Fewer Walmarts are Allowing Camping: Here’s Where You Can Park Your RV Instead

Last updated on May 18th, 2021 at 03:05 pm. Originally published on August 23rd, 2020

There are several reasons you may find yourself searching for free RV camping. One of them, of course, is that you’re looking to save money. Related to that, you may be on the road and looking for a spot to pull over for the night simply to sleep and get back on the road. It’s hard to pay $50 for what basically amounts to a parking spot for a few hours, and finding a free spot to do that makes more sense. You may also be looking for RV camping for free that’s off the beaten path. Camping in areas that are off the grid is often free, and boondocking is a great way to detach from the rest of the world and unwind for a while.

Free RV Camping

Finding free RV parking can be done. You’ll want to do a little research and possibly make some phone calls ahead of time to make sure you really can park your RV for free in the places you think you can. Also, most of these places do not have hookups, public bathrooms, or showers. You’ll need to count on being self-sufficient, and use your own power and water while you’re there.

Teardrop trailer being towed on lonely road

How to find free RV parking near me

There are two main categories of free RV places to park. The first is parking lots – usually at larger stores or rest stops. The second is boondocking spots – usually Bureau of Land Management areas, National Forest land, Wildlife Management areas, or local county and city parks. When you boondock, you don’t have a designated spot for your campsite. You simply drive until you find a suitable place and set up there.

If you feel more comfortable having a designated campsite and a few perks like bathrooms, BLM spaces also have traditional, paid campsites that are often a fraction of the cost of a resort-style motorhome park. For a very low price, you can camp in campsites with bathrooms and that are slightly more populated so you don’t feel completely alone out there. You can find those campsites on the BLM website.

What stores allow overnight RV parking

Most stores with free RV places to park do it with the understanding that you’ll just be there for one night. Of course, you should plan to be a good guest while you’re in their lot. Check in with the store manager first. You may even want to call ahead because several of these companies allow camping at some of their stores but not others. It’s always a good idea to get permission ahead of time. Also, make sure you’re being polite – don’t play music too loud, or gather outside your RV in big groups, or generally cause a disturbance for guests who may be shopping or eating there. Pack up everything and leave no trash or other things behind. Thank the manager for allowing you to stay there. If possible, purchase something at the store or to eat at the restaurant in exchange for their hospitality.

Some casinos also have free RV places to park overnight, but not all of them offer this service. You’ll want to check before settling in to see if you can park your RV there and if there is a cost.

Here are a few places that allow overnight parking: (may vary by individual location)

  • Cabelas
  • Camping World
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Rest stops
  • Walmart
  • Casinos

Camper on winding road through mountains

Top Free Places to Camp

If you’re looking for more long-term camping off the grid, the Bureau of Land Management is a good place to start. You’ll want to observe a few principles when you boondock so that you stay safe and preserve a good experience for the people who may come after you.

1.) Be safe

Have a weather radio and emergency kit, along with a first aid kit. Some campers bring pepper spray for self defense, but regardless of what you choose to do, make sure you have a plan ahead of time. If your campsite feels unsafe, don’t hesitate to move or leave.

2.) Be prepared

Free campsites on public lands won’t have bathrooms or hookups. You’ll need to make sure you have the power and water you need for the trip. Also, bring along all the food, water, and other supplies you’ll need since you’ll likely be far from any store.

3.) Leave no trace

If you can, camp in a spot that has been used previously to keep your environmental impact down. When you leave, be sure everything you brought with you comes back out. Don’t leave behind any trash or other items. Don’t break branches, cut trees, or permanently alter the land when you set up camp. Also, while you’re there lessen your impact on your surroundings as much as possible. Don’t play loud music that could disturb other campers or wildlife. Avoid running your generator at night. Besides, isn’t the quiet and solitude why you came out to the wilderness in the first place?

To find boondocking spots, it’s best to start by calling the Forest Service office in the area you wish to visit to get information from them. You can also consult the BLM webpage. Finally, freecampsites.net is a great spot to find free camping as well. All of the information on the site has been contributed by fellow campers so you can pick a site knowing someone else has camped there and recommends it.

Top States for Free Camping

Western states seem to have many more free camping options than their East Coast counterparts. Colorado has wide swaths of public land with free camping available. California has lots of camping options, especially along Highway 395, which runs up the spine of the state’s eastern border. Arizona has plenty of desert with available free camping, which has a stark, unique beauty only found in the southwest. If you prefer lush green forests and a much rainier climate, Washington state also has a lot of public land with free RV camping.

With a little research ahead of time, you can find plenty of free campsites for your RV whether you just need a place to catch a few Z’s while you’re on the road, or whether you want to go totally off the grid for a while!

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