highly sought-after sites at Assateague Island National Seashore are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. This place is amazing. It’s right on the water and wild horses roam the park.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Massachusetts
- Scusset Beach State Reservation — During the warm months, reservations are almost always needed at Scusset Beach State Reservation. However, those willing to camp during the cold season will find plenty of walk-up sites available.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Michigan
- Lake Michigan Recreation Area — A four-loop campground, Lake Michigan Recreation Area is a great place to spend some time outside. Two of the four loops are first-come, first-serve, and vault toilets and water are available.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Minnesota
- Eckbeck Campground — This campground is quite secluded and the perfect escape into nature. No hookups are available, but fire rings, tables, vault toilets, trash cans, and drinking water are. All sites at Eckbeck Campground are non-reservable, making this a great place to go for last-minute camping.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Mississippi
- Big Biloxi Recreation Area — Big Biloxi Recreation Area is home to 25 campsites with electric and water hookups. Restrooms are available and include hot showers. The nearby river is perfect for fishing, and the nature trail is lovely.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Missouri
- Lake of the Ozarks State Park — Lake of the Ozarks State Park is a prime example of Missouri at its finest and is the perfect place to go camping. While many of the sites in this park can be reserved, there are a few non-reservable sites available for the last-minute campers out there.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Montana
- Hay Canyon Campground — Tucked away in Lewis and Clark National Forest you’ll find Hay Canyon Campground. This campground is quite rustic, offering only 7 cleared sites and a restroom. Be sure to pack plenty of water and a source of electricity for this camping venture.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Nebraska
- Chadron State Park — A full 50% of the electric sites in this state park are available to walk-up guests. The many hiking and biking trails make Chadron State Park a great place to go exploring, and the beauty of the area makes camping here even more fun.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Nevada
- Valley of Fire State Park — This park is home to two campgrounds with a total of 72 sites. Water and restrooms are available onsite, as is a dump station. Electric hookups are not an option however, meaning having a generator or solar panels is necessary. Valley of Fire State Park itself is lovely, and well worth a trip.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in New Hampshire
- Big Rock Campground — Some of the sites at this pretty New Hampshire park are non-reservable, making them perfect for last-minute campers. Water and vault toilets are available, and the location of Big Rock Campground cannot be beat.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in New Jersey
- Turkey Swamp Park Family Campground — Offering 12 first-come, first-serve campsites, Turkey Swamp Park Family Campground might be just the place for you. All are pull-through sites and offer both water and electric.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in New Mexico
- Apache Creek Campground — Found in Gila National Forest, Apache Creek Campground is a primitive campground with vault toilets, but no water or electric. While staying here, we highly recommend seeking out the trail that leads to a petroglyph site.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in New York
- Backbone Horse Campground — Although Backbone Horse Campground is technically meant to be a horse camp, we’ve found it to be a great RV spot as well. The sites are big enough for most medium-sized RVs, and the area—which is near the Finger Lakes—is absolutely beautiful.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in North Carolina
- Crabtree Falls Campground — Located at mile marker 339.5 along the Blueridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls Campground offers some seriously awesome views. The nearby hiking opportunity is pretty great as well. Just make sure you’re set up for boondocking when you visit!
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in North Dakota
- Cottonwood Campground — One of the best things to see while in North Dakota is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Why not stay there overnight by snagging a walk-up dry camping spot in Cottonwood Campground?
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Ohio
- ReCreation Land — Owned by the American Electric Power Company, the ReCreation Land in southeastern Ohio offers tons of free first-come, first-serve campsites. Just be aware that many of these sites require a permit, so be sure to have that in hand throughout your visit.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Oklahoma
- Buckhorn Campground — Buckhorn Campground is found in Lake of the Arbuckles National Recreation Area. This campground includes showers and restrooms, some sites with electric and water, and a dump station. Although some of the sites in this campground are reservable, not all are, leaving some options for last-minute campers.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Oregon
- Cottonwood Canyon State Park — One of the prettiest state parks in the state, Cottonwood Canyon Park is a wonderful place to camp and explore. The campground here has only first-come, first-serve sites and includes potable water, vault toilets, and showers.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Pennsylvania
- Dewdrop Recreation Area — Found in Allegheny National Forest, Dewdrop Recreation Area is a popular place for camping, boating, and enjoying the great outdoors. Toilets, drinking water, and a boat ramp are all available, and 13 sites are designated as first-come, first-serve.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Rhode Island
- Burlingame State Park — Unfortunately, no designated first-come, first-serve campsites could be located in the tiny state of Rhode Island. That said, Burlingame State Park is home to over 700 sites, meaning you will usually be able to snag something if you show up right at checkout time.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in South Carolina
- Fell Camp — This campground is primarily used as a horse camp. However, this doesn’t mean you couldn’t visit for a camping trip, and we definitely recommend doing so. Plenty of recreation opportunities are near Fell Camp, and vault toilets, a picnic shelter, water, and garbage cans are all available.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in South Dakota
- Bear Butte State Park — An absolutely gorgeous park with interesting historic significance, Bear Butte State Park is an awesome place for a last-minute trip. The campground does not offer any hookups, but the wonderful hiking in the park definitely makes up for this.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Tennessee
- Cosby Campground — Located in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, Cosby Campground features grills and fire rings and is a great home base during a visit to the mountains. That said, only some sites are set aside for walk-up campers, and only a portion of the sites in the campground are big enough for RVs. Therefore, we recommend visiting with little rigs only.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Texas
- Bolivar Flats Free Beach — Aside from a $10 permit fee, camping on this beach is absolutely free. There are no restrooms, showers, or water fill-up stations on Bolivar Flats Beach, so be sure to bring plenty of fresh water so you can fully enjoy your beach camping experience.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Utah
- Goose Island Campground — Moab is an amazing place to do some boondocking. The town has places to fill freshwater and dump tanks, there are tons of BLM campgrounds nearby, and the views are amazing. We especially love Goose Island Campground for its large sites.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Vermont
- Hapgood Pond — A lovely waterfront campground that offers some walk-up sites, Hapgood Pond is a great place to get away. Drinking water is available, but there is not a dump station or restroom.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Virginia
- Big Meadows Campground — No visit to Virginia is complete without a stop at Shenandoah National Park. In fact, we highly recommend staying in the park. One of the best places to do this is Big Meadows Campground. Fortunately, some first-come, first-serve sites are available at this dry camping location, making last-minute trips possible.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Washington
- South Beach Campground — Olympic National Park is home to some of the best walk-up camping in the state of Washington. We especially love South Beach Campground, which offers ocean views and sites big enough to accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in West Virginia
- Tea Creek Campground — A large campground that is perfect for RVs, Tea Creek Campground is the perfect camping spot in Monongahela National Forest. Four different trailheads can be found nearby, making this a great spot for hiking. Additionally, the vault toilets, trash receptacles, fire rings, tables, and grills all make it easy to feel at home.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Wisconsin
- Devil’s Lake State Park — This popular state park offers year-round camping with a selection of sites designated as first-come, first-serve. Some sites do have electric hookups and bathhouses are available. Devil’s Lake State Park offers opportunities to hike, bike, swim, fish, and more.
First-Come, First-Serve Camping in Wyoming
- Mammoth Campground — Yellowstone National Park is one of those places everyone should see at least once. Why not take a last-minute trip to see it and stay in the onsite Mammoth Campground? This campground has plenty of first-come, first-serve sites that are large enough for RVs. Flush toilets, trash cans, a camp store, and drinking water all make staying in this campground very comfortable.