FREE overnight camping, state-by-state
This is the beginnings of what I hope will be comprehensive page of ideas for travelers looking for a place to sleep in their vehicle overnight. Please E-mail me and I'll include any information you'd like to offer based on your own experiences.If you prefer `authorized' camping, see my list of CHEAP CAMPING locations. ALL STATES Officially, it is legal to camp anywhere on National Forest land, with obvious exceptions like public roadways. However, some NF's expressly prohibit camping anywhere except Campgrounds (e.g., Pisgah NF, NC). Such exceptions will be sighposted. Also, keep in mind that many National Forests are a motley collection of parcels intermixed among private lands, and you should make sure the place you camp actually looks like a forest. The same goes for Bureau of Land Management lands, but they are harder to find, often harder to access, and generally not indicated on road maps. Casino parking lots are also suitable places to park overnight. However, Riverboat and other floating casinos are often located in congested areas, with only urban parking adjacent. Also, there are reports that some Nevada casinos are getting surly about overnight parking. Click INDIAN CASINOS for details about their locations in the states where they are indicated below.
- ALABAMA There are eight state parks in which there is no daily entry charge, which have boat docks or marinas that can be used for overnight camping. They are in the counties of Baldwin, Barbour, Covington, DeKalb, Houston, Marshall, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.
- ARIZONA There are 18 Indian Casinos, mostly with overnioght parking. See link above.
- CALIFORNIAThere are 36 Indian Casinos, mostly with overnight parking. See link above.
- CONNECTICUTThere are two Indian Casinos near New London. See link above.
- FLORIDAIn most cases, you can park overnight at Public Boat Ramps. These are often very close to where roads cross bridges....Florida has very strict laws and customs about trespassing. Avoid parking on private property. Trespassing on a construction site is a Felony in Florida.
- GEORGIAPublic boat ramps are marked on the highway, and overnight camping is generally unquestioned.
Most locations signposted "Sportsman's Access" are suitable for overnight camping. There are many of them, near almost every river or lake suitable for fishing.
There are 4 Indian Casinos in Idaho, with overnight parking. See link above.
- ILLINOIS Illinois State Parks do NOT charge a daily use fee, so there is no charge at the gate. There is a campground fee, but many such parks may also have recreational areas outside the campground where overnight parking would be unchallenged, such as boat docks.
- INDIANAState Wildlife Areas are indicated on the official State Highway Map, and they are easy to find. Nearly all have parking areas out-of-sight of the highway. Camping not authorized, but very unlikely that anyone will tell you to leave.
- IOWASeveral hundred public hunting areas have off-road parking. They are described in a publication available by phoning 1-515-281-5918, but do not appear on any map. Overnight parking apparently not restricted, except where there is an adjacent campground.------------------Many small towns in Iowa permit free overnight camping in municipal parks. If not signposted, ask locally.
- KANSASNearly all counties in Eastern Kansas and quite a few in the west have State Fishing Lakes, shown on the state Highway Map and the Rand McNally Road Atlas. Camping is free in designated camp sites.---------There are four Indian Casinos in the Northeast corner of Kansas, which have overnight parking. See like above.
- MICHIGANMichigan has many public boat landings, especially in the north and the UP. These are well-marked with brown highway signs.--------There are 16 Indian Casinos in Michigan, wth overnight parking, See link above.
- MINNESOTASome small towns, especially in Southern Minnesota, permit free overnight camping in municipal parks. If not signposted, ask locally.----------There are 18 Indian Casinos in Minnesota, with overnight parking. See link above.
- MISSOURIMore than 500 of Missouri's State Conservation Areas officailly permit FREE camping in designated areas. Almost all the 900 areas can actually be camped in at any parking area. The "Outdoor Missouri" map shows the location of all of them. Get it at most shops that sell hunting and fishing licenses.
- MONTANAMost rivers and lakes have Sportsman's Access sites, signposted on the nearest highway. Most are suitable for free camping, but a few near cities or busy highways restrict camping or charge a fee.
- NEBRASKAAlmost all small towns (population from several thousand down to fifty) have municipal parks, in which free overnight camping is permitted and encouraged. Inquire locally.
- NEW MEXICOThere are 11 Indian Casinos in New Mexico with overnight parking. See link above.
- NEW YORKNew York's public fishing and wildlife areas are not shown on any standard road maps. But if you see one, it can be used for overnight parking. But if the sign also specifies "recreation area", it is likely that overnight parking will be challenged.
- NORTH DAKOTAMany small towns in North Dakota have municipal parks in which free overnight camping is permitted. Ask locally.---------There are 6 Indian Casinos in North Dakota with overnight parking. See link above.
- OHIOOhio's Wildlife Areas (indicated on the State Highway Map) often do not have road access, but if they do, you can camp in a parking area there. ...Ohio State Forests have off-road parking for recreational use, and are suitable for camping if not adjacent to a busy highway.
- OREGONMountain areas of Oregon have designated recreational "Winter Parking" areas, well marked from the highways. But in summer these are open and free. Overnight parking in them is unlikely to be challenged during the summer.---------There are 8 Indian Casinos in Oregon with overnight parking. See link above.
- SOUTH CAROLINAPublic boat ramps are marked from the highway, and overnight parking is generally not questioned.
- SOUTH DAKOTA Of the 70 facilities administered by Game Fish and Parks, 27 of them offer camping free of charge. Most of these are in the eastern half of South Dakota. In the Black Hills/Badlands area, there is free camping at Sage Creek, Reva Gap, Picnic Springs, Black Fox, Castle Peak, Moon, Redbank Spring, French Creek, Newell Lake, and Shep's Canyon. There is free camping at eight of the Corps of Engineers campgrounds along the Missouri River Lakes. Overnight camping is not prohibited at COE boat docks.-----------------Most small towns in South Dakota have municipal parks, in which free overnight camping is authorized. Ask locally.
- TEXASOvernight parking is permitted in all Texas roadside rest areas. Police may ask you for ID, but will not tell you to leave.Texas has very strict laws and customs about trespassing: avoid private property.
- WASHINGTONThere are 20 Indian Casinos in Washington, and those that are open 24 hours will have overnight parking. See link above.
- WISCONSINThere are 16 Indian Casinos in Wisconsin with overnight parking. See link above.
- ALBERTAThere are dozens of free campgrounds in the Rocky Mountain forest Preserve, the foothills area below the National Parks north of Calgary. Free municipal campgrounds exist throughout Alberta.
- NEWFOUNDLANDGravel Pits are a popular alternate campground in Newfoundland. A folk tradition is emerging, as gravel pits along the TCH are more crowded with campers than the Provincial Parks on summer holidays. The camping place to meet real Newfoundlanders. Provincial Parks are chained shut at the entrance after Labour Day---when summer often begins. The two National Parks in Newfoundland seem to pay no attention to overnight parking in parking areas designated for other recreations, but the daily fee should be paid if you plan to overnight.
- NOVA SCOTIAThe province maintains many Provincial Picnic Parks, very pleasant loops several hundred meters from the highway. They are signposted "no overnight parking", but I've slept in plenty of them, without disturbance. Well marked from the highways, and indicated on the Provincial Highway Map.
--------Gated forest-access pulloffs on back-roads are private property right out to the road-edge, and you may be asked to leave by zealous neighbors.