Bill and I have been full-time RVers for over six years. In that time, we have experimented with many different parking options, from full-service RV parks to WalMarts and Truck Stops. We have also spent a few weeks here and there parking in the desert in the winter. I love it! So as a relative beginner in that type of camping, I started looking around for lists of free camping sites.
How do we figure out where to go?
Remember that we have a 42′ motorhome so some areas are more awkward than others. So by asking around, reading other people’s blogs, searching the internet, and using a few myself, here is what I found. First, there are lots of lists, none of which tell the whole story. But they are definitely helpful in their defined niche. Then there are the “professionals” that do it themselves. They have the process down and have shared it with us.
So here’s what I am going to do. Below you will find the 9 lists that have been the most useful to me. Some are free, some have a minimal price tag.
After the list, I will provide links to several EXCELLENT articles on how to find sites from those who do it a lot! I can’t report on the success of their methods directly, but we are going to try their ideas this season. Stay tuned for our report! But until then, take a look at these great articles!
9 Lists of Free Camping Sites for Boondocking
So we need to break this down into a couple of categories. I think of single night, parking lot parking in a completely different sense than choosing a beautiful place to stay a few days!
AllStays is usually my first tool for the overnight parking question. It lists Walmarts, casinos, Camping World, Cracker Barrel, Bass Pro Shops, Costco. All of these are potential parking lot stops. It is HIGHLY recommended to call ahead or at least walk in and speak to the manager to request permission. Sometimes the City ordinance will prohibit overnight parking even if the company allows it. Notes on the AllStays database will sometimes alert you to issues.
Rest Areas vary from state to state. From Texas to Florida, we are seeing some beautiful overnight rest areas. See the article from Road Less Traveled for ideas.
Escapees Days End is private to members of the Escapees RV Club. This website lists overnight parking and some extended stay parking organized by state.
Overnight RV Parking is a web subscription that provides 1000’s of locations all over the country. They are submitted by travelers and curated by the web site manager. The prices $24.95 per year, but if you contribute comments and suggestions, your subscription price will go down for the next year. This is also available as an app for your device.
Harvest Hosts is really a special list mostly agricultural sites that encourage people to park for a day or two on their land. The most popular sites seem to be the wineries! But there are many other examples. Membership is $44.00 per year. The sites are often beautiful and provide a nice way to get to know more about the business as well!
Longer stays for Boondocking
Freecampsites.net shows a map view of free and cheap (less than $10) parking in a given area. This site was recommended by my friends at the Boondockers Facebook Group I follow. It is a free site, supported by donations and community additions. There are some detailed comments, so often you have a pretty good sense of what is there.
Campendium.com is a nice search tool for all kinds of campgrounds. It includes a filter for “free” and provides maps of free camping sites as well as good comments and discussions. This is a great site to browse for new ideas. Submit some of your own!
Boondockers Welcome is a great variation on this theme. Many people have a little land near their sticks and bricks home that they love to share with RVers. They register an invitation with BoondockersWelcome. Then travelers can search for a spot in their area and communicate with their potential host. The communication is private until both sides are ready to commit to a stay. Membership for the traveler is $19.95 per year. These homes are located all over the US (and a few in Canada). What a great way to meet some new friends!
Frugal Shunpiker books. The author at the Frugal-rv-travel.com site has traveled all over the west looking for great out of the way “wild” sites. This is a great way to learn about free camping sites on public lands, without doing the hard research yourself. Beautiful books, one for each of the Western State where boondocking on public lands is the most common.
How to find them yourself!
This blog started out as a quest to find the lists of available free camping sites, or boondocking sites. But as I was researching that, I discovered that several bloggers gave some great information on finding your own sites. Since I am a complete beginner in that area, I wanted to refer you to their expertise!
For a great article on general boondocking techniques, including how to find a site, see RV Camping.Org‘s page on boondocking. A broad and detailed introduction to the topic.
For some ideas on how to find sites and a general boondocking philosophy, see this article from Road Less Traveled.
Wheeling It has a very detailed article on their process for finding the perfect parking for extended stays (generally two-week limits). This article is the first of several parts that discuss all kinds of information about boondocking including batteries, water conservation, and great tools that make it all easier. I learn a lot from this blogger!
One thing that Wheeling It pointed out is that there are great atlases available from Delorme that describe various public lands in great detail and can provide some very specific guidance. We had used these books to find launch points for the kayaks but had never tried them for RV parking. Cool!
So that’s our roundup of lists of Free Camping Sites for Boondocking. We even included a bonus of some bloggers that have provided some great “advanced” techniques. So what have I missed? Do you have some lists that I missed in this roundup? Do you have techniques for finding great spots? Inquiring minds want to know!
What to read next: Check out Great Apps to Find RV Camping Sites